The following is a tribute I wrote for the News Virginian in 2009. I don’t think I can do any better today and still have tears in my eyes. May his wisdom live on in all of us.
There are some columns one would prefer never to write. This is one of them.
Please indulge me as I reflect on two people who are no longer with us. Not to mourn their loss so much as to celebrate their lives.
On Tuesday morning one of my very closest friends lost his battle with cancer.
He was like a brother to me. The best man in my wedding, a hunting and fishing partner of many years and the voice on the other end of the phone keeping me strong when trouble came. And oh, the whiskey we drank.
Many of you have never heard of James D. Range. But all of you have been touched by his work. He was a conservation hero. Embodying a conservation ethic on the scale of Roosevelt, Leopold, Muir and Pinchot.
One of my most cherished memories, from many years ago, is standing with him in my dining room one night. We got choked up looking out at the fields and woods where I lived.
He told me that not a lot of folks were willing to protect the things he, I and many of you love so much like fish, wildlife and the wild things of this earth. He said, “Tommy we have to protect the wild things. If we don’t do it, it won’t get done.”
Tears streamed down our faces. Big men do cry.
Range was a modern architect of natural resource conservation. A skilled bipartisan policy and political genius with an extraordinary network of friends and contacts.
Range had wonderful oratorical gifts, a way of always speaking from his heart, sometimes in language not fit for a family newspaper. You may not have liked what he said but you surely knew what he thought.
He was the personification of “if they don’t see the light, we can surely make them feel the heat.”
Range’s fingerprints are all over the nation’s conservation laws, including the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act. His championing of conservation tax incentives earned him a profile in Time magazine.
He ably chaired the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership’s Board of Directors pouring his enormous energy into its resurrection.
He served with distinction and candor on the Board’s of Trout Unlimited, the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation, the American Sportfishing Association, Ducks Unlimited, the American Bird Conservancy, the Pacific Forest Trust, the Valles Caldera Trust and the Yellowstone Park Foundation.
Range was an original board member of the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, helping to chart the outstanding course it is on today. He also held presidential appointments to the Interstate Commission on the Potomac River Basin and the Sportfishing and Boating Partnership Council.
In 2003, Range received the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Great Blue Heron Award, the highest honor given to an individual at the national level by the Department.
He was also awarded the 2003 Outdoor Life Magazine Conservationist of the Year Award and the Norville Prosser Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Sportfishing Association.
Range’s greatest love was the outdoors. He fished and hunted all over the world. I suspect he was happiest however, at his place on the Missouri River near Craig, Mont.
Flyway Ranch was his sanctuary. A sanctuary, which, in typical Range fashion, he shared with friends and colleagues so they too could enjoy a respite from challenges both personal and professional.
Beside his multitude of friends and admirers, Range is survived by his father, Dr. James Range of Johnson City, Tenn., brothers John Neel, Harry and Peter, twin daughters Allison and Kimberly, and loyal bird dogs Plague, Tench and Sky.
Range may be gone but we will be telling stories about him for the rest of our lives.
The Valley lost another friend recently as well. She was one of Range’s favorite people and the mother of his girlfriend Anni.
Jean Marion Gregory Ince, died on Jan. 12 at the University of Virginia Hospital in Charlottesville. She and her husband Eugene St. Clair Ince, Jr. and her beloved golden retriever “Meg” were residents of Madison.
Like Range, Jean Ince was a giver. She and Meg, a certified therapy dog, worked with patients at the Kluge Children’s Rehabilitation Center in Charlottesville and at the Augusta Medical Center in Fishersville.
Anni told me her mom, like Range, loved the outdoors and animals, particularly horses and dogs. She said that love was passed on to her children and grandchildren as well.
Jean and Bud enjoyed a special relationship. They wrote about it in the December 1978 issue of GOURMET Magazine. An Evening at the Waldorf chronicles the evening of their engagement.
It is a wonderfully engaging story of a young couple, a special hotel, and a time when doing for others was a common practice.
I hope you will take a moment to read it. It is a gift that will make any day a better one.
You can find a copy of An Evening at the Waldorf at http://www.usna.org/family/waldorf.html.
Jim Range and Jean Ince have made our world a better place. Their friends and families miss them but their memories will warm our hearts forever.