Annual Message 2006

Millville Public Library, Gant Room
6:30-8:30 p.m.

This year, like most, we had a number of remarkable events.  The most memorable experiences involved youth. Our volunteers worked with R D Wood Elementary School students in Millville, building rowboats.  This project culminated in a river race where these inner-city students had a sense of pride in piloting a craft that they constructed themselves.  Oh yes, did we mention that the CU boat won the first annual race?  Bragging rights for now!

We also hosted youth groups for a day on the water; they learned to kayak and canoe, painted a landscape, and received an educational tour of the river.  Additionally, in conjunction with the Natural Lands Trust we provided canoe and kayak trips for a variety of groups.

We had our usual hand in County festivals – Raptor, Martin and Baydays.  We awarded the Connie Jost Scholarship to yet another deserving applicant.  Our consulting staff tested and surveyed the waters at Parvin and Tarkiln branches, counted raptors and waterfowl, interviewed and recorded folks’ river recollections, taught teacher workshops, created displays, planned events, gave presentations and more.

Our volunteers built osprey platforms, cleaned up preserves, counted birds, welcomed visitors, banded shorebirds, kayaked, canoed, testified before boards, gave presentations on local flora and fauna, created websites, and so much more.  They even erected a record ten osprey platforms in one day on the Absecon Bay in very chilly March weather just in time for these winged migrants’ arrival. The construction project was a permit requirement for a wind power generation company.

Our new Assistant Director, has established a trail trimmers’ program to assist local land trust groups in trail creation and management.

The Millville Schools Gifted and Talented program arranged for student volunteers to assist CU in our volunteer activities.  One student earned his Congressional Bronze Medal by committing numerous hours to our organization.  This effort is continuing to grow, and some of the students will participate in the trail program.

We have had a challenging year on the advocacy front as we lobbied for the protection of the Holly Farm. This property’s future remains unresolved. CU, together with fellow environmental organizations the Association of NJ Environmental Commissions and New Jersey Audubon, achieved a settlement with the proposed NJ Motorsports Park developers.  Some important aspects of the settlement include a sound wall, a commitment to establish a one-hundred acre grasslands preserve, a sunset curfew on racing, shielded lighting and the like.  These modifications addressed many of the apprehensions we had regarding the effects the proposed track would have on wildlife and residents.  We are grateful to the leadership skills of Carter Strickland of the Rutgers Environmental Law Clinic for his key role in the settlement.

We took the plunge and hired Renee Scagnelli as our Assistant Director.  Renee brings a wealth of abilities and skills to our staff.  She is a webmaster and a US Fish and Wildlife volunteer coordinator; some of her leisure time is spent studying flora and fauna and recording herpetological records for the State; she is a home school teacher, has excellent computer skills, maintains one of Southern NJ’s largest websites on natural and cultural history, and also teaches the violin.  Her enthusiasm for the organization and its pursuits and mission make her an invaluable member of our team.

Jane Morton GalettoPresident’s Message
Each year it is with both sadness and warm memories that I reflect upon some of the special members we have lost since our last annual message.  This year is no exception.  Some details about each of the individuals clearly represent simply a snapshot of my recollections and fall vastly short of any kind of summary of their individual contributions. In this reflection I often find meaning in the work we do, primarily because life is all about the legacy we leave for future generations.

Frank Basile –  So many folks have so many memories of this larger-than-life individual.  Mine focus on the very STRONG sense of presence that Frank always had, even when he said nothing.  It always seemed to me that Frank could have been type-cast as a Southern judge or lawyer because he was a person who was gentlemanly yet who instantly commanded respect. When he did speak everyone listened.  He was a wonderful courtroom orator who garnered admiration through his keen intellect and clear perceptions.  Each year Frank would commend the work of CU and offer any help we needed.  As most of you know, Basile, and Testa have played a key role in CU’s successes over the years as Todd Heck has represented the collective interests of CU and our members on many occasions.

Janice BurchamJanice Burcham – Janice and her identical twin sister, Jeannette, are truly river legends. To those of us who frequent the river these extraordinary women have simply been known as “the girls… the Burcham Girls.”  Their Century Award-winning farm is where both were born. They personified hospitality and have opened their homes to dignitaries and artists on many a CU journey.  Their identical smiles, crew caps, jeans, Carhart jackets, and Navy boots are an image that is vivid in our minds.  It is nearly impossible to think of one without the other, right down to the red socks.  Janice was a registered nurse and held a BS from the University of Oregon and an MA in counseling from Columbia University.  Commander Burcham served in the US Navy Nurse Corp from 1948-1975; one highlight was acting as chief nurse aboard the hospital ship USS Sanctuary in Vietnam. The Army/Navy game in Philadelphia was just as important an annual event for her as sheep shearing. And when Janice held a newborn lamb her smile lit up the entire Burcham Point. My stories and memories of “the girls” are too numerous and ornery for these pages.  But each of our members who has been to “the Burcham Point/ Farm” has equally dear recollections.  When I think of Janice now, I think of turning a tour boat around in front of their house and seeing her and Jeannette coming characteristically out of the house for a big wave “hello” – and although I saw her a number of times after that, that wave will be forever etched in my mind as Janice’s final farewell.  Jeannette, our thoughts are with you.

