Mike Breiding's Epic Road Trips: Summer of 2021

Clarence Beal Remembers Roger Tory Peterson or:


A Tale of Beals, Breidings, Birds and Love

14 September 2021
This post was originally intended as a way to share a letter Betsy's Uncle Clarence had written about the memories of his life long friend Roger Tory Peterson - and only that. Just the letter.
But, over the months (yes, months) it developed into something much more. Now it spanned the years from 1917 to 2021. Egads! What have I done!?
At one point I had spent so much time on it - adding, removing, and changing it had turned into a mixed up mess that even I could barely understand.
I needed help! So, I turned to my Editor-in-Chief. Fortunately Betsy was able to make some sense of it all and after trimming, sorting, moving and adding she had something we both thought was what I had hoped for.
So, here it is.


A Tale of Beals, Breidings, Birds and Love

This tale starts back in 1917. That was the year my father George H. Breiding was born in smoky, noisy, busy and smelly Wheeling WV which was then a bustling industrial hub dubbed "The Maker City" which referred to all the items manufactured there, mostly from steel - but not all. Bayer aspirin, cut nails, trash cans, glassware and stogies were all manufactured here and then shipped to cities across the U.S. by truck, rail or via the Ohio River which bordered the west side of the city.

And let's not forget wieners. Weimer wieners that is. My dad lived in the neighborhood of Fulton directly across from Weimer packing plant and the stockyard and butcher house which supplied the meats for their products.
The Weimer packing plant employed about sixty people and had a weekly capacity of 1,000 hogs, 200 cattle and 500 calves. The meat was distributed by truck to local markets.

My dad told me on warm summer evenings as he laid in bed with the window open he could hear the sounds of the squealing pigs and the bellowing cattle as they were moved about the facility to their final resting place - someone's dinner plate.

At that time the area behind the Breiding house on National Road was woods and brushy fields. My dad spent much time there and also in the Short Creek area hunting rabbits with his Game Getter double barrel and a cheap bamboo rod for creek fishing.

He got interested in bird study and was a student at the Oglebay Nature Camp at Terra Alta when it was just getting started. That was in the late 1930s and early 1940s.
Then in July of 1941 he was drafted and sent by train to Denver's Lowry Field where his duties as Sargent Major were chiefly clerical and administrative.
While there he took classes at the University of Denver in nature education, ornithology and botany. While stationed at Lowry he went on many field trips throughout Colorado and honed his birding and botany skills and knowledge. His journal: The Life of a Draftee details some of those field trips.

When he returned home to West Virginia he continued his education at Ohio State University and West Virginia University. He met his bride to be, Jane Rector at Ohio State and they married in 1946. In 1950 he was hired as Park Naturalist at Wheeling's Oglebay Park. By then they were a family of 5 and in 1952 I was born and then came Wayne and Bill.
We spent 13 years in that little house along the creek and went on many bird walks led by dad and members of the Brooks Bird club. My dad delighted in showing us off as we quickly identified birds many adults could not identify or could only guess at.
Those bird walks were for me and the rest of my siblings the beginning of our life with birds.

My interest in birds waxed and waned over the years but there was a point in 1980 where my interest was rekindled with the help of a young woman I just happened to meet at the same nature camp where my parents honeymooned and the same one my dad attended in the 1930s.
And here we pick up on "A Tale of Beals, Breidings, Birds and Love".

Since before our wedding day the love of birds and bird watching has been a part of the glue which has held Betsy and me together and made our lives with each other more enjoyable and interesting. Betsy and I came to our affinity with birds in two very different ways. I was born into a birding family and Betsy came to it later in life. This is that story.

The time: Friday the 4th of July 1980.
The place: Oglebay Nature Camp at Terra Alta (TA) WV.
Until COVID reared its ugly head Oglebay's Nature Camp at Terra Alta had run continuously since 1929 when campers slept on straw ticks on the ground and drank from a spring in the woods.
In 1980 I was on staff at the camp. Now we slept in canvas tents on Army surplus cots and drank water pumped from a well. A big improvement but still on the rustic side and that was part of the fun.
At camp we had a volleyball net set up and played everyday. That 4th of July was no different and some of us were in the middle of a fast paced set when down the lane rolls a little blue Toyota 4 door. It parked and three young ladies got out. Suddenly I forgot all about the volley ball game. Now where did these three come from I wondered? Hmmm...

As it turned out all three ladies had driven down from Cleveland to attend the Terra Alta 4th of July "mini-camp" which was the 3 days between the two week camp. They heard about the camp because of - you guessed it: birds. It turns out all three had taken a bird study class from Don Altemus, naturalist with the Cleveland Metro Parks. Don Altemus was married to Billie who just happened to be Director of the Oglebay Camp at TA.
When the bird study class was over everyone was invited to a wine and cheese at the home of Don and Billie Altemus and it was at that event they made a "sales pitch" for the Oglebay Camp at TA. The camp was always struggling for campers and was threatened with closure on numerous occasions so Don and Billie did everything they could do to recruit and fill up the camp. They did a good job and at some camps the majority of the attendees were from the Cleveland metro area.
The pitch at the wine and cheese got three recruits that evening: one Betsy Beal and two others. And so the three of them piled into Betsy's little Toyota and made their way to the mountains of West Virginia to spend three days engaged in bird study. But birds weren't all which vied for their attention. I did my best to get to know all three of the ladies from that far off land called Cleveland and luckily it was Betsy who fell under the spell of my charms. At least that is the way I remember it.

