of Dennis Puleston Memorial Celebration, July 16, 2001
More than 30 people spoke at Dennis Puleston's Celebration held
at his home in Brookhaven Hamlet. More than 350 friends assembled
on a lovely afternoon to 'tell Dennis stories.' Many noticed the
osprey that flew overhead in a very appropriate 'fly-by.' Norma
and Walter Watson recorded and transcribed the celebration which
is presented here.
June 16, 2001
us, thanked us all for coming, said how much she appreciated it,
and introduced her daughter as the first speaker.
Dad was thousands of things to thousands of people and to me he
was an extraordinary father. As a child, he showed me where the
blueberries grew in the marsh. He encouraged me to listen to the
peepers and the woodcocks displaying in the spring and to walk silently
in the woods. How important he made me feel when he lifted me up
to a flicker's nest hole and stressed that only my hands and arm
were skinny enough to reach into the cavity to count the eggs for
him. Through my years of school here he spent hundreds of hours
helping me with my homework, encouraging and speaking of me with
pride as if I too were as great as he. He took me on many of his
trips to foreign ports when he worked for Lindblad Expeditions.
I remember on the first trip he said he thought that I should call
him Dennis, as he was working and to call him Dad would be unprofessional.
I said there were only four people who had the honor to call him
Dad and I was so proud I wanted to use that right. He hugged me
and never mentioned it again.
I realize now that perhaps his greatest contribution was being a
Dad to so many of us.
We're all here to honor my Dad and it's so great to see so many
friendly faces. In a few short sentences I can't do justice to a
lifetime of nurturing and encouragement. I just want to say that
I feel very fortunate to somehow have scored two such wonderful
parents. It's a hard act to follow. But if I can pass on half of
what I've been given, I'll be doing all right. Both my Mom and Dad
have been true to their shared values and delight in exploring our
world and its incredible diversity has been at the top of their
list. But, right beside this has been their love of sharing this
and passing it on to our children. I'm not here to say 'Goodbye'
to my Dad but to acknowledge his purpose for being here. He said
he was here to leave this world a little better and he can rest
assured that he's done just that.
This is a poem called a "Sestina for my grandfather."
On the night
you died, the mockingbirds
Sang in the moonlight from the leafy trees.
June. The start of summer. And all of this
Is somehow meant to carry on without you -
Tides and houses, the apple trees, my heart,
The river, the ospreys on their pole, the world.
Your going seems
to hollow out the world.
You knew and loved so much: the names of birds,
The places that you carried in your heart.
Now where has all that gone? Those entries
From the log of your life, what made you you -
You've left and taken with you all of this.
Your dying shocked
me. I thought you'd beat this
Too. You'd lived through shipwreck, two world
Wars. As a child, I used to follow you
Down to the marsh and the mist nets and the birds.
At the banding table set Rick Mohlmanneath the trees
You put a kinglet in my hand. Its heart
my fingers. In my heart
I keep a thousand memories like this.
The spring we lay under the apple tree's
Bright branches, looking up. You made the world
Unfold. Pyramids and tropic birds,
The northern lights - I saw these things with you.
Later came old
age. An unmapped sea you
Sailed in bravely. When they opened up your heart
And we darted back and forth like shorebirds
You charmed the busy nurses, "Look at this!"
And showed them your tattoo. Your wide world
Folded to a small room and a view of trees.
The family you
began has thrived like trees
Near water. How my daughter loved you!
And it was love that kept you in the world
So long. A love stronger even than your heart.
It has survived it. I promise this.
Your love is with us, present as the birds.
you were here, gracing the world
With your full heart. I remind myself of this
At evening, when the trees are full of birds.
(N.B. A sestina is a fixed poetic form invented by a Provencal poet
in the 12th century consisting of 6 6-line stanzas and a 3-line
envoy, in which the six concluding words of the first 6 lines recur
in a set pattern at the end of each subsequent line of the poem.)
I'm going to read a poem by John Masefield called Sea Fever and
I guess it was my grandfather's favorite poem. O.K.
I must go down
to the seas again, to the lonely sea in the sky,
And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by;
And the wheels kick and the wind's song and the white sail's shaking.
And a gray mist on the sea's face and a gray dawn breaking.
I must go down
to the seas again, for the call of the running tide
Is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied;
And all I ask is a windy day with white clouds flying,
And the flung spray and the blown spume, and the seagulls crying.
I must go down
to the seas again, to the vagrant gypsy life ,
To the gull's way and the whale's way where the wind's like a whetted
And all I ask is a merry yarn from a laughing fellow rover,
And a quiet sleep and a sweet dream when the long trick's over.
There are some copies of papers in the barn that people can take
if they would like at the end.
In the Spring
of 1956, a young, inexperienced science teacher took a group of
junior high students to the Meadow Lane home of an experienced,
knowledgeable man already held in high esteem by the community.
There, a female screech owl was ignominiously dragged from its nest.
Full of enthusiasm with more interest in teaching than in consideration
of the feelings of wildlife, the young teacher took the owl off
to school for a round of Show and Tell. Sometime before fourth period
that afternoon the screech owl laid an egg on top of a tall file
cabinet. While exciting to the students and the teacher who achieved
somewhat of a nature coup, the removal of the owl had distressed
the older man. The teacher replaced the owl in its nest later that
afternoon, still insensitive to the concern of his new-found friend.
Fortunately, some weeks later, the owl fledged a full family of
owlets and so began my education. The real teacher, of course, was
Dennis Puleston and he has been a teacher to all of us. Kind, respectful,
knowledgeable and considerate.
We are here
today to celebrate the life of Dennis Puleston. We're not here to
recount all of the formal events in his life. We know he was a war
hero who carried enemy shrapnel in his back. We know he was a designer
of the DUKW, an amphibious vehicle of immense use in that grandest
of wars in the 20th Century. We know that he was decorated by President
Truman and honored by Time magazine. And we know he received an
honorary doctorate degree from Stony Brook University. We are not
here today to review this list of accomplishments, impressive though
they are. We are here today rather to tell stories. Dennis stories.
We are here to recount how our lives have intertwined with this
gentlest of men. We are here to see what tales will emerge from
our collective memories. Surely we are sad when a dear friend passes.
But we are also buoyed by the reminiscences of our times together.
There is not
a person here who does not know that Dennis was an accomplished
artist who had painted all the nesting species that occur on Long
Island. What is less known maybe is that he wrote nearly 200 logs
of trips to the most exotic places in the world and illustrated
each one with his wonderful watercolors. But what may be even less
known was his encouragement that he gave students from Bellport
High School who were beginning artists. He would give so generously
of his time and praise that it was a rare student artist who didn't
leave Dennis' study with a renewed sense of confidence and a bit
of swagger in his or her walk.
seemed to be a unique pleasure for Dennis. He once had a vulture
that he called 'Alger'. Seems like a fine name. But the bird's full
name was Alger Hiss because the vulture hissed and because Dennis
remembered who Alger Hiss was. I suspect passing motorists hissed
as well when they noticed that Dennis was driving along the interstate
with a vulture asleep on his shoulder.
