By Keith Anderson
Growing up in a suburb of Chicago during the 60’s and 70’s, my experiences of the time were typical. Dad worked full-time for Abbott Labs while Mom stayed home with 3 young children. It goes without saying that as children of that time, we found different ways to entertain ourselves than what you typically see today. Most of that involved playing with friends outside or when friends couldn’t come out, finding ways to entertain ourselves, again mostly outside.
Mom & Dad moved into a new subdivision shortly after marrying and as kids, we were fortunate to have 3 empty lots behind our house that we simply referred to as “the field”. I spent countless hours exploring this overgrown field, mostly observing and catching insects. At an early age, I had a fascination with insects that mom fostered by buying us cheap plastic terrariums to keep our captures for closer inspection. Mom was also an animal lover and growing up we had dogs, cats, guinea pigs, rats, mice, snakes, turtles, fish… suffice to say, many types of pets that occupied my siblings and me for hours. One of my early memories, and perhaps the start of my fascination with birds, was when mom would put lengths of string outside the sliding glass door to the backyard. I would sit and watch the Robins as they came to collect the offerings for nest building, giving me a close and personal experience to nature. I believe that those experiences are important for youth, and something we should foster whenever and wherever we can.
Mom was also interested in medicine. She obtained an associate’s degree and became a Licensed Practical Nurse. She loved talking about what she was learning about the human body and would show us cringe-worthy pictures in her textbooks. She worked part-time for a dermatologist and loved talking about the patient cases she was involved with.
When we were teenagers, mom purchased a small plant & gift store called “Plants & Things”. This was clearly an extension of her love for plants as she always had houseplants at home. I spent many hours helping mom, traveling to plant wholesalers in search of stock for her store. The memories of spending hours looking at and talking about plants also remind me of another foundation unknowingly laid for me by her, my interest in flora that manifests itself today in some of my volunteer activities.
Dad had a demanding job as a project manager for Abbott Labs. It required him to travel out of state at times, and he often worked when he came home. He oversaw the construction of new building facilities for Abbott —a process that was quite challenging before computerization, especially when the facility was a manufacturing plant for pharmaceuticals. He didn’t often talk about work, but when he did, I listened intently as he talked about the specialized requirements on some of his projects. Dad had a distinguished career receiving many accolades and a reputation of completing his projects at or below budget. He turned down opportunities for advancement at Abbotts which I attribute to his being a humble man that wasn’t interested in power, fame, or the trappings of career advancement.
We were fortunate growing up near Chicago. We had easy access to, and utilized the presence of world-class zoos, aquarium, natural history museum, planetarium, everything! Mom & Dad not only took us to these places, but they also made sure we never missed a school field trip to these destinations. It’s clear to me that my foundation of science started during those formative years with these experiences.
I had the opportunity to visit HawkWatch International (HWI) in June of 2021 and spent time in the field with some of their researchers, along with spending time talking to executive, educational outreach, and administrative staff. As I learned about their research, experienced the fieldwork, and in my conversations with HWI staff, it was an easy decision to support HWI. I made my second, and most significant gift, at that time with zero hesitation. And this fall, I made the choice to emulate Dad in a way, as I support HWI in “building” the future of raptor conservation.
My Dad passed away in January of 2021 at the age of 92; mom passed away three years earlier. Although I wasn’t able to regale them with the stories of my visit to HWI in Utah, I know they would have enjoyed them and directly supported HWI. I wish to honor their memory through supporting HWI as I believe HWI represents the values of my parents, and those same values that I share for science and the natural world. If you share those values, I hope you will take me up on my offer to match your gift, $1 for $1, with this gift honoring my parents’ legacies. www.hawkwatch.org/35years