Three days later and camp is now over and I am watching that little blue car depart camp. On the way out Betsy slowed, stopped, rolled down the window and looked up at me and said: "Let me hear from you". The tone of her voice and the look in her eyes - I will never forget that. And hear from me she did ...
But, not for a while. Once she was back in Cleveland Betsy was soon off to Europe and we had no contact for several weeks.

Betsy Beal on the coast of France - July of 1980

Betsy Beal on the coast of France - July of 1980,
just a few weeks after we met at Terra Alta Mountain Camp.

When Betsy arrived home from her European vacation she was greeted by a stack of mail from her newest suitor. Letters, copies of West Virginia magazine, a West Virginia road map - anything I could think of which might keep her interest focused on me. Not those other guys! Yes, indeed I did have some competition to think about.

Fortunately for me I started receiving mail and getting the occasional phone call from Betsy. In August she came down to Wheeling WV for the weekend which spanned the two week Junior Nature Camp at Camp Giscowheco. While there we attended morning bird walks together, held hands and shared our first kiss on a knoll above the camp. After that things got a bit more serious and before you know I was driving to Uniontown, Ohio to Meet the Parents.

At some point during that visit, Art - Betsy's dad, mentioned his brother Clarence had been a life long friend of Roger Tory Peterson while growing up in Jamestown NY now home to The Roger Tory Peterson Institute. Being raised up in a birding family I was mightily impressed by this! And then Betsy told me her uncle Clarence was the one who got Roger Tory Peterson interested in birds. Apparently when they met as youngsters Roger Tory Peterson's primary interest was in butterflies. Now I am really impressed and somewhat amazed that of all the women in the world I could have met it was someone whose family had a longtime association with the internationally known Roger Tory Peterson, and thus with birds. And, on top of that Betsy's Uncle Clarence graduated from Cornell University where he studied Ornithology and Ornamental Horticulture. When his studies were complete he returned to Jamestown where he became a well known landscape architect and owned and operated Beal Landscape Service from 1946 until the time of his death in 1981 - 35 years.
During the latter part of that period Clarence's daughter Christine worked with him and then Christine's husband Dave joined the company in 1972.
After Clarence's death Chris and Dave continued to run the business until 2018 when Chris passed away. Dave still carries on with the work of Beal Landscape Service.

Clarence Beal by Betsy Beal

Clarence Beal by Betsy Beal

Unfortunately I never got to meet Clarence. He died in March of 1981 when Betsy and I were still just getting to know each other.

Since that time birding has been an integral part of our Love Story. And although we engaged in many different activities during our 7 week honeymoon birding was one of the more memorable ones. I can still remember excitedly calling my dad to tell him we had seen Violet-green Swallows swooping 1000 feet above the ground - but at eye level, near our camp site at Island in the Sky at Canyonlands National Park. And also how we had just heard our first Canyon Wren while hiking in Syncline Canyon.

This spring and summer of 2021, while not quite back to normal has come close to being such. COVID was at bay, Betsy and I were both vaccinated and we now felt we could get on with our lives as before.
Our return to West Virginia in the Spring is always a happy one. The slow awakening of the trees in those many shades of green, and the emergence of spring wildflowers and Betsy's morels. And birds. Ah, the birds. What they mean to us cannot be overstated. From the very first time we heard a Canyon wren on our Honeymoon to the 100th time we heard the lovely and haunting call of the Wood thrush on a cool and damp springtime walk. This is our life. A life without our birds would be greatly diminished. And, as we have aged we have felt that affinity and need to see and hear and be with them become even greater.
And so now any walk or hike or bike ride or really anytime we are awake the birds are there for us. Betsy has kept bird lists since our Honeymoon, now nearly 40 years ago. When ever we travelled she would make mention in her journal of the special birds we heard or saw and then wrap up her entry with a bird list.
But it has only been recently we have taken the time on just about every hike, walk or bike ride to stop, look and listen to what might be out there perched in a tree, flying high overhead or calling nearby and then writing it down. This simple act of making a list has focused and enhanced the joy we have from bird watching. I now wonder: What took us so long?

After our COVID winter in Tucson we returned to West Virginia in April. We started out with our regular walks around the neighborhood and on the rail-trail. Betsy kept her binoculars at the ready and I would be constantly scanning the woods for any sign of movement. This is birding prime time! The arrival of those birds who would stay the summer and the migration through of those who would fly on to points north - this is the time to be out in the woods and the fields.

As spring progressed we decided it was time for our first road trip in over a year. We were gone 7 days and all the while enjoyed what birds we saw and heard.

