2017 – Celebrating 65 Years of Nature Distinction
In celebration of founding members and our long-time stewards of the Lawson Nature Reserve the Ingersoll District Nature Club would like to recognize the following individuals for their dedication to the stewardship and preservation of nature in our county. Without the support of these dedicated individuals, visitors to the reserve would not walk the trails or enjoy the landscape and wild inhabitants that they do today. As a visitor to the tract, you will note that our trails carry the names of some of our key members.
From the photo archives of Julia (Whiteford) Holmes
Intrepid Nature Enthusiasts!
Harry Sivyer – In Memorium
Harry Sivyer, founder of the Ingersoll Nature Club, was an avid naturalist who encouraged and engaged others in the study of nature – starting with neighbouring families on Victoria Street in Ingersoll. In the early years, the Sivyer, Whiteford, Pittock, and Shelton families traversed the local countryside, exploring and discovering the wonders of nature – carpooling from Five Points to Long Point and places in between. Easily accessible, the banks of the Thames River and the railway tracks were a quick walking escape into a natural setting.
Harry and his wife, Vera, were long-time residents of Ingersoll. He had Vera were members of the First Baptist Church on Thames Street and, like so many in Ingersoll, Harry worked at the John Morrow Machine and Screw Co., Ltd. for many years. They had two children, Don and Grace.
Once the club was established, meetings were held in different locations over the years – in members’ houses, at the library and even in a building on Harry’s property, which he also used for photography. Don Bucknell was another early member, and is still with us today. Don tells stories of bicycle rides (!) to Long Point to go bird watching with Harry.
Without the enthusiasm and dedication of the early members, we would not have a nature club, nor is it likely the Lawson Nature Reserve would exist as it stands today.
Eleanor Edwards, as a neighbourhood child, remembers her father often hiked with Harry Sivyer. Many times she and her sister accompanied them. One time Harry, being the naturalist he was, asked her to hold a snake. She acquiesced, holding the snake at each end. It started to wiggle, she panicked and threw the snake. It landed around Harry’s neck. Later she found out Harry was afraid of snakes, too!
Harry was key to involving the neighbourhood kids. He kept stuffed birds and animals on hand to use as teaching opportunities. Eleanor remembers a white snowy owl, which was killed by a train, which he had preserved.
Don Bucknell – In Honour
As an active senior in the Ingersoll area (this year 85 years young!), Don has dedicated much of his life to nature conservancy. As our Club’s senior naturalist, Don is a charter member and has been pivotal in ensuring the longevity of the club and its stewardship of the Lawson Nature Reserve. He understands the importance of safeguarding habitat for endangered species, protecting biological diversity (over 300 plant species at the LNR), and creating opportunity for nature appreciation. He is a willing educator of anyone who wishes to learn more about the natural world and carries a wealth of information. Don “walks the talk” when it comes to conservation. As a true leader and pioneer in the conservancy movement, Don was the first landowner in Ontario to deed his property to the Nature Conservancy of Canada, making it a nature sanctuary in perpetuity. Don is the true embodiment of a conservationist and environmentalist and we celebrate his guidance throughout the years.
Don is so active, it is hard to think he is 85! Any question the club or public has could be directed to Don. We are very fortunate to have him and his wife, Ruth, in the club. He is very gentle and polite and keen on nature all the time. We are lucky to have him.
Dr. John Lawson – In Memorium
Thanks to the foresight of Dr. John Lawson, long-time Ingersoll resident and family physician, a beautiful 15 ha tract of “provincially significant” Carolinian woodland and wetland has been saved in South West Oxford for all to enjoy. As the past owner of the current Lawson Nature Reserve, the surrounding communities owe a debt of thanks to Dr. Lawson and his family, who donated the property to Ontario Nature upon his death. The property features an interesting mix of forest vegetation and wetlands.
Dr. John Lawson was born in Scotland, raised in England and graduated from Edinburgh University in 1941. He served as a medical officer during World War II and later opened a medical practice in England. In 1957 he moved his family to Ingersoll and opened a doctor’s office on King Street West. Local residents often reflect on his friendly and gentle demeanour. Routinely he would be seen riding about town on his bicycle heading off to make patient house calls, all the while waving and smiling at those he passed by. He was a well-respected resident of Ingersoll and the Lawson family often opened their home for Federation of Ontario Naturalists meetings (now known as Ontario Nature).