But when it
came to a tributary of the Carmans River, his naming rose to new
heights. The creek in question is the first on the left going north
from Squassux and its headwaters were behind the duck farm that
was along Old Stump Road. When I canoed with Greg Shore about 35
years ago it just boiled from bank to bank with swamp gases and
the odor was intense and overpowering. Last year when my wife and
I canoed it we watched a muskrat swim underwater and in full view.
No more stench. The creek had restored itself. But Dennis' name
for the creek will persist forever in my memory. He called it 'Runny
Nose Creek'. Indeed he has called it that so often that I have no
idea what the proper name for the creek is and I have no intention
of learning it when I am told.
While being irreverent with names, his concern for the Carmans River
is well known and has been long lasting. His Carmans River legacy
is well established and the sinuses of Runny Nose Creek now run
clean and clear.
retired from Brookhaven National Laboratory in 1970 he was invited
by National Audubon Society to go to Antarctica on the Discoverer
on a trip organized by Lars Eric Lindblad, a pioneer in adventure
travel. For twenty years Dennis followed a second career and when
he convinced Lars Erik's son, Sven Lindblad, to hire me, I was ecstatic
to be able to join my friend and mentor on the M S Polaris. On an
early trip to Svalbard north of Norway we visited a coal-mining
town run by the Russians called Barentsburg. We succeeded in having
a large social with the Russians that started ashore and ended on
the ship extending late into the night. Needless to say, there was
much vodka. A Russian official gave coal mining long johns to our
expedition leader and our expedition leader gave the official the
Levi's right off his body. The gifts were modeled in front of our
eyes. Later when most everyone had gone to bed, Dennis was asked
to sing some sailor songs -- some of those bawdy songs that he had
learned while at sea. He took the microphone and started on one
that if I were to repeat it, I would blush. Well into the second
sea chanty, a woman appeared who had obviously just gotten out of
bed, and said: "Do you know those songs are going out all over
After the speakers in the cabins were turned off, restricting future
singing to the lounge, Dennis continued through his repertoire.
Early the next
morning on the bridge Dennis was fussing. When asked what the problem
was he said: "They're going to fire me." We all thought
the day they fired Dennis Puleston we'd all be out of a job and
the ship would sink. So after reassuring Dennis that firing was
not in the cards, we headed for breakfast. I sat with two elderly
retired lady professors from the Home Economics Department of my
alma mater, Cornell. The opening question from one was: "Did
someone sing some songs last night?" My heart sank at this
question from what I assumed were two conservative, upstate ladies
and I worried anew about Dennis' job. As noncommittal as I could
I said: "I think there were a few songs sung last night."
Then one said: "Did Dennis sing some songs last night?"
Again, backpedaling, I said: "I thought he sang one or two."
Then the questioner blurted out: "They were g-o-o-d!"
Relieved that Dennis was not going to be fired I dug into my eggs
I'm sure that
we all here have Dennis stories. And, at this point, we're going
to try to see if some of you won't come forward and tell a Dennis
story. We haven't organized all of you. You haven't been alerted
to that ahead of time but my guess is that there are some who would
like to come and tell about their experiences with Dennis and, if
you'd like to do that, the microphone is here and we are open. Who
would like to be first? Al?
It's always difficult to be first. But there will be a precedent.
It's a special gift that Dennis has again given us here in that
we are gathered and smiling and looking around and seeing the world
as he taught us to see it. I represent the Moriches Bay Audubon
Society. Some 750 earth watchers, nature specialists, people with
great interest. We are an example of the children, the generation
and the second generation ... third generation .. who've learned
from Dennis. And one of the stories about our Moriches Bay Audubon
Society I'd like to mention is that we have a monthly meeting which
is sometimes attended well and sometimes it isn't. But when Dennis
came, it was absolutely jam-packed. And you couldn't get in. And
we always loved to have him and were enriched by him. And we always
remember those times when you could hardly even move in the room
and ate up every word. Dennis was a great teacher.
And just a personal
note. I remember some twenty odd years ago with my wife, seeing
another side of Dennis that isn't spoken of. And that is as a personal
teacher, as a very good teacher. Every week we used to go for months
to the Buffalo Avenue School in Patchogue to attend a basic birding
course that was as good as anything you could ever find. Many of
you here.... any people here who attended that course? It was wonderful.
And Dennis was so kind and so gentle in giving that to us, we went
away with an enrichment and a knowledge that you couldn't get any
one other thing I would like to just mention. Down the road, in
1992, there was a little party for Dennis. I don't remember whether
it was a birthday party. Was it a birthday party, Art? 1992. I think
there was something for the two of you. And I hadn't seen Dennis
maybe in ten years and he was about... No... I guess he would have
been about 90 at that time or maybe even a little less, and I brought
an original copy of the Blue Water Vagabond ... which I had, with
great difficulty, sought and found and I brought it to Dennis who
was sitting in the library amidst a large group of people, and he
saw me and immediately pulled me down and said: "Al. How is
everything? How is Barbara doing?" I hadn't seen him in ten
years and I showed him the book and he signed it for me. And one
of the great treasures of my life is that I have a signed copy.
One of the greatest events in my life was through him. I met Dennis
36 years ago and to have had the great privilege of working with
him on many projects and taking many trips over all these 36 years.
So I consider myself extremely fortunate to have been at the right
time and the right place. It was about eight years ago that I received
a letter from a person at the Guardian ... the big newspaper in
London.... requesting me to write an obituary for their files. I
found that rather difficult and I kept postponing it and finally
didn't write it and I spent the last eight years feeling guilty
about that. But in the process I did gather some information and
that was about 1993, some of the things that would go into an obituary
and I then found myself writing a letter in support of his candidacy
for a doctorate degree from the State University of New York at
Stony Brook. And I would like to read some things from the letter
that I wrote then because it does it in fewer words than I would
do if I tried it without notes.
is a teacher on all aspects of the natural world. I'll certainly
say that I've been one of his students. He's an author, a lecturer,
an artist and a photographer. He's a guide on ecological tours to
all parts of the world. People who have known him on these tours
say there is no place he hasn't been. No detail he has forgotten
and no end to the new natural history and adventure stories he can
tell. He is a noted ornithologist and scientist. He developed important
data on the decline of the osprey from eggshell thinning by DDT
and then its recovery following the banning of DDT. He's also a
noted sailor and seaman, sailing tiny boats around the world in
the 1930's on a six-year adventure. He's a humanist. A teacher of
humans about the natural world. A conservationist of the natural
world and as such, a contributor to human society and the quality
of our lives.
And then I responded
to the request from the University that I supply a resume. And that
turned out to be a bit of a problem. To document his many achievements
I was asked to supply a resume for Dennis Puleston. I do not have
one. Have never seen one and I doubt that one exists. His family
knows of no resume. He may never have needed one. I therefore attempted
to synthesize one which turned out to be little more than an incomplete
chronology of events. Puleston is not an easy person to document.
He does not fit into a conventional file. His activities are highly
diverse and far-flung and he is a low-key person of great humility
who does not make a business of promoting himself. But, inspite
of there being no resume, it was either Jen or maybe Carin or somebody
in his family must have leaned on him to produce a resume anyway.
And he must have found that very difficult but I have in front of
me the resume that he produced. Most of the page is just white.
