Monday morning: The snow is falling gently, and my angel is gone. Wendy Hall, co-founder of Adirondack Wildlife Refuge in Wilmington, passed away last night in Home Hospice, at the age of seventy, of an inoperable sarcoma, with me at her bedside. A perennial volunteer, Wendy was a nurse, well known for her dedication to helping people and wildlife. At various times a volunteer ambulance lieutenant, massage therapist, pastel and stained-glass artist, an expert Scrabble Player, Wendy was best known as a wildlife rehabilitator, who not only helped train aspiring rehabilitators, but also taught many folks about wildlife and their roles in nature.
Wendy racked up thousands of travel miles, rescuing, rehabbing and releasing every critter from songbirds to birds of prey, to mammals such as beaver, fishers, fox, coyotes and bears, back to the wild, while taking those critters who could no longer make a living in nature to schools, colleges, retirement homes, etc., to allow observers to see these animals up close, and appreciate how they survive in nature, and how those roles often complement what people are trying to accomplish.
When she wasn’t traveling, Wendy was “on call,” always available, day or night, to pick up a wounded animal or to help out a colleague. She was an inspiration for countless schoolchildren (and their parents) through her educational sessions. Wendy brought people together – environmental activists and writers, artists and neighbors – and fostered collaboration and community. A tireless advocate, she made sure her state legislators were educated on critical environmental issues. Her expertise and passion for her work were evident in everything she did. Most gratifying, I've had many people through email, social media and a few in person, tell me that Wendy Hall changed their lives.
Wendy is survived by me, her husband of 45 years, a writer and educator known in the Adirondacks for my educational work with wolves and bears, as well as four grown kids, Dr. Dan Hall, a veterinary cardiologist in South Carolina, Emily Hall, an RN in Minnesota, Jessica Hall, a restaurant manager in New York, and Alex Hall, a medic with the Vermont National Guard, also known for his work with raptors, wolves and bears. Dan, and his wife Magdalena, have two kids, Nathan and Sonya, the former a high school senior being scouted by pro baseball teams. Emily is married to Bharath, a rheumatologist, and they have two grade school kids, Ethan and Mina. Wendy was the youngest of four, with older siblings Connie, Rick and Gary. Wendy’s father, Dr. Kal Berke, a neuropsychologist, died of a similar cancer at the age of 49.
Wendy was born in the Yankee Stadium area of the Bronx, and lived variously in Riverdale, Dobbs Ferry and finally Hastings-on-Hudson, where she met Steve, a fellow nature lover, with whom she raised her family for 23 years in the Carmel, NY area known as Kent Lakes. After 911, Wendy and Steve, with the kids grown and gone in pursuit of their careers, moved to Wilmington in the Adirondacks, and on those 50 acres near Whiteface Mountain, started Adirondack Holiday, a vacation rental business, as well as the Adirondack Wildlife Refuge, which averaged 50,000 visitors a year, eager to learn about wildlife and nature. Wendy will be missed by all who knew her, but her legacy will live on. In lieu of flowers, please donate to the American Cancer Society in Wendy’s name, to help them beat this disease that has cut short so many lives, or the Adirondack Wildlife Refuge to help continue the work Wendy started. This photo essay shows Wendy at various stages of her fruitful life. Thanks my angel, for making my life's dreams come through.
A grateful shout out to neighbors Diane and Sytske who came by daily during Wendy’s four months in Home Hospice and were a tremendous help in supporting Wendy through this heartbreaking period, and to Karen and Bob, neighbors who kept a steady stream of home cooked meals coming our way, relieving us of much meal preparation. Vinny and Arlene gave us a gift certificate for Fratelli's Restaurant in Wilmington, and several classmates from Hastings High, particularly Shuli, as well as Gordo and Jody, who have experience with cancer patients within their families, were always there to walk me through understanding the various stages of the disease we were seeing.
The Wildlife Refuge is closed until May 7th, and we will celebrate Wendy’s life on May 21st, scatter her ashes at the Refuge, rename the Welcome Center the Wendy Hall Welcome Center, and reopen with an expanded science program, with educational programs ranging from what we know about our place in the universe and how that will affect our future, how livestock were developed out of wild animals, and what the ongoing insect collapse means to human civilization and nature generally. Wendy's friends and followers, as well as the general public, is welcome to Wendy's Life Celebration on Saturday, May 21st.
Stephen Hall, January 17th, 2022
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