In congratulating Jim Berry for a job well done, we are mindful that being president of the Roger Tory Peterson Institute of Natural History is more than a job.
It is a way of life.
And Berry, who retired last week, has lived that life with excellence and vigor.
The mission of the institute is to honor and continue the work of Jamestown native son Roger Tory Peterson to foster understanding, appreciation and protection of the natural world.
During his 16 key years at the helm, Berry has steered RTPI through good times and bad, through expansion, contraction and innovation and through a long fight to gather to the institute the collection of Peterson's life's work.
During all of that, the heart of the man continued to shine through everything he did.
Jim Berry is a naturalist who is as dedicated to the importance of bringing people, especially children, together with nature, with the out-of-doors, as was Peterson himself.
The institute holds and preserves Peterson's lifetime work of writings, drawings, paintings, photography, films and artifacts at its headquarters on Curtis Street in Jamestown. To Berry, being keeper and preserver of the Peterson collection was always an extremely important part of the job. As the institute notes, Peterson was the pre-eminent American naturalist who illustrated and chronicled the natural world to the public in the 20th century. Peterson's A Field Guide to the Birds, which was published in 1934, brought a revolutionary change in the way ordinary people could connect with their natural surroundings.
Berry's final word of advice before heading into retirement put the focus on what we would expect. He emphasized the importance, above all, of programming at RTPI. It is, after all, programming that brings people to nature and shows them the doorway to the rich and expansive world of natural history.
Said Roger Tory Peterson, "Many people go through life as though they are wearing blinders. Their eyes are open, yet they may see nothing of their wild associates. Their ears, attuned to motor cars and traffic, seldom catch the music of nature, the singing of birds, frogs, or crickets, or the wind."
He also said, ''The philosophy that I have worked under most of my life is that the serious study of natural history is an activity which has far-reaching effects in every aspect of a person's life. It ultimately makes people protective of the environment in a very committed way. It is my opinion that the study of natural history should be the primary avenue for creating environmentalists.''
Roger Tory Peterson wanted his work to have a lasting effect beyond his life.
Jim Berry's years of stewardship go a long way in ensuring that it surely will.