It's pretty short. But I want to read the first entry to you. It
says: December 30, 1905. Born. I guess he thought that made him
unique. In any event, that one word 'born' took care of the first
26 years of his life. Because the next entry appears in 1931 when
he was 26 years old and that's when he departed from England on
his little sailboat. So it's the height of conciseness and that
one word sums up his first 27 years.
So I think that's an example of just how humble he really is.
In any event,
I should finish the story that I started with and that was the request
of the Guardian to produce an obituary. When I learned last Saturday
that he had died, I went to the web and I got the email address
of the Guardian and I sent them notice that he had died, and within
20 minutes I got a phone call from the very same person that I had
let down 8 years ago and the upshot of it was that I sent lots of
information -- 27 pages worth -- to her. The obituary was written.
It will appear in the Guardian on either Monday or Tuesday next
and this is one case where I can get rid of my gilt feelings. I
was 8 years late, but it's going to happen anyway. Thank you.
Thank you, Charlie. I'll try to keep this really short. Fortunately,
for me, and the rest of the clan here, longevity seems to run in
the family. However, there are various factors that contribute to
this besides genetics, namely, the environment that we're raised
in and a person's sheer will and Dad seemed to have an abundance
of the latter. Among the many things, he had the ability to ignore.
The main one was the most obvious sign of aging... a quality that
I'll have to improve on if I have any chance of enjoying as many
years as he did. In his case, sheer will may have been the secret
that kept him going with such vitality for so long. I can illustrate
this with a story from one of his very last voyages with Lindblad
Expeditions when he was already in his early nineties. We were on
a very remote Arctic Island in Arctic, Norway and one of the other
naturalists had found a historic site and we wanted to go and see
it and it was across a great expanse of tundra and very hard-going
and Dad was really quite old... I mean... he was in his 90's...so
... and it was starting to show although he refused to let it bother
him. And one of the other strapping Swede had kind of fallen into
step with him and as they crossed this bog, he noticed that Dad's
breathing was just ... he was just gasping for air ... it was quite
sticky mud and he had very heavy boots on and as they were heaving
through this awful mire, Stefan, the Swede, decided that he'd better
stop or he's going to have a cardiac patient there. And so he said:
"I guess maybe we could stop and rest for a while and catch
our breath" and Dad looked at him and said ... just gasping,
of course..... he said: "Well, yeah, sure", he said, "if
you want to rest", he said, "I'll wait for you, Stefan."
And that was the kind of spirit, I think, that drove him and kept
him going all those long years. I think we can all learn something
Denny. You were like a grandfather to us, the seven Miller girls
and my brother, Frank. We met him when my Mom and Dad moved across
the field to Burnett Lane. Early mornings we'd gather down at the
river with Art Cooley and his students from Bellport High to band
birds that flew into Denny's net. It was unbelievable to hold these
small birds, band them and watch them fly away, only to find some
of them returning the next year. He had incredible patience with
all of us, especially me. Unfortunately, despite how much time Denny
spent with me, I still find it hard to tell the difference between
a tufted titmouse and a yellow warbler. So many things we take for
granted, Dennis made very special for us. He took us for walks through
the marsh, pointing out the different kinds of plant life and how
the marsh nourished all life forms. If it weren't for Dennis we'd
never know that cattails were so important to the creatures of the
marsh. And to light them up and smoke them as punks wasn't the right
thing to do. Every summer he took my sisters and I to Canada where
we hayed with Pete and Sal. After a long day, slaving in the field,
we'd be greeted by the aroma of Denny's stew. Only God knows what
was in that stew!
all of our lives. My husband, Rick, my children and all of my family.
We all loved him so dearly and he will never, ever be forgotten.
Every time I am on Carmans River and I look up and see one of his
ospreys, I see our Denny. Without him they wouldn't be here. For
it was Dennis' time, talent and effort on their behalf that let
us enjoy them today. My family and I would not be who we are today
if it wasn't for our precious Denny. As he said to me on my l7th
birthday, I wish him well wherever he be in peace and love and felicity.
Thank you, Mary. Well, I wouldn't dare tell a Dennis story with
shoes on... that's another Puleston story...shoes on ... so one
of the many things that need yet ... another generation of people
who learned something, many things from Dennis. Dennis, to me, as
to many people was many things. He was mainly to me, however, as
a young boy growing up amongst the Pulestons, not just an ancient
mariner, but THE ancient mariner. A British ancient mariner. Somebody
whose stories about being at sea.. whose life in far-away places
greatly influenced me. To the point where I felt that I needed to
experience some of that. I went and found a boat of my own and brought
it back to this place, very eager to show Dennis that I was doing
this... wanted him to see that I was going to sea as well. I didn't
know much about ... or anything, for that matter, about boats at
that point, but I brought this boat back and showed it to remember
a British sailor, and to a British sailor all boats must be proper
boats and that means they must have lead keels on the bottom of
them. That's a proper boat. I didn't know that bringing back a trimoran
-- a multi-hulled boat -- would insult his very soul. But I invited
him aboard and he was very kind and complimented me on my craft...
a craft which he knew wouldn't get me half-way around Great South
Bay never mind half-way across the Caribbean which was where I intended
to take it. He came aboard and the first thing he looked at... Well,
a proper boat has a keel on the bottom but it also has a binnacle,
a place where the compass is, of course, that you use to steer by.
And it's a cherished item. It's valuable and so you build it up
in the binnacle and is very well protected. My boat had lost what
compass it had and so to get the boat back to my home from where
I had acquired it, I had screwed a plastic back-packers compass
to the bulkhead to use to navigate. And I did notice in Dennis'
expression when he saw that, the mixed horror and concern about
what I might do with this craft.
Well, he was
yet gracious and kind as always and complimented me on my craft
and wished me well and when I finally got the boat fixed up and
to a place where I would need to do some navigating, again, keeping
in mind Dennis being a British mariner, he knew navigation was of
utmost importance and you helped out fellow seamen, having maybe
some confidence in me, no confidence in the vessel, he lent me his
sextant to take aboard this craft. And that meant a huge amount
to me. This was not just any navigational tool. This was the heart
and soul of the ancient mariner. This was a Weems & Platt British-made
brass and ivory knobs, a devise that should, and I hope someday
will be in a grand museum. And I never learned how to use that.
I was intimidated by it indeed but I did mostly coast-wise passaging
between islands - day-hopping, maybe three or four days here, so
I didn't need to take sights in large and long blue water passages
but what that sextant did for me .. it sat on the bulkhead and I
certainly encountered my share of terrifying times. Tropical storms
and coming ashore in breakers and reefs at night. That sextant sitting
there on my bulkhead ... the beat-up weathered mahogany box ...
the brass keyhole, knowing that was in there, sitting there, inspired
me greatly. It was Dennis on my boat. And I thank Dennis for that.
known Dennis for about 28 years. I started working at the Environmental
Defense Fund in May of 1973 and that's when I met him and Charlie
Wurster who spoke earlier and Art Cooley. That first year EDF's
annual budget was $750,000.00. We worked out of a little farmhouse
on Old Town Road in East Setauket and, as you may have read in the
New York Times today it now has an annual budget of $40 million.
