Human Obituaries

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, June 2001:

Human Obituaries

Dennis Puleston, 95, founding chair of the Environmental Defense Fund, died on June 8 at his home in Brookhaven, New York. Born in Britain, Puleston was already “an avid naturalist and skilled painter of birds” according to New York Times obituarist Paul Lewis, when he sailed a small boat to the U.S. in 1931 with a friend. He sailed on to China by 1937, before the outbreak of World War II forced his return to Britain. His 1939 marriage to Betty Wellington of New York sent him back to the U.S. as a permanent resident.

In 1942 Puleston helped to design the “Duck” amphibious landing craft, then trained Allied Forces to use it. Puleston personally participated in amphibious operations in the Solomon Islands, New Guinea, and Burma; trained the D-Day “Duck” drivers in Britain after recovering from a spinal wound; and joined in the invasions of Iwo Jima and Okinawa. For his “Duck” work, Puleston was awarded the Medal of Freedom in 1948 by President Harry S. Truman.

The same year, while working at the Brookhaven National Laboratory, Puleston began a longterm study of the ospreys of Gardiners Island, off eastern Long Island. “By the early 1960s,” wrote Lewis, “he had concluded that the ospreys were dying out as a result of DDT sprayed to keep down mosquitos. In 1966, four years after the publication of Rachel Carson’s book Silent Spring, Puleston and several colleagues won a lawsuit against the Suffolk County Mosquito Control Department and secured a year-long ban on DDT spraying.” Puleston et al incorporated EDF in 1967 to follow up with national advocacy. By the time Puleston left the chair, in 1972, DDT was banned nationwide. He spent the last three decades of his life developing the ecotourism industry as a lecturer and guide, leading 35 expeditions to Antarctica.

Col. Henry John “Todd” Sweeney, 82, died on June 4. Director General of the Dogs Home Battersea in London from 1974 until retirement in 1988, Sweeney led one of the two platoons of glider-borne British troops who seized and held a key bridge over the Orne River during the wee hours of the morning on June 6, 1944, in the pivotal first skirmish of D-Day.

Sathi Raju, remembered by Visakha SPCA founder Pradeep Kumar Nath as “a faithful turtle-watcher,” died on June 2 from either a heart attack or heat stroke after serving his daily shift protecting nesting green sea turtles along the beach at Visakhapatnam, India.

Vernon W. Evans Jr., 81, of Lutz, Florida, died in June at a Tampa nursing home after a long fight with Parkinson’s disease. “He was the judge who ended the use of pound dogs and cats in medical research in Florida,” remembered Birusk Tugan of the Tampa Tribune. “‘Taking a live, healthy animal, subjecting it to surgical intervention, and then keeping it alive afterward–calling this humane is almost blasphemy,’ Evans ruled in December 1986 when he stopped Hillsborough County from selling pound dogs and cats to the University of South Florida. ‘Humane has a meaning,’ Evans said. ‘It doesn’t have one meaning for four-legged animals and another for two-legged animals.'”

Victor G. Koppleberger, 83, died on June 14 at his home in Medina, Ohio. A humane officer, wildlife rehabilitator, and naturalist for more than 30 years, Kopple-berger was previously a hunter. Recalled Cleveland Plain Dealer reporter Donna Robb, who profiled Koppleberger for ANIMAL PEOPLE in 1993, “One night he had a vivid dream in which he stood for judgement before every animal he had ever killed. He said the dream was so powerful that from that day he devoted his life to helping animals.”

Charles Schreiner III, 74, of Mountain Home, Texas, died of congestive heart failure on April 22. As heir to his grandfather’s Y.O. Ranch, Schreiner began trying to preserve the Texas longhorn cattle lineage in 1957, when there may have been fewer than 1,000 authentic longhorns left, and founded the Texas Longhorn Breeders’ Association of America in 1964. There are now about 250,000 longhorns on U.S. ranches. Schreiner also “led a movement to raise exotic animals from Africa and Asia on Texas ranches and charge hunters to shoot them,” recalled Douglas Martin of The New York Times, which made Schreiner more-or-less the inventor of the “canned hunt.”

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