Judith Joy knows all about the Conservancy’s science-based roots. She has helped them grow for more than 50 years.
As a child, she would go with her mother and aunt to pick violets in New York’s Van Cortlandt Park. Her love of flowers led her to study botany at Cornell and Vassar. “Back then most people didn’t see pressure to develop the land,” she said.
In 1953, newly married, she moved to Rockford, Illinois. There, a botany professor took her along when scouting sites such as a forest near the Rock River. “In the spring, the banks were covered with bluebells. That forest is gone now,” she says.
The professor, Evelyn Fernald, also introduced her to the Ecologists Union – soon to take on a new name, The Nature Conservancy.
Over the years, Judith joined other chapter members in melding conservation action with scientific study. At a meeting in Urbana, she met prominent conservationists – including a founding Conservancy leader, George Fell, who went on to craft the state’s Nature Preserves Act.
“In the 50’s most people weren’t thinking, ‘This bog might be gone in 10 years.’ George saw it coming,” says Judith.
Judith helped shape the conservation direction for the state of Illinois from two perspectives: She served as a trustee for that state’s Conservancy chapter and as a member of the Illinois Nature Preserves Commission. She and her husband, by then owners of a Centralia, Illinois, newspaper, published articles on ecology. And she has supported programs such as the Cache River restoration project since their inception.
In 1992, she created a charitable remainder trust with the Conservancy. “You have the enjoyment of knowing you’re doing something while you’re alive, plus you’re getting interest – it’s the best of both worlds,” she says.
“The Conservancy knows how to make partnerships. But most important – they actually buy land. Most other organizations don’t. There’s a permanence about the Conservancy which appeals to people.”
Today Judith is still a botanist ... but she is a birder too. “Now it’s a question of whether to look up or down,” she quips. “You can’t do both at the same time!”
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