Planned giving makes for truly unexpected gifts that support ongoing birding and environmental conservation activities of citizen scientists.
Bequest came to Western Cuyahoga Audubon as a big surprise!
I was looking at my e-mail on November 13, 2012 and saw a notice that almost knocked me out of my chair.
Christie Vargo, the new center manager of the Grange Insurance Audubon Center in Columbus, Ohio, wrote to tell me that Western Cuyahoga Audubon was getting a $10,000 bequest from the Myron Owen Davies estate.
My first reaction was “Thank you!” My next reaction was, “Who was Myron Owen Davies, and why is Western Cuyahoga Audubon getting a bequest from his estate?” These questions led me on an exciting search for information over the following five weeks.
Long-time Western Cuyahoga Audubon supporter Paula Lozano was as excited about this news as I was. “This is a wonderful bequest for Western Cuyahoga Audubon,” she said. Paula said she met Owen (as Myron was known) in 1975 when Western Cuyahoga Audubon was formed. She showed me evidence in the Cleveland Bird Calendar that Owen was watching birds as early as 1945. I also learned from Paula that Owen was a 1948 graduate of Lakewood High School in Lakewood, Ohio. His yearbook photograph appears in this article (left).
Past Western Cuyahoga Audubon president Rich Kassouf remembers Owen as “a good birder and very knowledgeable.” Rich pointed out that Roger Tory Peterson gave a nod to Owen in the 1980 Fourth Edition of “A Field Guide to the Birds East of the Rockies,” by listing him as “one of many people who offered suggestions for this new edition.”
My search for information led me to Lesley Weigand, who was the attorney for Owen’s estate. Lesley passed me on to Rose Tesone, the bequest manager for the National Audubon Society in New York City.
Rose explained that the National Audubon Society (NAS) had been a beneficiary of Owen’s pension plan since 1968. When his mother died, NAS became the sole beneficiary of the estate. “Owen was a passionate birder and nature lover,” Rose told me. Owen died in 2009 and the estate was settled in 2011. NAS apportioned part of the estate to the Grange Insurance Audubon Center. Heather Starck, the former center manager and now executive director of the Audubon state office in North Carolina, arranged for Western Cuyahoga Audubon to also receive a portion, since Owen was a Western Cuyahoga Audubon member at one time.
Above: Mike Stasko, Steve Boles, Owen Davies, Ed Theiry, Rich Kassouf, Paula Lozono, Lana Theiry, Nelson Squire, and Bill Ohlsen at the June 1978 Spring Bird Walk at the Rocky River Nature Center, 24000 Valley Pkwy, North Olmsted, OH 44070. Photo courtesy of Marian Krause.
Mary Michaelis and her husband Pete have been leading the Audubon bird walks at the Rocky River Nature Center every spring for 30 years. Mary told me that they met Owen in May 1967 when they found a Yellow-crowned Night Heron on the future site of the nature center, encountered Owen along the trail, and brought him back to see the bird. Mary says Owen and his aunt Florence Gray “were both very patient with novice birders, helping them to see the birds and learn the field marks and remember them.”
Mary notes that Owen was a National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) engineer in chemistry, in which he completed his doctorate in 1956 at Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, Ohio. Chemists!
You might ask, “What did Western Cuyahoga Audubon do with this bequest?” We exercised our fiduciary responsibilities with the utmost care. This means we that we plowed these funds back into our mission. In other times, we might have invested it, but today’s interest rates didn’t make it worthwhile. It has helped us get through the lean times!
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