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News Eagle - Hawley, PA
  • L. Arthur Watres, founder of Lacawac, remembered

  • SALEM TWP. - Intense, caring, dedicated, funny- a series of adjectives among many helped picture the late Louis Arthur Watres, founder of Lacawac Sanctuary. A rare verbal and personal portrait of the man was presented by devoted family and friends at a memorial celebration June 14th. It was held on the hallowed grounds of the place he called home and is growing in global stature as a base for environmental research.
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  • SALEM TWP. - Intense, caring, dedicated, funny- a series of adjectives among many helped picture the late Louis Arthur Watres, founder of Lacawac Sanctuary. A rare verbal and personal portrait of the man was presented by devoted family and friends at a memorial celebration June 14th. It was held on the hallowed grounds of the place he called home and is growing in global stature as a base for environmental research.
        Watres died January 10, 2014 at the age of 91.
         Known as "Arthur" to most people, he so loved Lacawac Sanctuary, recognizing its values to the world of science and to the community who needed to come and appreciate nature. He embodied its ideals and greeted visitors on the trails he never met like old friends, offering a personal tour.
        He had an adventurous upbringing, living on his parents' yachts and attending more than 30 primary schools. He studied fine art at Yale. So used to the ocean life, he may have been surprised when serving in the US Navy in World War II to be sent to Oklahoma, as far from the sea as one could get- where he learned to be a Japanese interpreter.
       His father Reyburn Watres died in 1946.  Eventually Arthur and his mother Isabel moved to the family's country estate at Lake Lacawac in Wayne County, PA, where he labored to restore its historic buildings. His mother and he explored the South Pacific during the winter months, where he documented what he saw in paintings and sculpture.
    ••• Recognized Lacawac's value
        Gaining interest in the cause for the environment in the 1950's, voraciously reading books on the subject, he sought out interest from environmental scientists of that day to come and look at Lacawac. Here was a pristine glacial lake surrounded by woodland, deserving of preservation and study.
       In 1966 he and his mother dedicated the estate as a nonprofit sanctuary for that purpose. He spent the rest of his days sharing his love for Lacawac Sanctuary and advancing the mission. Numerous awards and accolades would follow, as the importance of their magnanimous gift would increase in recognition by the scientific community and in the region.
        The property they would donate eventually totaled 545 acres.
        His adopted son, Chad Reed-Watres, told those gathered by the 1903 lodge that among Arthur's last words in the hospital were, "Anyone who is a friend of mine needs to go to Lacawac."
         He said that Arthur had written to 20 universities trying to donate the property.
    Once the Sanctuary was founded and he was chairman of the newly formed board of trustees, Arthur traveled the country with a slide show, talking about Man exceeding Earth's capacity and that something had to be done about it, said Chad.
    Page 2 of 3 -     Russell Phillips said he began as a summer worker at Lacawac in the 1960's. He became a close friend to Arthur. He called Arthur a "friend, teacher and role model" adding words, "gregarious, fun loving and complex."
    ••• Water ski show-off
       Arthur loved to water ski on Lake Wallenpaupack.  Russell was working at the nearly Goose Pond Boy Scout Camp. He and other staff would come to water ski with him.
      Arthur had three rules of water skiing, Russell noted: You must show off; have the capacity for childhood pleasure and be able to climb back on the boat without a ladder.
        A bit impatient, one morning Arthur left to water-ski even before the fog lifted.
        Russell said he could picture Arthur sitting by the fireplace in the lodge reading a letter from his mother and listening to Mozart.
        "Arthur wasn't so equipped to handle those under age 11," Russell recalled. Arthur liked to cook fried chicken but one day his young niece refused to eat his chicken. Arthur brooded over that for a long time.
       He was also famous on the tennis court. "His tennis shoes were from another planet or another era," recalled Russell. He'd be heard on the court mumbling in Japanese or Italian. He would, however, make you feel good about your tennis shot.
       He had Freddy Flintstone glasses at the dinner table.
       He'd enjoy diving at Skinner's Falls with friends looking for sunken treasures. Bringing up something covered in slime, he would say, "Ah, Russell, that will clean up nicely."
       "He saw no purpose in fashion," Russell added.
       Arthur was physically tough and good at arm wrestling. One fellow found out the hard way and left with a broken arm.
       "He was intense," Russell related next, making a fist and putting it to your face to make a point.
        Throughout, Arthur was devoted to his mother, who lived to age 103. She died gracefully, Russell said. Her last words to Arthur were, "Art, tonight we will be at port and on deck there will be music and dancing."
       One time Arthur bought a new aluminum canoe. Russell observed Arthur take a rock and make a scratch on it. "He said, 'now we don't have to worry about the first scratch'."
       As a conservationist, Arthur thought globally and had the resources to make a small dent, Russell said. He did so with wit and tenacity, a bit like Winston Churchill.
    ••• Loved his neighbor as himself
    Page 3 of 3 -     Arthur's niece Liz Noble said Uncle Arthur was always very good to her daughter, making an effort. He was both forgiving and gracious. "He lived out, 'Love your neighbor as thyself,' and wanted to share Lacawac."
       He loved to give personal tours of Lacawac. Even at age 90 he could not walk a trail without flipping a branch out of the way.
       He wanted good camaraderie and purpose but also good fun, she said. "He always asked how he could help, and did the dishes."
       John Whitehouse worked as a park ranger. In 1988 he found out about Lacawac and started volunteering. "Art soon invited me to dinner," John recalled. He talked over the dinner about Lacawac and what needed to be done. "He would bribe people when he could," John said.
       He recalled Arthur coming along as John gave a tour, and would not be shy to correct John if needed. "That was fine," John said.
       Dr. Craig Williamson, a scientist, has been associated with Lacawac since the 1980's. He said that Arthur was tenacious about scientific research; the good science and Arthur's vision kept Craig here. He said that Arthur influenced hundreds- even thousands- of students who would later cite Lacawac as a source of singular inspiration.  Dr. Williamson is with Miami University -Ohio.
        Dr. Clyde E. Goulden, a scientist with the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University, said that he was encouraged by Dr. Ruth Patrick to study lakes and come to Lacawac. It was Dr. Patrick, back in the 1950's, who became acquainted with Louis Arthur Watres, and set the seeds of the Watres donating the family estate to the scientific community.
    ••• Patron of science
        "There was no better patron of science I know than Arthur Watres," said Dr. Goulden.
       Craig Lukatch, the Executive Director at Lacawac Sanctuary, brought Arthur's legacy up to date, explaining how far it has come. An Environmental Research Consortium had been established here, together with Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University and Miami University - Ohio. Partnerships with leading universities will focus on studying global climate change and water quality research.
       A state-of-the-art research laboratory is being constructed at Lacawac. Funding came from a $329,094 grant from the National Science Foundation by way of Miami University- Ohio. Arthur was on hand last October 25 at the ceremony where he broke the ground with the first shovel full of earth from the very land he and his mother so loved and wished to share with the world.
       For more information about Louis Arthur Watres' legacy, visit online at www.lacawac.org.
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