I was blessed by the fates to have grown up around the corner from Charlie Wonderly: Roxborough mailman, Boy Scout leader for 70 years, and an extraordinarily knowledgeable and engaging amateur natural historian. Charlie joined the DVOC in 1947, so never knew Stone, but he had a lot of great old stories about the old-time DVOC “characters” from that era, some of which appear in Witmer Stone: The Fascination of Nature. Charlie and his wife Betty took me on my first serious Cape May bird trip – the 1977 New Jersey Audubon Society Cape May weekend. We even got our pic in the Press of Atlantic City:
For an excellent memorial of Charlie by Jane Henderson, click here.
My greatest regret – and it’s an unspeakably deep one – with the publication of the book is that I didn’t get it done in time for everybody. Just in the past year or two, we lost people who knew Stone when they were very young and who would have enjoyed the book. One of them was Alan Brady, and another was Dale Twining, who was the last person alive to have a set of Bird Studies at Old Cape May inscribed to him by Stone:
The dates are curious. Dale, 17 at the time, received the book from DVOC member Bill Serrill, who must have been passing them out at the 12/16/37 meeting when the volumes, hot off the press, were first distributed, following a talk by Stone about the writing of the book. But Stone didn’t sign until 3/21/38. That was a Monday night, and I’m guessing it was at a Ludwick lecture, although Stone wasn’t the scheduled speaker that night.
Dale was a World War II U.S. Marine who served in the Pacific, and was one of the long-suffering, gentle souls who used to put up with pesky 10-year old me when Dale’s good friend Charlie Wonderly would take me along on their bird outings. I was able to give Dale a draft of the DVOC chapter in Fascination a few months before he passed away in August 2014, in his 78th year of DVOC membership (a record at the time; since equaled by Herb Cutler). Here’s a photo from an April 2011 visit to Dale’s house. They don’t make them like Dale anymore, and I just wish I could have gotten the book done in time for him to read all of it:
It’s a lucky kid who gets to have Charlie and Dale for birding mentors, and in addition to being patient, kindly, old-school gents and storehouses of knowledge, they were a living link to the Stone Age.