The Dodson Journal

The Family Cycle - by R. Eric Dodson

Ron DodsonAt the start of this month my dad, Ron Dodson, celebrated his sixty-fifth birthday. I’d like to take a brief moment to congratulate my dad for surviving all that is required to raise three boys while also maintaining a strong marriage of forty-two years (and still going) with my mom, Theresa.  I tip my hat to you dad.

Things have certainly changed since dad was a young man, and he has witnessed a great number of historical moments over the years.  He’s seen many fads come and go.  Going to space and landing on the moon are now old news.  And bell-bottoms, mutton-chops, and the age of disco are too.  Thankfully.

I’ll bet that in dad’s youth he never thought about the day when he, himself, would be a grandfather.  And while it’s true that my parents had to wait a long time to have grandkids; thankfully, I was able to give them their first grandson just over three years ago. 

trail signI have quickly learned through the experiences of fatherhood what it means to have someone depend on you. To have someone who looks up to you. To have someone that you love unconditionally. And, as I look back over the course of my own life, I am thankful to my dad for standing by my side on so many occasions when no one else would.  I will forever be grateful for the unconditional love that you (and mom) have always had for me, and can only hope that I can be half the father to my son as you have been to me.

At the start of this month, and equally noteworthy as turning sixty-five years of age, dad officially retired from The Audubon Society of New York State, which goes by the fictitious name Audubon International.  Dad’s retirement is noteworthy because it came from an organization that he founded twenty-six years ago, and had dedicated his life to ever since – almost as a child of his own. 

Bruce DodsonOn dad’s last day of employment earlier this month, you might have thought that he would have spent the day celebrating with the staff, but you’d be wrong.  Instead, his last day was spent alone at the “old” headquarters location at Hollyhock Hollow Sanctuary in upstate New York with not a single word spoken or written in acknowledgment of over a quarter century’s worth of tireless service and dedication.   

The evening after he turned off the lights to his old office for the last time he returned home to look through a camera-roll full of photos that he had taken earlier that day. The camera was filled with photos of every office room, from every angle, of both of the old office buildings where he had worked for most of his adult life.  All you’ll see in the photos though are a few discarded file cabinets, some empty desks, and the occasional overturned office chair.

Further down the camera-roll there were also photos taken outside the buildings as well. There was a photo of the Hollyhock Hollow Sanctuary trailhead sign anchored securely to the ground by rock and cement. The sign construction project was important because it had been a labor of love that Ron’s own dad, and my grandfather, Bruce Dodson, took upon himself to complete to help his son many years ago.  And there was of course a photo of an aging pavilion that rests next to a red, yellow and orange sea of bee-balm wildflowers and daylilies. A memorial plaque to my granddad hangs quietly on an inside truss of the pavilion.  He died the night after he completed construction of the pavilion for my dad, and the plaque and pavilion now exist as a symbol of a fathers love to a son, and a son’s appreciation for it.

Hollyhock Hollow SanctuaryThe Sanctuary at Hollyhock Hollow, once bustling with life and energy, now sits essentially abandoned.  The parking lot sits strangely empty these days. The buildings themselves equally barren of life.  An odd, but fitting parallel I suppose.

The organization that my dad founded, and the place that I once worked is not the same that it once was.  To me it is merely a shadow of its former self, but it certainly doesn’t take away from what it once was, and the ideals upon which it was founded. So, as a former employee, I would like to say “thank you” to my old boss for providing me with a great job and a great place to work out of for so many years.  It was a terrific place to work, and the good work that we did was substantial. The work that we did during its heyday literally changed the world.

First ASNY Board of DirectorsWhen dad visited that first golf course in Glens Falls, NY back in the late 1980’s, and assisted them in the removal of skunks who were tearing up the golf greens and tees, I would bet that not even dad, as visionary as he is, could have imagined at the time that he was setting the stage to launch an industry-changing endeavor. When dad created the Cooperative Sanctuary Program for Golf Courses, he not only developed a proactive means to encourage golf course superintendents to care for the environment, he also started the process of literally changing the way in which the golf industry was viewed by the general public.  I sincerely believe with all my heart that his vision, his efforts, and the efforts of the people that joined him and stuck with him along the way, not only changed the way that the golf course industry is seen as it relates to environment, but also has had a sincere and positive environmental impact on the planet. 

Ron DodsonWhen dad shut the door and locked it behind him that last day and reflected back on the past three decades of his career, my only hope is that he was proud of his accomplishments. I know that I am.  I am also equally proud of the ongoing efforts that we have, and still are creating, together, to continue building upon those very same life goals.

The folks at Audubon International announced Ron’s “retirement” nearly a year ago. I supposed that they were simply anxious to get on with running the organization in the new and different ways that they thought were “better”.  Regardless of a premature “retirement” announcement, the fact is that dad has no intention of sitting in a rocking chair for the rest of his days to await the pushing of the daises. Those of you who know Ron shouldn’t be surprised at that. His drive to assist people to care about the natural world and conservation where they live, where they work, and where they play is a passion like rarely seen before.  He is a visionary in the environmental sector, and I am proud to call him my dad.

Grandpa and JudeThe fact of the matter is that Ron and I are just getting started! It’s an exciting time that we both have looked forward to for quite some time now, and we are both very anxious to hit the ground running.  I am personally looking forward to continuing to build upon my dad’s life’s work, and I am so very lucky to have him by my side at the start of this – an all new journey with a brand new start.  

With these changes also comes a new and unleashed potential to do even more through The International Sustainability Council and Audubon Lifestyles (ISC-Audubon). With the framework and foundation already established through ISC-Audubon we plan to continue forward with dad’s (and now my own) life’s work.  I believe that our positive environmental impact on the planet will dwarf that of previous endeavors, and I look forward to getting on with it!

Through ISC-Audubon, I also look forward to restarting the journey all over again with my dad, and I plan to carry the torch forward into the next generation were I hope that someday my own son will carry it forward, with, and from me.

And so with that, I’d like to simply finish by saying, Congratulations Dad! Congratulations on reaching a milestone birthday. Congratulations on an epic career. Congratulations on changing the world.  But mostly, congratulations on starting your new job.  We start today, and it’s time to get back to work.

Let’s do it all over again!

Father and Son 

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A Coalition for Good - Spreading the Seeds of Sustainability

ISC-Audubon is a coalition of non-profit organizations and initiatives that include The International Sustainability Council (ISC), Audubon Lifestyles, Audubon Outdoors, Planit Green, Broadcast Audubon, and the Audubon Network for Sustainability. 

Funds generated through memberships and donations are used to provide fruit & vegetable seeds, wildflower seed mix, and wildlife feed & birdseed to urban and suburban communities around the world. These seeds are used by communities to establish fruit and vegetable gardens, bird and wildlife sanctuaries, and for the beautification of urban and suburban landscapes by creating flower and native plant gardens.

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