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Bob Jennings, 1939-2004

Bob Jennings passed away Sept. 15th, 2004 after fighting a battle with melanoma. Bob was the founding director of Oxley Nature Center, and an avid birder, beer-sampler, and guitar player. Because his illness interfered more with his long-distance birding, his life-list of beers tasted finally passed the tally on his life-list of birds seen! Bob was at home with family, listening to music, and was very peaceful when he died. He is now out on that big nature trail above.

 If you have any tributes, memories or photos you would like to share send them to John Kennington and I will incorporate them into this page.

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Tribute To Bob
by Dick Sherry

Moments Shared with Bob
by Tom Clark

Obituary from Tulsa World

Obituary from the National Association of Interpreters

Tributes to Bob

Photos of Bob


Memorial donations may be made to either

The Friends of Oxley Nature Center
P. O. Box 35812
Tulsa, OK 74153

National Association for Interpretation
P.O. Box 2246
Fort Collins, CO 80522
Please mention it is in memory of Bob for the education of future naturalists

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Tributes to Bob

I was tripping down memory lane with some other members of a folk music forum to which I belong this evening. Someone started a thread for people who had worked as park rangers and interpreters. I got to tripping down memory lane a bit, and decided to do a Google search for the Oxley Nature center. I was saddened to see that Bob had passed away, but warmed a bit by your request for reminiscences about him.

I was one of the first three employees of the Oxley Nature center, with Bob being one of the three. The other employee, Neil, and I were the center's first two seasonal naturalists. Back when I worked there, we had to use one of the offices in one of the Tulsa Park maintenance buildings because there was no interpretive center yet. And we taught classes in one of the Tulsa Park's pavilions in the absence of an interpretive building. We didn't mind that one little bit. In fact, it was wonderful.

Bob taught me about Newcombs Wildflower Guide. I am forever grateful to him for that. But the thing I am most grateful for is that he took a chance on me and gave me the job. Then, being, himself, only newly arrived in Oklahoma from Missouri, Bob turned me and Neil loose into the park to find out for him what was out there. That's exactly what he said, too. He said our job was to find out for him what was in the park.

I loved working for Bob, and exploring all of the new (for all three of us) kinds of life and other things that were out there. One of my favorite memories was when Bob was driving Neil and I somewhere, and he slammed on the brakes and started backing up fast. Then he stopped the car and got out. We followed him out, and saw that he was watching some birds that were floating on a pond.

Neil and I both agreed that the best kind of boss is the kind that will stop the car in the middle of the work day just to look at birds.

Because the job was seasonal, I ended up taking a job as a zookeeper at the zoo there in the park, and about a year later came back to the east coast to live. But my summer working at the Oxley Nature Center with Bob Jennings as my boss was definitely one of the best working experiences I've ever had.

Anyway, thanks for the opportunity to reminisce.


Carol Dale (formerly Carol Cunningham)

P.S. I was the one who spotted and collected (with some help from Neil) the specimen of the swamp rose mallow that you, hopefully, still have in your collection there at the center. Because of his professional status, Bob was given credit though (and I don't mind that at all). But I still feel a little flush of pride that I was the first person in the history of the state of Oklahoma (according to what Bob told me, anyway) to officially collect and identify a specimen of a swamp rose mallow. Unfortunately, the grounds crew of the golf course mowed the plant down the following week. It was on the bank of the creek that formed the border between the golf course and the park, and Neil and I annoyed more than a few golfers in our efforts to collect that

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Last week (Nov. 22, 2004)we held our annual National Interpreters' Workshop in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Bob was on many peoples' minds. His name was spoken often over the week. A photo of him and a memory book was placed out where folks could record memories and messages. During the award ceremony, our NAI president Evie Kirkwood spoke highly of Bob in presenting him, posthumously, with the NAI highest award, The Fellow Award. Likewise, Lisa Brochu in her accepting remarks for Bob's award, spoke most eloquently of Bob's work with NAI and his passion for the profession. It was most moving. Bob had tremendous impact on the organization and the profession as well he did on the Center there.