In 1976, Dr. Lawson purchased the tract of land now known as the Lawson Nature Reserve. It had always been his intention to reclaim, restore and conserve this natural area for his family and future generations to enjoy. He wanted to open the property to the public and lead interpretive walks. He tried to instill a strong appreciation for nature within the Ingersoll community. In Dr. Lawson’s younger years, it was his desire to become a forester… to quote many… “he loved nature so much”.
In 1995, the property was generously donated to Ontario Nature by Dr. Lawson’s family. The Ingersoll District Nature Club has continued his conservation vision by creating a wetland, planting Carolinian species, and restoring its open spaces. This provincially significant property is one of Ontario Nature’s 24 nature reserves. In 2004, the Tract was granted full Nature Reserve status.
Gord Phillips – In Memorium
A long-standing member and naturalist, Gord Phillips was instrumental in the fundraising and facilitation of the wetland development in the south-western corner of the property. Gord also built and situated numerous bird and bat houses, organizing their placement, cleaning and monitoring over the years. A willing worker, he was often found at the reserve mending whatever needed fixing and monitoring usage. And add trail and building maintenance, invasive species removal and hill restoration to the list. No job was too big or too small – Gord was always up to the task. He also acted as the club President for many years, and as an artist, even developed the first logo, providing the club with the ability to “build its brand”. Another dedicated steward in action, he and his contributions are sorely missed.
Gord Phillips was a very good naturalist, artist and teacher in Ingersoll. He always put other people and issues ahead of himself, despite his many health problems. He was a great fundraiser and always had lots of great new ideas to suggest improvements at the Tract.
Frank Edwards – In Honour
The Lawson Nature Reserve was Frank’s second home. He could be found at the reserve most days – conducting a sweep of the trails, fixing anything needing mending, feeding the birds, helping whenever needed. Frank took on the tasks of mowing the grass at the entrance and the cairn, placing birdfeeders and suet feeders around the property, and purchasing and distributing seed and suet for our feathered friends. Because of his dedication to the birds, our club created a “Feed the Birds” fundraising opportunity to help offset costs – because no inclement weather prevented Frank from walking the trails and feeding his waiting friends. He was also instrumental in ensuring materials were in place for boardwalk construction, and he certainly always helped, or was that supervised? J Always a friendly face, Frank willingly engaged folks in conversation about the reserve and its purpose in stewardship and conservation.
We also thank Frank, who with John Bomans, designed and constructed the cairn dedicated to Dr. John Lawson at the front of the property. Due to health issues, Frank has had to step away from his work at the tract – but his efforts will long be appreciated and remembered.
Frank was always willing to help out in our club. He was a true “diamond in the rough” for the outdoors and in many serious issues. His name is on the longest of our trails at the Tract in testimony to the work he has done there. I believe he sorely misses his experiences of being out there with the birds and nature.
Joan Falconer – In Honour
Joan, too, is a charter member of the IDNC and willingly participated on the club executive as secretary for decades, in effect ensuring we now have the opportunity to celebrate 65 years of conservation efforts.
Joan has been a generous financial supporter of the Lawson Nature Reserve ensuring it remains open to public access. Always a willing helper, Joan worked tirelessly at the reserve over the years with maintenance, monitoring usage and promoting its status to a
full “nature reserve” within Ontario Nature’s land management system. While no longer able to help, Joan continues her support of this important property through her generous donations. She has long been a true advocate for nature.
The main trail at the LNR is named after Joan.
Equally important, her mincemeat and butter tarts were outstanding and eagerly sought out at club meetings. Joan’s active participation is missed in more ways than one!
Jack Janssen – In Memorium 2016
Jack followed in Frank Edwards’ footsteps as our main caretaker and birdfeeder at the Tract for a number of years. It was a place that he truly loved. Without being asked, Jack would cut the grass at the front entrance, fix whatever needed repair, tirelessly carry bird feed and suet to the numerous feeders along the trail system and did more than we’ll ever know. We’ll never know because Jack wasn’t in it for the recognition. Jack was in it for the love of nature and in particular the Lawson Tract. When changes or improvements were made at the Lawson Nature Reserve, Jack was always there to lend a willing hand. He was always a willing participant in every activity or action the club offered. There are not enough accolades and expressions of appreciation that we can offer for Jack, but he is so deserving of them all. From all your friends at the nature club, R.I.P Jack. You made the world a better place. We suspect your feathered friends miss you most of all.
Note: All testimonials (except for that of Harry Sivyer) came from Wayne Walden.