When EDF was incorporated in October of 1967, Dennis, I assumed
was 69 years old. And Art Cooley always said that it was incredibly
important for EDF, since all the other founding scientists were
young whipper-snappers, in their early 30's or something like that,
to have somebody with a little bit of gray hair who lent a certain
air of gravity and seriousness to this enterprise. Of course, Dennis,
at that time was a mature individual, although that is really a
very young age. I remember going out on the Carmans River on a canoe
trip ... I think it was around October 1984 when Dennis must have
been certainly into his 70's, with Art and we were canoeing down
the Carmans River not very far from here. It was a beautiful, beautiful
day and all of a sudden I saw... we all saw Dennis pointing up in
the sky and he said: "Snow Geese!" Now what I had to do
was to get into my pockets, pull out my glasses so I could begin
to see something. There, up, probably 5,000 or 8,000 feet up...
I don't know how far up they were, were these tiny little pin points
of white and the only reason you'd think that they were anything
alive was that they were in this beautiful formation. But I must
say, I thought it was just incredible that Dennis, whatever his
age was, would have observed these magnificent Snow Geese up there.
I came over
here one day, I think it was probably in the early l990's, and came
over to visit Dennis and he was working on something in his office.
And what it was.. was this.. what I'd call... sort of a manuscript
that turned out to be the Long Island Nature Journal or whatever
it was called but I looked at it and I saw these beautiful little
drawings of different kinds of creatures. But what was the most
spectacular part was the handwriting. This was all handwritten in
the most beautiful calligraphy... English calligraphy that one can
imagine. And it just struck me... you know, a few weeks before this,
I'd been at the Morgan Library looking at some of these medieval
manuscripts where you see these spectacularly colored drawings,
all religious drawings, and then this handwriting. Latin and it
doesn't matter whether or not you can read it, the writing is as
beautiful as the drawings and that's what really struck me about
this Long Island Nature Journal .. was the spectacular beauty of
the handwriting, as well as the drawings.
And, just sort
of my last story about Dennis was a couple of years ago when we,
with Marty Van Lith who is here started the fight to prevent Home
Depot from being sited here on the banks of the Carmans River, I
knew it was important to try and save that land and to prevent Home
Depot from coming in there. But I didn't know how important it was
until I read Dennis' little hand-written note to the Clerk of the
Town of Brookhaven that said: This is a disaster waiting to happen.
I think that's the way we all felt and he did probably more than
any other person I know to help preserve magnificent spaces in this
world for all of us.
Most of you have the advantage of me in having known the Dennis
Puleston since World War II. I met Dennis Puleston before that.
It was 60 years ago. I was l0 years old and I went to the Amityville
Public Library on my bicycle and they had a copy of Blue Water Vagabond.
My heroes up to that point ... I was a bookish kid ... were Haliburton
and Roy Chapman Andrews. But as soon as I discovered Dennis, he
became my hero and I liked Haliburton but there seemed to be something
of self-advertising about him. And for me, Dennis Puleston was the
gentleman adventurer and he has remained that for me all of my life.
Subsequently we became acquaintances but the Dennis that I knew
intimately was when I was 9 years old. Something else happened to
me at that same year that was important. I met Walt Whitman. I bicycled
to his home from my home in Amityville and then a teacher of mine
turned out to be a collateral decedent of Whitmans and I had been
devoted to him ever since and I appear as Whitman in programs at
various venues. And I would like to read a short part of the last
words of the first poem in the first edition, the 1855 edition of
Leaves of Grass... it became later to be known as Song of Myself.
The last guarded
day holds back for me
It claims my likeness after the rest
And true as any on the shadowed wilds
He coaxes me to the vapor and the dusk
I depart as air.
I shake my white locks at the runaway sun
I fuse my flesh in eddies and drifts in lacy drags
I bequeath myself to the dirt to grow from the grass I love
If you want me again
Look for me under your boot soles.
You will hardly know who I am
Or what I mean
But I shall be good health to you nevertheless
In filter and fiber your blood
Failing to fetch me at first
Missing me one place
I stop somewhere waiting for you.
I'm Tom O'Rourke. First-borne of original members ... a couple of
original members of the barefoot group. My recollections of Dennis
go back a long time. They were formed really during the first two
decades of my life. Probably the middle years of Dennis', and Sally,
he raised a lot of us to the nest. He lifted a lot of us to the
nest. I've seen quite a number of people who I grew up with and
I haven't seen for as many 30 years, but I'm looking at Tommy and
Norman and they were lifted to the nest. But one of my recollections
... and a strong recollection. I was talking about it with my brother
the other night when we learned of Dennis' passing, was coming down
to headquarters almost every day it seems, as a boy, with Dennis
explaining some wonder of nature that morning and sending a group
of us off to experience it for ourselves, whether it was down to
the pond or to the river before the ducks or to the meadow, and
we'd spend the day pursuing just the lesson of the day that Big
Dennis had given us. I moved away from this area in the early '60's
and along the way, in raising a family and pursuing a career, I've
met a lot of people who did things that I wish I could do as well
as them and who helped me along the way but, for me, the over-arching
role model was Dennis Puleston. I never saw anybody blend knowledge,
instinct, creativity, courage and modesty the way Dennis did. So
I, for one, know I've lost a hero.
I met Dennis in l960. I didn't know how great a person he was but
one thing was obvious. He was a wonderful man with a tremendous
reverence for life, reverence and love for all the creatures with
whom we share this earth. He has totally changed my life. I would
have been nothing compared to what I am .. thanking to Dennis. I
want to say one more thing about Jen... when they talked about the
nest ... Did either of you were taking a trip to Bonaventure Island
in Quebec and Jen was the only person with a small enough hand to
pull out a Leach's Petrel. Well, I don't think there is no farewell.
Dennis was wonderful and he will live forever.
Just a quick Montauk story. My dad John Binnington and Dennis were
dear friends and sailed many, many hours together on the river out
in the bay and often times I was invited to go along as well as
many of the Puleston family. And Dad and Dennis were both born in
England and they both had very unique sense of humors. And Dennis
was always standing around with binoculars in his hand and I wasn't
much of a birder but, you know, I knew a few, and Dennis would oftentimes
be looking up and saying: "Oh, there goes a pair of Mergansers"
and then he'd say: "Oh, over there, there's a bufflehead over
there" and Dad would go: "Did you see them?" I said:
"Yeah, I saw them, Dad. I saw them." And then he'd say:
"Oh, there goes a gashawk." "Did you see that one?"
"No, I didn't see it." "That was a plane that went
Dennis and Dad
always refused to be either towed in or take any assistance at all
when sailing out in the bay. And when they'd sit out there for hours
with no wind, they'd finally resort to taking "Fred" out
from the bilge (which was an oar) and they would paddle in but they
often times would tow other motor boats in and Dennis was very diligent
in painting these boats on the bow of the boat often times. Bright
I'm Paul Spitzer. And I knew Dennis when he was a young man. That
is, he was in his 60's. And I was in my 20's and I didn't know very
much. And now I've been here a while and I realize that there are
people who walk quietly through this world who are kings and queens
of the earth. And Dennis Puleston was a king of the earth. I had
a lot of good walks with Dennis and I learned a lot. A lot of the
best ones were out on Gardiner's Island. It is Father's Day and
he was sort of an osprey-Dad for me, you might say. We worked together
on the ospreys and there were many quiet June mornings that we walked
around Gardiners checking nests. Quiet mornings also that we did
a breeding bird census. We did it from l970 through l974 and I dug
it out of a barn up in Vermont recently and I intend to crank it
up and get it published and, of course, it'll be Puleston and Spitzer
so I'm very happy about that. It's the least I can do.