You may know that before he died, Bob donated to NAI several guitars, several of his birding vests, and a pair of binoculars and requested that they be auctioned at our annual scholarship auction to raise money for this important program about which he felt so strongly. His good friend and our executive director, Tim Merriman, did the honors of auctioning the instruments and vests and each time spoke of Bob and his contributions over the years. The items brought tears, cheers, and a lot of money!

Bob will be missed, but remembered most fondly. He and I served on the national board together many years ago. I remember one instance when were doing strategic planning. The task was to come up with a mission statement. The facilitator gave some examples of other organizations' statements, such as The American Society for the Prevention of Blindness, whose mission is simply "to prevent blindness..." After a seemingly incredibly long period of time of discussing this matter and bantering back and forth on our mission statement of our organization for interpreters and interpretation, and tweaking it time and time again, Bob was standing in the back of the room, vest on, itching to move on. He finally said, "you know, I like the mission statement that was given when we first started this discussion..." The room fell silent as all eyes fell on Bob. Then he said, "to prevent blindness." The whole room cracked up! It was classic Bob. Taking a tense moment and interjecting just the perfect amount of dry humor for a needed break and get us back to reality. He was one of a kind. Yes, he is missed, but his legacy lives on.

Fred Wooley
Interpreter, Pokagon State Park, Angola, Indiana

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I am a member of a guitar forum that Bob was also a member of.I just learned of his passing,and wanted to send my condolences to his family.Everyone on the forum respected Bob(Yoda) for his gentle wit and warm humor.He posted once a year or so ago that he wished he had a tape of a musical performance.I happened to have one,so I sent him a copy.He wanted to pay me,and when I told him it was not at all necessary,he offered to make me some custom tapes of music he apparently surmised I was interested in from the forum.I again declined,but I wish now I had accepted his gracious offer.Again,I'm very sorry to hear of his passing--he touched a lot of people who never even met him.

Jim Bowles

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I came to know Bob through the online Acoustic Guitar Forum, formerly the Taylor Guitar Forum. There "Yoda," as he was called, always had a twinkle in his posts, as if he knew something funny that was going on that we didn't. His clever wit and unique way of expressing himself endeared him to many Forum members from around the world who never actually met him in person.

He could be serious, of course, and was quite passionate about his birds, acoustic guitars and a few other subjects. But even when that passion led to disagreement, he remained a thoughtful, well spoken friend and gentlemen.

His absence from the Forum was already missed before we heard the news of his passing, but when we heard we felt his loss more deeply. However, in a strange kind of way for people who have never met face to face, the now nearly 7,000 members of the AGF are better, more knowledgeable and caring people for his having become a warm, inspiring, all too brief part of our lives.

I join "Yoda's" many efriends in raising our computer mouses (mice? - Bob would know!) in tribute and memory of a great man!

John Cotten
Acoustic Guitar Forum Moderator

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What a sad day this will be, we have lost one of the finest and most passionate members of our profession. I will mourn the premature loss of a friend who had so much still to share, but I will not spend the day in mourning. Instead I will think of all of the times shared with Bob while birding and on the NAI Board and I will celebrate and honor the life of a man who truly knew what success in life meant. Bob was a true mentor, he touched the lives of countless interpreters, and through the powerful legacy he has left behind he will continue to guide and inspire me, and so many others, for years to come. The words of Ralph Waldo Emerson seem so appropriate to Bob's life: To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate beauty; to find the best in others; to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition; to know even one life has breathed easier because you lived. This is to have succeeded.

I know of few others that succeeded in life better than Bob Jennings.

