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Fred Bodsworth’s Legacy of Dedication to Nature

Whimbrels © Raymond Brow CC BY 2.0

The Hannah family are long-time Ontario Nature members. We chatted with Nancy Bodsworth-Hannah about her father’s decision to leave a legacy for nature.

Nancy’s father was none other than esteemed novelist and naturalist Fred Bodsworth, author of Last of the Curlews, which chronicled the migration of the last Eskimo curlew, a remarkable shorebird now widely believed to be extinct. In the 1960s, he was also president of the Federation of Ontario Naturalists (the forerunner of Ontario Nature), a distinguished bird watcher and a dedicated conservationist.

Bodsworth grew up in Port Burwell, one of the busiest migratory routes for birds and butterflies on the continent. This upbringing informed his love of birds, although he always insisted that he was born a naturalist, not made one. Nancy describes her father as driven, self-taught and widely curious. “He took every opportunity to share what he knew, unobtrusively and naturally. As a result, I learned about nature almost by osmosis, through exposure.”

Fred Bodsworth © Tobi Asmoucha

A retired kindergarden teacher, Nancy shares her dad’s belief that we need to create opportunities for children to fall in love with nature and develop a conservation ethic. “If we let them touch the feather of a bird, plant a seed, splash in the lake, we’ve got them for life.”

Fred Bodsworth’s love of nature continues to live in his family, who return often together to his hometown. When there, they see the colonies of birds he grew up banding, a practice that helps to track the movements of the bird and its life history.

When Fred passed away several years ago at the age of 93, he left a gift in his will to Ontario Nature. For his family, this action spoke to his hope for the world. Says his daughter, “His decision to protect nature with a gift in his will means as much to us as it did to him.”

Legacy gifts by members such as Fred Bodsworth have made a tremendous impact on Ontario Nature’s work. These individuals’ extraordinary commitment to protecting wildlife and connecting people to nature is at the core of what Ontario Nature does. Fred’s bequest helped to advance the citizen science and endangered species programs – urgent work that Nancy believes would have been close to his heart.

Brodie Club © Tobi Asmoucha