So many gifts
this man had. His clam fritters were absolutely fantastic! His sense
of humor, as we all know... for me his two greatest gifts were his
ability to see the beauty of the earth and his ability to share
that beauty with others. And I would suggest to you that we have
to keep faith... that this is, in a sense ... in a very quiet sense,
a challenge from me, and I suggest perhaps from Dennis, as well,
that we all need to keep working on our ability to see the beauty
of the earth and we all need to keep working on our capacity to
share it with others if we're going to manage to get down the road
in a reasonably civilized fashion.
My name is Sven Lindblad. I have a small company that has ships
that travel around the world and, God, I've been so lucky over the
last 25 years up until just very, very recently, to have had Dennis
so much as part of my life personally and by extension, a part of
so many other people's lives. I'm not so sure Mrs. Puleston is so
glad about the association but maybe she was happy that he left
for months at a time. But, the family as well and particularly Pete
has been obviously so much a part of our lives and is going to start
sailing again very shortly, having recovered I think rather well
from his accident.
And, of course, Art Cooley by extension, I suppose a family member,
in one form or another, but I mean Dennis and Pete have inspired
so many young naturalists over these last 25 years that have worked
with us, and then, by extension, of course, thousands and thousands
of our guests and the fact that he chose to do that, to take his
knowledge, take what he knew, take what he was passionate about
and share it with so many people, is a wonderful thing indeed. So,
we'll miss him and think of him often.
I received an email from Jack Svenson who is one of our colleagues
that works for Lindblad Expeditions and he sent an email and I'd
like to read just a small portion of it. "I remember hearing
Dennis lamenting about my taking an office job some years back.
Well, Dennis, here I am following in your footsteps... no, make
that your wake... again. Thank you for your friendship and inspiration.
On the very day you passed away, I was sailing by the splendid snowcapped
volcanic cones of the Islands of Four Mountains in the Aleutians
and I sighted a short-tailed albatross. For anyone who knew you
and your passions and who knows the history of that bird, well,
that's enough said. Cheers to you, Dennis. Sail on towards new and
unknown waters where we will one day follow."
You've heard the word 'hero' used in conjunction with Dennis more
than once this afternoon. Dennis was truly a local hero for this
community. Indeed, his love for this community has been a source
of great pride for all of us over the years. We didn't always know
exactly where Dennis was. He was sometimes north of Greenland, sometimes
south of Cape Horn or somewhere in between but we've always, I think
known where his heart is. Now, I can compile a list and we're told
we're not going to go into such lists, but of the countless times
and the countless ways in which Dennis has contributed to this community
- We heard mention of Home Depot, his Warbler Woods, his South Haven
properties... there's Breslin Mall, of course, the Wertheim Refuge...
scores of local causes including the Dennis Puleston Nature Preserve
here on Beaver Dam Creek. All of these are causes which Dennis contributed
boundlessly of his energy, also his wisdom, his art, his wit and
his rock-solid inspiration and that's really what made the difference
between success and failure in these kinds of projects. And it was
... well, I'm sorry ... I'm choking up here a little bit ... Dennis
has meant an awful lot to me. But it was in these ways that Dennis
has helped to preserve the natural beauty of our community and the
heritage of Brookhaven Hamlet. In fact, I'll use his words. He referred
to the heart-warming ambiance of our beloved Brookhaven Hamlet.
But, more than
that, Dennis was a conscience for our community and a moral conscience.
Many are the times when we were stirred to action in the Brookhaven
Village Association and other local forums by Dennis' impassioned
and eloquent statements, often of outrage, that got us moving and
made things happen in this community. He was constantly opening
our eyes to see those things which are really important about the
environment around. For decades, of course, he has been an inspiration
to the young people in this community. We heard Art referring to
the early days. I can attest, my wife Connie, is a teacher at the
Bellport High School. Dennis Puleston is still an inspiration to
the young people in our community.
It's been said
that Dennis lived a long and a full life. Indeed it seems that he
has been with us always in many, many ways but the thing about this
is not that he lived so long, but that he died so young and he will
be with us in many, many ways.
I'm John Baker. I grew up next door and my earliest, earliest memories
go back to Dennis and Betty and play school here many, many years
ago. A few years ago, when I was well in my 50's, my father-in-law
said to me: "John, congratulations!" And I said: "Why,
Barkley" and he said: "Well, you went all day yesterday
and you didn't mention Dennis Puleston once." It was extraordinary.
I got thinking about it afterwards and I realized how much, not
just Dennis but the whole community here in Brookhaven, meant to
me. And everyone ... I've written a letter to Betty and all the
children which I'll pass on to them and I won't read the whole thing
but there are a couple of points that everyone has talked about
how serious Dennis was about everything that he turned his mind
to and what an inspiration he was. Well, there was another side
to him that and it was his rather idiosyncratic sense of humor.
For example, I walked into the Puleston's kitchen one time and Dennis
was cleaning buckets ... and I mean buckets.... of steamer clams
and he turned to me and he said he felt like a Rabbi at a mass circumcision.
I bought the Heron from him in the mid-60's. And Dennis sailed by
with Bud Lacey and saw the Heron tied up at the dock and he told
me later it sort of looked like a whore at a baptism. One of my
great interests in life, of course, has always been folk songs and
the other side of Dennis is that some of the most dreadful songs
that I've ever heard in my life, and they're still part of my active
repertoire from time to time, was songs that I heard Dennis sing
with a wonderful choir-boy expression on his face.
But my son,
Ian, is a fellow member of the Explorer's Club and Ian lives in
Katmandu and he's a writer and is literally an explorer, and I called
him to tell him that Dennis had died and he said to please convey
his warmest affection to all the family and he sent these thoughts
to share with you.
of Dennis - this is from Ian Baker
Dennis was truly
one of my greatest mentors providing me with the intimate details
of pirate life and helping a fifth grader report on nuclear energy.
I learned through him about the migratory patterns of birds and
the feeding habits of African lions. He taught me how to force a
cockatoo to sing and to let a turkey vulture perch on my shoulder.
As a young child - he was always the first on my guest list for
my birthday parties. But, instead of cake, I requested smoked eel
and caviar which I knew we both preferred.
But my most
enduring memory of Dennis however is a map of Black Pearl Island
which I still have framed on my wall.
from a journey to the South Seas, Dennis called me saying he'd brought
back a conch shell with strange inscriptions which he had wanted
me to take a look at. I immediately ran across the fields to his
house where he handed me the massive shell, pointing out the faint
initials B.B. which had been carved on its side. As I turned the
shell over in my hands I saw there was something tucked deep inside
that Dennis claimed not to have seen. Well, we pulled it out together
with a letter opener and there before me was what I believed to
be an authentic pirate's map complete with dripped wax and burned
edges guiding me to the riches of Black Pearl Island. Today I know
that it's the map itself and the letter from the apocryphal Billy
Rick Mohlmannbow, the backside which is the true treasure. Not only a work
of art but an enduring testament to the powerful relationship that
can exist between those of different generations. I look forward
to the day when I can share with someone at that age the inspiration
which Dennis and his wife, Betty, and the children, Dennis, Jennifer,
Sally and Peter, so generously shared with me.