John Schaust
Chief Naturalist, Wild Birds Unlimited, Carmel, IN

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In this part of the world when a giant cedar crashes to the forest floor it is carved into a totem that honors all those ancestors that have come before. Those ancestors are the mentors and teachers and wise ones that stand by us, unseen, in our daily lives, and that help all of us through those tough spots in life. When I think of Bob I think of him as an ancestor, a wise one, and a teacher, and now, he is looking down on all of us, from an elevated and appropriate place in our hearts and minds. As he looks down on all of us, we know he is smiling. We look up and wish him well in his role as heaven's naturalist.

Faith Duncan and all of NAI Region 10

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Bob touched lives all over this great country. Not just the Lower 48 and Alaska, but all the way out to the Far, Far West in remote Hawaii. The NAI members from this end of the USA appreciate all he has done for the profession. Hawaiians believe that departed souls travel westward seeking Ao Aumakua (realm of the ancestors). Next time I see a white tropicbird flying against the azure Hawaiian sky, I'll think of Bob on a journey to join his ancestors. Mahalo (thank you), Bob--your generous work will always be remembered. Aloha from Hawaii.

Ray Tabata, Hawaii Chair, I and T Section, NAI

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I want to thank the Tulsa World for the fitting tribute to the many accomplishments of Bob Jennings, founding Director of the Oxley Nature Center, who passed away on Sept. 15th. I first met Bob in 1980. He volunteered to accompany my Ecology students on a tour of the Oxley area. Over the years we co-taught my classes on these field trips and expanded to a second trip to Red Bud Valley preserve. My students were delighted by Bob's excitement and eagerness to share his love of discovering the beauty of the natural Creation surrounding us. I often willingly took a back seat to teaching and let Bob share because he always had a special ability to draw out of the students a curiosity that made the learning experience memorable. I will miss Bob and plan to continue his legacy as best as I can in the years to come. Thanks Bob! In sincere appreciation and respect, John

John Korstad, Ph.D.
Professor of Biology and Honors Program Director
Oral Roberts University

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I was one of the first full-time state park naturalists as was Donna Hamilton Horton. I was lurking around Eufaula from 1979-1990. We all had our struggles, challenges, and, other, with our nature centers, the politics and other aspects of state government. Hang with me I am getting to my main tribute point.... "Bob", I always looked up to. He was always a good listener and was not bashful about responding to requests for advice which I absorbed. He was like, "Uncle Bob" in respect to our professional relationship. He was respected by many. I was compelled to write something about him as the memories flooded me. Ah yes, I noticed Reese is a bit thinner on top and graying and Donna has lost her long hair.... Although I have my hair, I am a grey duck myself. Best to all that serve under that woodpecker in Tulsa. I still have an Oxley bird pin tucked away and every time I see a Red-Headed Woodpecker, I think of "Bob" and back in the days. God Bless.

Forrest Herters
aka Randy Ledford
Pawnee, OKy

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Please send tributes, memories or photos you would like to share to John Kennington

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Photos of Bob

Bob with his "Stump" at his Parks Dept. Retirement Party
More Photos from Bob Jennings Retirement Party

Bob in early Spring, 2002, with a friend and his pen pal from Japan.
photo from Ramona Jackson

Chloe Oney, Bob and Ramona Jackson at the front desk
photo from Ramona Jackson

Craig Kirkwood and Bob birding in AZ - snagging some life bird in 2000.
photo from Evie Kirkwood

A 2000 NAI birding trip that Bob lead - and you can tell by everyone's smiles that we all got lots of life birds. In classic Bob fashion, he is in the back.
photo from Evie Kirkwood

Bob and the Tulsa Audubon gang at Alice Hensy's birthday in 1995.

Bob in 1981 at Redbud Valley

Bob with the current and former staff members at his 2002 retirement party.

Ed Pembelton sent Bob a copy of "A Sand County Almanac" signed by three of the Leopold family.

Bob was presented with a special painting by Byron Ball.

Byron Ball, Bob and Dick Sherry

More Photos from the Board Party for Bob's Retirement