Mary “Jean” Fuschillo – Jean was a remarkable person for her environmental contributions and intellectual curiosity.  I knew Jean as a birder and nature activist.  A lifelong resident of Ocean City, she and the Atlantic Audubon Society traveled to the Maurice River for annual birding observations.  We exchanged e-mail on numerous current events dealing with environmental topics.  It was obvious that she was astute and well-read. She dedicated herself to causes involving human injustice and environmental health, playing an active role in Integrated Pest Management, phragmites control, the wetlands act, representing the community on the Shore Memorial Hospital Ethic Committee, opposing construction of a nuclear plant 12 miles off-shore and so much more.  What I did not realize was the vast educational experience she had amassed.  She held a B.A. in History from Mt. Holyoke College, an M.A. in Social Studies and a M.Ed. in Education, both from Cornell University and a Ph.D. in Psychology from Penn State University.  Having been born in 1927, she was truly a pioneer in women’s achievements! Doctor Fuschillo, we salute you and your contributions.

Blanche Jost– I got to know Blanche Jost initially through her daughter, Connie Jost, for whom our art scholarship is named.  It would be hard to say who was the more playful and witty – Blanche or Connie – but in either event there was no denying those amusing genes.  Both mother and daughter were artists.  Blanche was so very pleased with the scholarship given in her daughter’s name.  Each year I would go to see her to deliver the news of the most recent winner.  Over lunch she would confide to me that she hoped someday a Vineland student would be honored since Connie grew up and taught there.  I assured her that at some point surely the panel would select a Vineland student. Blanche was delighted when that finally happened.

Anne Morton – Known to me as my Aunt Anne, she was above all else a mother and a grandmother.  Her professional training was that of a nurse, and she had the most important ingredient of a healer… undivided love.  She loved wildlife, pets and children.  She found great humor and joy in all events and had a contagious laugh.  She made guests instantly comfortable in her home and was inquisitive about every aspect of everyone’s lives.  Her greatest joys were her children and husband.  She will be sorely missed.

Sarah “Sally” Smith – When I met Sally she was already advanced in years, and in fact she made it to 94! Sally was in the Navy- so CU has lost two Navy girls in the same year.  Many folks know Sally from her years of running Chelsea Title Company where she was greatly respected for her thorough knowledge of real estate law.  In later years she volunteered at the Vineland Library.  Her enthusiasm for travel was infectious.  Her stories of her journey up the Inside Passage from Vancouver to Alaska ignited my interest in taking the same trip.  It was nearly incomprehensible that in her early 80’s she was attending CU meetings and telling us of her world travels: walking on icebergs and kayaking cold waters. A number of years ago I learned that she had stopped coming to meetings because of her health.  It was hard to think of her as growing old because she was already in her 80’s and was still younger than most people I knew. Just this past week her friend and fellow CU member Joanne Greenspun told me of her death. Joanne relayed that she was making arrangements to have a bench placed on a TNC Preserve in Sally’s memory; after 39 years of living in Cumberland County she had made her “first” trip to the Bluffs.  Sally would be thrilled to know that even in death she was still sending folks on wonderful treks!

Dot Zirbser – my “summer” neighbor.  We would occasionally exchange pleasantries in the woods between our homes.  Dot was a caring person, always inquiring about the health of others and rarely complaining about her own ailments.  She was above all else a family person.  She told me how she raised her children on the River and preferred it to the hustle and bustle of Woodbury.  She said she considered the small house on the Maurice her true home.  Above all else Dot was really a warm and generous person who loved laughter.  Her family misses her very much.

As always I fear that I have omitted someone or something obvious. Time and memory play a role in this memorial section, so please don’t hesitate to call to correct the record or share your own reflections.

Countless members lost a parent this year.  I would like to pass along our condolences to these members as well as taking time to reflect on how many of these parents were key influences in their children’s thinking about the natural world.  My father’s hikes and sincere enthusiasm for all creatures fueled in me an interest in conservation.  We must remind ourselves of the role models we are to youth in helping them to appreciate the world around us.

Permit me a final observation.  Blanche Jost assured me that she and her husband Carl had made financial plans to perpetuate the scholarship in their daughter Connie’s honor.  Then about two years ago she told me that she was becoming forgetful and although I didn’t notice a difference in her rapport, she clearly was aware that things had changed.  She signed up for an assisted living facility anticipating the worse.  When I unexpectedly ran into her a year later the woman whom I had become so close to no longer recognized me. Sadly, since her death I have received no notification that her wishes and Carl’s would be fulfilled. I relay this because it strikes me how important it is to make arrangements so that our future desires can be carried out. Financial advisor and CU member William Kontes has volunteered to help our members identify philanthropic opportunities that benefit you and our organization. In future months this program may begin to take shape depending on our members’ interest in gifts and bequests.  If this is of interest to you or your family please let me know. I can be reached at 856-327-1161.

It gives me great please to introduce this year’s officers and trustees as elected at the November 2005 meeting.
Trustees Officers
Ethan Aronoff President Jane Morton Galetto
Sue Fenilli Vice President Berwyn Kirby
Leslie M. Ficcaglia Recording Secretary Donna Dailey
Steve Eisenhauer Corresponding Secretary Mary Lou Barbose
Richard Jones Treasurer Gerry Barsotti
Joanne Murphine Assistant Treasurer Irene Bird
Ed Pio

Each of us wishes you a healthy and happy New Year.

Jane Morton Galetto


CU on the River!