by Bill Mees
On Thursday November 19, 2020, Columbia Audubon Society lost a true friend, Francis Garland Russell, Jr. If you’ve walked the trail on the west side of Columbia Audubon Nature Sanctuary you have probably seen Garland’s house, just beyond the cedar lined fence row. The land we call Columbia Audubon Nature Sanctuary was donated to us by Garland. Beginning with his Great Grandfather his family has been on the land since 1902. Looking a little further into the family tree, a very distant uncle, Francis Tiernan Russell, originally purchased the land in 1859.
This bit of history demonstrates the family’s appreciation and commitment to the land. That was Garland’s motivation when he deeded 23 acres to Columbia Audubon Society in 2001. Garland’s interest in the property continued over the years. He would call and schedule a lunch with me just to hear about Audubon’s activities and the latest plans for the property. Garland and I continued our luncheons over several years.
Garland donated an additional 6 acres to Audubon in 2013. This is where the current prairie extension is progressing. He also donated an additional 5-6 acres to the city of Columbia adding to the size of Bonnie View Nature Sanctuary.
He was particularly interested and supportive of the use of the property for education and the Band With Nature second grade field trip. He was enthusiastic when we discussed the place-based nature curriculum being implemented at Fairview Elementary School. The prospect of more children enjoying the land was exciting.
Through the years, Garland has supported Columbia Audubon Society in ways unknown to members. He always wanted his financial support to remain anonymous. His support wasn’t contingent on publicity; it was motivated by his love for the land and its future.
Garland grew up in Chicago and spent summers on his grandparent’s farm. He graduated from University of Chicago, studied law at Cambridge University and Yale. After serving three years in the Air Force, he worked for the Federal Reserve Bank for 25 years, retiring in 1986. He moved to live on the farm full time in 1996.
As I sit at the keyboard my memory replays the years of luncheons with Garland, all confirming what a friend he was to Columbia Audubon Society and what a friend I had. He will be dearly missed.