by Michele S. Byers, Executive Director, New Jersey Conservation Foundation
Bill Dana and John Waleski didn’t cross paths. Bill lived in northern New Jersey and John lived in the Pine Barrens before retiring to the shore. Both were avid outdoorsmen: Bill’s passion was fly fishing, John’s was hunting.
But they both loved wild lands in New Jersey – and had a desire to preserve them for future generations.
Bill and John were volunteers extraordinaire for New Jersey Conservation Foundation, going above and beyond in their quest to save the Garden State’s beautiful and unspoiled places.
Bill, a Morristown resident, passed away in February at the age of 83. John, who lived in Lavallette, passed away in June at the age of 65. Their lives serve as examples of how individuals with great dedication and a desire to help can make New Jersey a better place, for both people and wildlife.
Bill served as a New Jersey Conservation Foundation trustee and president for nearly two decades; under his leadership the Foundation preserved thousands of acres across this state we’re in. He remained a trusted advisor long after his term had ended. Having spent his career as an investment manager, he could always be counted on for sound guidance on finance and much more.
He and his wife, Emma Joy, traveled the world in pursuit of trout, salmon and bonefish; his love of fly fishing inspired him to work toward protecting land that protects rivers and streams and lakes.
He was a founding member of the Harding Land Trust, and a member of the Advisory Board of the Montana Land Reliance. In recognition of Bill and Emma Joy’s significant contributions to land conservation in Montana, where they had a summer home, the Montana Land Reliance honored them in 1991 with a Conservationist of the Year Award.
John Waleski was a hands-on guy, just what you’d expect from a former Eagle Scout. A former wholesale produce supplier, he blazed trails, picked up litter, planted trees, and more. He was instrumental in getting portions of the 1,227-acre Michael Huber Preserve (formerly known as Four Mile Spring) in Woodland Township donated to New Jersey Conservation Foundation. “I was thrilled to be able to save it forever,” he said in a 2009 interview.
In more than 30 years as a volunteer, John built boardwalks, bird houses and even snake dens. He apprehended illegal all-terrain vehicle riders and guided birders to the best viewing spots.
“I believe you have to give back more than you take,” was his philosophy on volunteering. He was a longtime member of the Burrs Mill and Rosedale hunting clubs, and loved gardening and crabbing at the Jersey shore.
Bill and John were both unique, irreplaceable individuals who made huge contributions to our state and are greatly missed. But their legacies will live on in thousands of acres of land in New Jersey that they helped to preserve.
To enjoy and admire their work, go for a walk at the Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge and Michael Huber Prairie Warbler Preserve.
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