In a recent
interview with Ian that was published in the Explorer's Journal,
he was asked what events in his early life launched him on his path
of exploration and he replied: "I spent some of my earliest
years living next to the protected wild lands on the South Shore
of Long Island and these salt water marshes were the first terrain
I explored. Our neighbor, Dennis Puleston, was both an artist, an
explorer and he regaled me with enthralling tales about living with
cannibals on the South Sea Islands in the l930's, as well as the
stories with stories with work as a naturalist. He also took me
bird banding in the marshes behind our house, discussed their migration
patterns and essentially introduced me to a life beyond my current
frontiers. Well, it isn't often that one person can have had such
an important influence on the lives of two generations of a family
as Dennis did with both Ian and me. And, with that note, I'll pass
this to someone else.
My name is Liz Scott-Graham and I didn't intend to talk about Dennis
today because I wasn't sure I'd be able to but some of the things
here have inspired me... some of the things that you said ... and
it reminded me of stories that I thought I would share. The first
is, it's sort of ironic because I know that every woman here thinks
that Dennis held a special place in his heart for her and yet none
of you have come forward. So, I guess I have to speak for all of
the beautiful women, and all of the women in the world in his mind
were beautiful. I met Dennis 51 years ago when my Brownie troop
came to Meadow Lane and while I lived on the Hart Estate. And my
mother was British and she didn't know the names of things but she
had a keen affection for natural history and on that day, my life
was transformed because I came to understand that all of these things
had names and that you could learn them and somehow, naming them,
was very important. So, he was a mentor to me for many years.
But he was also
in his own way a very stubborn man as many of us know and I thought
it highly ironic that he left home at the age of 27 in a very small
boat, sailing through rather rough waters in the North Atlantic
and, God knows how seaworthy that thing was, but I have to laugh
because when Jonathan told his story today, I remember Dennis saying
to me, after he had been on that boat that Jonathan was speaking
about and he said to me: How in the Hell can Art and Nancy let him
go to sea in that?! And I know that his mother probably had the
exact same feelings about his leaving.
that we, of course, know about him was how much he did love women
and I had a correspondence that lasted my entire life. I think I
have 200 letters from Dennis and I'm sure that many of you can match
that numbers. God knows how he wrote so many of them but when I
got to renew my acquaintance in my 30's with Dennis, suddenly there
was a new name in his vocabulary and he talked about the Miller
girls. And I always wondered who are the Miller girls and finally
one day I just had to confess that I was ignorant and I didn't know
who the Miller girls were and he said: Oh, the Miller girls! Well,
I take them up to New Brunswick when Pete and Sal have to hay because
then every male from miles around come to help out!
Carin and I
used to have rather ..... Dennis didn't really like to argue very
much but Carin and I had terrible arguments with him about his putting
women on pedestals and Carin and I were yelling in idealistic feminists
.... and we thought that Dennis' elevating women to pedestals was
somehow quite not politically correct. And I realize as I've grown
older that it really was a part of esteem and affection with which
he held women. Of course, his daughters and granddaughters, he would
often say.... I mean... I believe that he really thought that each
one of them could have been Miss America several times over. But
he ... I remember how upset he was when this young woman fell from
the rigging on the Sea Cloud and she died and he was incensed. He
kept saying: Women shouldn't be allowed in rigging, without thinking
about the implications of all the thousands of young men who'd fallen
out of the riggings over the years. But, as I've grown older, I
realize that it was he held us all in a special place in his heart.
My name is John Potente. I'm probably the most recent acquaintance
of Dennis out of this group. I only met him this last year. And
I've been involved in environmental projects on Long Island and
anytime something would come up, if I had a question about birds
I couldn't find any answer to, people would say: Well, you've gotta
go meet Dennis Puleston. Or, if I had a question about environmental
strategy, people would say: Well, Dennis Puleston. Or if I had a
technical question about photography or art: Well, haven't you met
Dennis Puleston? And anytime anybody said that, they'd always take
a step back as if there was an inherent reverence along with this.
I mean, it wasn't just some technician I was going to see, I was
going to see Dennis Puleston.
So finally after
hearing this enough, last year I wanted to know how to get in touch
with this Dennis Puleston and people told me: Well, just call him.
.... just call? Here's his number. Call. So I said: It can't be
that easy. He's Dennis Puleston. So I picked up the phone, the phone
rang, the fellow on the other end answered the phone with: Hello.
I said: Is Dennis Puleston available? "Yes. It's Dennis."
"Whoa! O.K. My name is John. I'd like to come see you. When
would you be around?" because he was up in the Arctic, the
Antarctic, Mars... He says: "Come over any time", he says.
"Now I'm nothing but a house bound." So I says: O.K. I
got in my car and went right over. And when I met Dennis I have
to say that he was every bit as much as people led me to expect
that he would be. I mean, I was expecting to meet a savior of sorts
and you could certainly sense the depth of a very important man
when you saw Dennis. In the time I spent with him I could sense
that ... I never saw such ... or sensed ... such strength in such
a fine, gentle human being. And I'm just thankful that I had that
opportunity. Thank you.
Well I hope Dennis wouldn't mind if somebody showed up with a tie.
My name is Steve Englebright. I'm State Assemblyman and Dennis was
not only my hero, he was my compass, my inspiration in my work in
government. He was also one of my earliest supporters and I always
felt very self-conscious about that because when the environmental
god supports you, it is very difficult to not feel somewhat self-conscious
and hope that you don't let him down. I've tried not to in my work
on the environment but it really wasn't all that hard. Looking back
on some of the accomplishments in my l8 years of office, all of
them are built on the model that this extraordinary man developed
when his eyes were on the horizon long before anyone else dared
dream of preserving old ecosystems. Dennis was the first to do that.
