Ralph Swift Widrig

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Ralph Swift Widrig of Steuben died on Oct. 5, 2017. Ralph was born in 1927, in Seattle, Wash. He attended the University of Washington and the University of California, majoring in chemistry. Ralph enlisted in the U.S. Navy near the end of World War II, and as an air cadet, served his country for a year. Possessed with a spirit of adventure, an early interest in mountain climbing attracted him to the high ranges of the Pacific Northwest, including British Columbia. He published accounts of this climbing in the American Alpine Journal. Flying eventually won out over chemistry, and he obtained a commercial pilot’s license in 1949. He flew extensively in Alaska and the Northwest Territories. In 1955, Ralph married Bonnie Dalziel, daughter of George Dalziel, owner of B.C Yukon Air Service, in Watson Lake, Yukon. They had six children.

In time, the spirit of adventure again prevailed and the family moved to the remote west coast of Vancouver Island in British Columbia, where he became engaged in commercial salmon fishing. In time, the family moved to Nova Scotia, where Ralph became intensely interested in natural history and the environment. Gardening was his lifetime hobby, and in 1967, he published a short regional book entitled “Sea Breezes and Vegetable Gardening,” about growing vegetables in maritime climates. Environmental issues continued to be a priority, and he published articles in the Halifax Field Naturalist, and in Nature Canada. In 1976, following the breakup of his marriage, Ralph moved back to Washington state, where he worked for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. There he published “The Shorebirds of Leadbetter Point” for the service, as well as other articles in American Birds and Western Birds. The spirit of adventure still burned within him, and in 1986 he moved to Steuben to work again for the USFWS, at Petit Manan National Wildlife Refuge. There he published “The Birds and Plants of Petit Manan National Wildlife Refuge,” which won him the prestigious National Outstanding Contribution award in 1992.

Throughout his life, Ralph held an interest in archaeology and as a final journalistic contribution wrote an account of the “Indian Prehistory of Mono Lake,” California, based on his own collection of artifacts, which he retrieved from its shores. The essay was published by the Nevada State Museum in 2003. Ralph Widrig is survived by his former wife, six children, 23 grandchildren and 26 great-grandchildren.

Funeral services will be held at 2 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 10, at the Evergreen Cemetery in Milbridge.

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