I am very saddened to learn of Wally’s death. (See: IRWIN WALLACE, JR.) He was truly a scholar, naturalist, and, most important for those who will miss him, a friend. It is hard to think of Wally and not think of how much the Larchmont Reservoir meant to him – and he meant to it.
Wally was the historian of Friends of the Reservoir, one of Sheldrake’s predecessor organizations, and authored “Larchmont’s Reservoir: A Conservation Story” which was published in 2002 shortly after Sheldrake’s creation. The 32 page book is a beautifully written memoir of the creation of the conservancy and the uses for the land over the years. He ends the story with these words:
“The future is unknowable, but we can at least guess at it, for “what is past is prologue.” What we know of the Reservoir’s past gives strong reason to expect that these sixty beautiful acres of land and water have a bright future – a future that is rooted in the purposes the Reservoir has long served and still serves today
… By all these means, the Sheldrake Environmental Center continues to make creative use of, and to help save for our posterity, that priceless treasure whose official name is still “The Larchmont Reservoir- James G. Johnson, Jr. Conservancy.” But that’s such a mouthful that those who know and love the place, including Jimmy Johnson himself, generally shorten it to two words: The Reservoir.”
A few years ago, I telephoned Wally in Virginia, and asked if he had anything he would like to contribute to our spring newsletter. He shared with me this poem.
Poem about Spring
by Wallace Irwin Jr., written by him many years ago for his father’s birthday
Can the Spring be Winter’s child,
Carried long in womb of frost,
Grown in stillness under wild
Naked trees December-tossed?
Did some icy chemistry
April’s shining garlands fashion,
And a snowdrift silently
Suckle May and give her passion?
Then, ye bards, no more adorn
Spring, whose native charms abound–
That outrageous princess, born
Fair of sight and scent and sound!
Sing me Winter all forlorn,
With her skyward branches shorn,
Whose enormous heart is worn
In the secret ground.
It is particularly bittersweet that Wally’s death coincides with the 25th anniversary of the Larchmont Conservancy. What is past is prologue.
Marie R. Venezia
Executive Director of the Sheldrake Environmental Center