And through all of our efforts to create the Suffolk County Open
Space Program, it was Dennis who I would talk to and derive inspiration
and first-hand knowledge from in terms of which parcels should be
absolutely included... which parts must not somehow fall off of
the list. And to dare to dream to preserve the Pine Barrens and
the Pine Barrens Peconic ecosystem was really based on the model
of the Carmans River. The Carmans River was, after all, by that
time already largely protected, not entirely, the stories of the
Home Depot fight suggests that it's still a work in progress. But
the essence was already in place due to Dennis' long-range vision
in his efforts. And the idea of preserving both the water's catchment
as well as the water's surface and its edges was a radical idea
in my time. It must have been a truly visionary when Dennis invented
it 20 or 25 years before I ever had a chance to get out of diapers.
to think of that in fact later ... and ironic really, that I received
the Dennis Puleston award from the Open Space Council. I can't tell
you how very much it meant to me to have Dennis present me with
one of his paintings which hangs in my study of a wood duck. And
the irony, of course, is that it was really Dennis' work. How appropriate
it was that it's called the Dennis Puleston Award.... which is really
Dennis Puleston's original work that I was only in a sense discipling
into the next generation. And, indeed, during the several years
of the unfolding of the Suffolk County Open Space Program, Dennis
would come and visit and he would bring the next generation with
him. He would come with children and it was wonderful to see the
interaction between Dennis and the young people who came to talk
about woodcocks in Bellport on parcels next to the sea that needed
to be preserved or to talk about the importance of Warbler Woods,
a place that, to the best of my knowledge, was discovered and named
by Dennis and is now in the upper reaches of this river that flows
past this place preserved, as a result, really, of his original
understanding of its significance. And to dare preserve uplands,
I mean, really, a lot of people thought Pine Barrens was wasteland
but Dennis knew 40 years prior to the preservation of the Central
Pine Barrens that the Pine Barrens of the Carmans River was not
wasteland and he did everything he could to make sure that they
were preserved. That's a model that will endure. It's an ecosystem
that lives and I think that Dennis' spirit is a part of it and I
am absolutely certain that it will continue to inspire future generations.
I feel so privileged to have been one of those generations and how
ironic to look out and see Dennis testifying in front of the Suffolk
Legislature with yet the next generation standing with him. I think
his work will continue to inspire generations into the indefinite
future. It's a great privilege to be here today at this small family
Hi. My name is Pat Martinkovic and I have the extreme pleasure of
working at the Wertheim National Wildlife Refuge. And the reason,
even though I'm nervous, I got to come up here is because I just
have to express from the heart the extreme gratitude that I feel
because from Dennis and Betty and so many of you in this community
... all the vision and effort you put in to establish Wortheim National
Wildlife Refuge because it's truly, for me, I feel like I ... I
always say I died and went to Heaven. I guess everybody has talked
a lot about, you know, Dennis' aura, you know his expertise and
his vision and his humor in various stories. And I've only had the
good fortune and the honor of knowing Dennis for the past 5-l/2
years. But there's two things that just strike me completely. And
the first is when I first moved here I was invited to some gathering
just right next door and, you know, coming from the mid-west, things
were a little more ... or I had just previously worked in Boston
so things were a little more formal and like John had mentioned,
I had heard of this great Dennis Puleston so, actually I think it
was Dennis' birthday and I had brought these brownies and I brought
them over and he just gave me a hug and he made sure that Carin,
I'll never forget, made sure I got one of his books The Nature Journal
and I thought: My God! This man doesn't even know me and he's giving
me something. You know, I just .. I was so touched by that just
The other thing
I want to say about Dennis -- I don't want to repeat what everyone
else says but the thing that struck me the most was I don't think
I've ever met an individual who has... someone who has the expertise,
the experience, the vision, all that... and had the humility and
he had this most kind and gentle spirit about him and every time
I was around him, that just came across to me and I guess, you don't
find that. To me I think that's a very rare quality ... to have
that kind of humility and that gentleness and kind spirit in someone
who has so many accomplishments. So he was a very good role model
for me in the short time I had the pleasure and honor of knowing
him and I think he's influenced, obviously, all of us. And someone
like that never passes on. They're always within you. And I'm just
grateful. I just have to say I was warned about coming to Long Island.
And it has turned out to be truly the best place I have ever lived
in my entire life. And I've been in a lot of states with the U.S.
Fish & Wildlife Service and I've never met a community like
this one and something like this is just so evident and, anyway,
My name is Anthony Graves. I had the good fortune to grow up under
the influence of Dennis. I remember being down here in the marshes
and banding birds on cold October mornings when my hands and feet
would really be freezing and small birds flying into the net and
racing over to them with anticipation and then having complete fear
when the bird would turn out to be a cardinal and they don't call
them large crushing bills for nothing! But I want to tell a story
about a piece of Dennis' life that I think many people may not know
about. It hasn't appeared in any of the papers and it's a bit of
research that was done. He actually did it along with my Uncle Robert
Ince who is here today. And this goes back to the l940's when they
were both at Brookhaven National Laboratory.
was not actually conducted at Brookhaven National Laboratory. It
was done during an evening of revelry over at Old Inlet. This was
research on horseshoe crabs, way before it was popular research
- horseshoe crabs. And we may not know it but we've all Rick Mohlmannefited
from this research. Dennis and my Uncle and a whole group of other
people had sailed over to Old Inlet and they had a bonfire going
and I imagine they were probably drinking something and it probably
wasn't water, and it was June. It was a time when the horseshoe
crabs breed. There were lots of horseshoe crabs running around.
And you will notice in going to a fish store, look on the shelves,
you'll never see a horseshoe crab. This research led to probably
the horseshoe crab's survival because they realized that these crabs
were not edible. And the way they did the research was they decided
...they said, you know probably this animal looks so ugly but a
lot of ugly animals, lobsters, blue claw crabs are good to eat and,
probably around l or 2 in the morning at this time, and they decided
that they really should try and boil up a pot full of horseshoe
crabs and try to eat them. So they did. And that's my Dennis Puleston
story and you can all thank Dennis for not having to eat horseshoe
Never mind who I am. There's an old black expression: Heap see but
few know. And those of you who don't know, I've known Dennis for
over 35 years and he's been a marvelous contributor to the poor,
the down-trodden, the disenfranchised and those people who have
little enough. Dennis was a prince to many of us. Thank you.
My name is Fred Krupp and I came to know Dennis l7 years ago when
I came to work at EDF. And he told me the story, not far from this
spot, about how he was one of several four principally, and many
others in this community, who founded a national environmental group,
initially to fight the spraying of DDT right here and how they went
to court and initially won a ban ... a ban against the spraying
of DDT that ultimately led to a national ban and the recovery of
the osprey and so many other creatures. I don't have a lot to add
to what's already been said. I just would like to say that it's
clear all the love everyone had for Dennis and it's clear that it's
because he was not only a great but a thoroughly decent man. He
cared so deeply that he inspired others to care. He worked so hard
at conservation that he inspired others to work hard at it. He laughed
easily. He was always in such good humor it was hard not to be in
good humor around him. And he persevered. He would not give up the
cause of conservation and so, he helped set a model for so many
others. I'm sure the world is already and will continue to be a
better place, thanks to Dennis.
While others may want to come up, I thought I would read something
announcing the Dennis Puleston Osprey Fund but as I was standing
here looking around the audience, it seems to me this may be the
largest gathering of environmental intellect on Long Island and
I think to a large degree if that's true, it's because of Dennis
and, of course, we said those things already.
was growing up in England the osprey was never a common bird. When
he moved to the Hamlet of Brookhaven after World War II he was impressed
that ospreys nested high in old trees along the Carmans River. Little
did he know then that his beloved ospreys would seriously decline
in his lifetime only to be restored by his commitment to their well
At the request
of the Gardiner family he studied ospreys each year on their island.
He discovered that the rate of successfully fledged osprey chicks
was dropping dramatically. He brought unhatched eggs for analysis
by new scientific techniques conducted by Dr. Charles Wurster at
Stony Brook University. High levels of DDT confirmed the warnings
of Rachel Carson in her 1962 book Silent Spring and prompted action
to ban DDT. As an expert naturalist testifying in the Suffolk County
courtroom in 1966 Dennis, along with others, presented the scientific
evidence showing that DDT thinned eggshells. This trial spurred
the creation of the Environmental Defense Fund in 1967 with Dennis
as it's first Chairman. By the time he passed the leadership as
Chairman of the Board five years later, William Ruckelshaus, the
first Administrator of EPA had banned DDT in the United States.
osprey is so much a symbol of the environmental health of Long Island
and is so intimately connected with Dennis, we announce today the
formation of the Dennis Puleston Osprey Fund. The purpose of the
fund will be to encourage research about ospreys on Long Island
to improve the nesting opportunities for these magnificent birds
and to educate the public about them. Those who wish to support
this fund should make checks out to Post-Morrow Foundation - Dennis
Puleston Osprey Fund and send them to the Post-Morrow Foundation
and there's an address and there's basically the statement in the
barn which you can pick up before you leave.
to the environment has been impressive, long-standing and a guiding
light for his friends. Two organizations have been in the forefront
of his interest. As the first chairman and lifelong member of the
Environmental Defense Fund, now Environmental Defense, he provided
leadership and expertise. His commitment to the environment led
to the creation of a major national organization.
was concerned that important habitats were being lost. He supported
the Open Space Council in its efforts to save these ecologically
important areas. In recognition of this commitment, the Open Space
Council established the Dennis Puleston Conservation Award given
annually to a person who carries on his ideals and contributions
could be made to either of those organizations."
I'm Karen Blumer. The night that Dennis died I was at a conference
in Pennsylvania listening to a play by a woman named Killawany...
Kulani Lee .. who does a one woman play on the final days of Rachel
Carson's life. So I found that quite amazing and sort of one of
these sort of super-natural type thing. I'm really very happy for
this gathering today because often when I would see Dennis I could
not quite figure out why he would tell me this, but it would be
in his 60's, his 70's, his 80's, his 90's, he would say out of the
blue: Do you know how I want to die? I hope that I am shot by a
jealous husband. And now I understand.
I am with the
Open Space Council. I was one of the founders as Art just mentioned
that group. And we were very honored to be able to have a Dennis
Puleston Award and we are also very honored that he designed our
tee shirt with a very beautiful harrier. And we did notice that
recently when Dennis was featured in Newsday they had a beautiful
photo of him and he was wearing one of our tee shirts. And again
I understand now with all the comments on how perhaps stubborn or
what, but the shirt was entirely frayed -- almost embarrassingly
so and so we had all planned on sometime soon to give him one of
our tee shirts. So the award will go on and certainly just as Rachel
Carson's legacy has gone on through Dennis and many other people,
his legacy will continue on through ours.
My name is Zawyrucha. I'm a resident of Great River. I met Dennis
back in 1972 when I started that little environmental magazine here
on Long Island called Wetlands. I see many of the writers, artists
and naturalists that helped me with that magazine which lasted from
l972 to 1977, here today. And one of the things that I did in each
issue of the magazine, which was a quarterly, I went out and sought
what I considered the great, great environmental people on Long
Island. And I had a chance to meet Roy Latham, Roy Wilcox from Moriches,
and I also had a chance to make a phone call here and meet with
Dennis. He graciously brought me into his home, showed me his art
work, showed me what kind of a person he was and he is among those
great environmentalists that Long Island has produced. And as I
was leaving his home that day, after the interview, a bird flew
on his shoulder. It was a cardinal and he said: That's Cardinal
Spellman. And I said: Oh, that's very, very nice. He said: Well,
I nursed Cardinal Spellman back to health and now whenever I leave
the house Cardinal Spellman comes and lands on my shoulder. And
so, whenever I see a cardinal flying, I'll always think of Dennis
and I think that he stands among us today with all the other great
environmentalists that have come out of Long Island. Thank you.
Back in 1975 I applied for a job at Brookhaven and I was told that
I needed to be interviewed by something called the Brookhaven Town
Board of Waterways and Natural Resources. And he told me I should
see a guy named Dr. Smolker to set up the appointment.. Which I
did. And he invited me to the next meeting and I walked into the
meeting and there were a lot of what I thought were old guys sitting
around a table. Smolker himself looked like a fairly large guy with
a pipe there, sitting back in his chair, kind of a gruffly looking
fellow. He introduced another guy named Clare Rose. He said he sold
beer locally. And some guy named Dennis Puleston and they started
to conduct business. They said: After we're done, we'll have you
speak before the Board and tell us a little about yourself. When
it came time to do that, I'm starting to talk and I look out and
this guy named Puleston is snoring. Falling asleep in the middle
of the meeting. So I say: Who the hell is this guy that can't even
stay awake in a meeting? And a couple of weeks after I got the job,
he calls me up and he says: Do you know what they're doing at Warbler
Woods? And I said: No. I didn't even know where Warbler Woods is.
And he says: Well, I'll take you there. And so I says: Great! Now
I'm gonna have this old guy taking a hike with me in the woods.
And we got there and within 30 seconds he was up there and I was
back here! I said: What the hell's going on? I started doing these
little quick jumps to catch up to him and we start to reach a little
ridge and I said: Well, good. Now he's bound to slow down. And he
like Rick Mohlmannds over and he like goes into low gear and actually picks
up speed as he's going up hill! And after that day I figured I've
gotta learn who this guy is.
I started talking
to people and little did I know. I met a fella named Paul Moskowitz
who was a staff person at EDF and he filled me in and many others
did. And that became my beginnings of learning about Dennis and
his world. And the world I live in government, he was like an oasis
.. a calming spirit.
I was talking
to Charlie earlier. I said: I'm really going to miss him and Charlie
said: But he was 95. He'd done so much. And, yes, he has. But if
there was one thing I could have wished is that he just stuck around
just a little bit longer for the rest of us to have learned as much
as he knew. There was just so much there and that's the one thing
I will miss is the knowledge that he had that was always coming
from him every time you'd meet with him. So, yes. He had a full
life but I know we're all going to miss him and I want to thank
There are a lot of people here. A lot of you as part of my you.
I came here as a bride. I want you to know that Dennis Puleston
told me in 1941 that I was marrying a wonderful fella, Bob Ince,
and, of course, I did marry him and I went on a honeymoon with Bob
Ince and Dennis Puleston, Betty Puleston, and Bill and Gene Bonyun
and we went to Westport Island in Maine to open up the house and
grounds that the Puleston's had bought. We went up to help them
settle in. Bob and I were given a lovely place across the water
so we could be by ourselves if we wanted to but every day we rowed
over. There's a movie of me rowing across that water, around and
around, never straight, but we got there. So Dennis, I've known
you my whole married life and I'll miss him along with everybody
It's not over yet. We're going to party on into the night. Anyone
wants to stay, and before anyone leaves we might want to sing a
few songs. We had some song sheets in the barn and they're all gone
so I guess people have them and they're some of my Dad's favorite
Rolling Home and Swing Low, Sweet Chariot
We are going to have a rendition of Amazing Grace performed
by Ray Willis. So, don't leave just yet.
Amazing Grace on the bagpipes.
There is late breaking news from the galley. There apparently is
plenty of food, so with that so ends. Thank you.