Our first stop was in Roanoke Va where we visited friend Chuck and relaxed in his backyard listening to the "weep" of the great crested flycatcher. In North Myrtle Beach we sipped beers on our balcony and watched the mockingbirds gorge on mulberries from the trees in the courtyard. At Tim and Maureen's place in Southport NC we lay in bed and listened to the plaintive calls of the Chuck Wills Widow drifting in our open window. At Brookgreen Gardens we watched with amusment as a house wren darted in and out of the Spanish moss. And while visiting Mark and Christy in Monroe County WV we hiked up to the Hanging Rock Raptor Observatory. It was too rainy and foggy to see any raptors but we heard a wood thrush on the hike up to the summit.

Our next road trip was a Birthday Surprise for Betsy's 71st - three nights in a cabin in Holly River State Park nicely placed on a perch above the cool, clear and babbling Laurel Fork River. There we hiked in some of the most beautiful woods we have ever seen as we listened to the calls of the Scarlet Tanager, or Veery or Betsy's beloved Hermit thrush. And Betsy got to wear her birthday suit while taking a dip in the Left Fork of the Holly River! We had lots of fun birding on the 4 hikes we took while there.
And so it has been for 40 years - bird watching brought Betsy and me together. Had it not been for that we would almost certainly never have met.

And soon we will be sitting on the porch of our trailer in Tucson watching as a Roadrunner makes its way through our "yard" or watching an Anna's humming bird as it zooms in and flits about just feet away as it takes in its fill of the provided "nectar". Or watching a Great-tailed grackle enjoy a discarded French fry in the parking lot of a WalMart. Yep. Birds - wherever we go. Now, nearly 40 years later we hear Canyon Wrens in our "back yard" in the Tucson Mountains.
And so it goes...

And there you have it "A Tale of Beals, Breidings, Birds and Love".

And now here is "Clarence Beal Remembers Roger Tory Peterson" which was passed on to me by Clarence's daughter Priscilla.

Clarence Beal wrote the letter below to John Devlin to provide background information for a book Devlin was working on and later published as "The World of Roger Tory Peterson: An Authorized Biography". When published the book contained a significant amount of material from the Beal letter.

Cover Letter to John Devlin of the New York Times from Clarence M. Beal

R D 2, North Main Extension
Jamestown, New York, 14701
February 11, 1975

Mr. John Devlin:
News Room, The New York Times
Times Square, New York City

Dear Mr. Devlin:

         Roger in his passion for birds was not without a sense of humor.  I can recall frequent occasions when on our hikes we would scare up a rabbit.  I always yelled "Rabbit" and Roger always answered "Grab it".

         Once he asked me if I knew what a "stoic" was? I tried to explain that a stoic was a person without feeling.
Roger patiently explained to me, "A stoic is de boid what brings de babies!"

         Roger's father, like many a former traveling salesman, had a stock of jokes, one of which I remember.  It seems that a mental patient was sitting on the lawn of the North Warren State Hospital in nearby Pennsylvania.  He had a fish pole and line which was placed in a pail of water.  A passerby ridiculed the fisher and asked, "What do you imagine you're doing, fishing?"
The patient answered, "I'm catching imaginary fish!"
If you have any questions I shall be glad to hear from you.

Sincerely yours,
Clarence M.  Beal

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Clarence M Beal
Rural Delivery 2
North Main Extension
Jamestown, New York
February 6th, 1975

Roger Tory Peterson as I Remember Him.

         It was four-tenths of a mile from Roger's house to our house.
It was on a direct route to the woodlands, pastures and Fields north of Jamestown, new york.  I do not know how many hundred times Roger stopped at 184 Stowe Street on his way to and from 16 Bowen Street.  Whenever he stopped he would whistle loudly, "whee-whee-you-who-whee- you-whee!" Where-upon I would join him on a several mile hike, more on weekends, to observe the birds, and other wildlife through dash out the seasons.

         Jamestown, when Roger left it in 1927, was a city of 45,000.
Today it is about 39,000.  One out of four young people leave town by the age of 30.  Roger was one of them.  At that time the city was a furniture making town.  Today it has more metal industries and much less wood and textile manufacturing.

         I first saw Roger on a hot summer meadow where several teenage boys were rushing madly about chasing butterflies with butterfly dash nets.  The leader and most proficient boy in the group was Roger Peterson.  he was the only one to systematically collect the insects.  Mount them and study them.  Later on, I would have company Roger on his search through the backyards of the city, searching for the cocoons of the great moths: Prometheus, Polyphemus, and Cecropia.  These cocoons were taken home by Roger to hatch in his home, where they would emerge to crawl over the curtains.  They were beautiful creatures in pastel shades of brown, yellow and red.

         Luckily, Roger's mother was a patient woman who tolerated his collecting hobby, his photographic dark room and his lateness to dinner.

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         Roger wrote To Wards Natural Science Establishment of Rochester, New York, where he bought pins, labels and collectors cases for his many specimens.

         My first actual contact with Roger came in the winter of 1921-1922, one cold February day when I had been filling my bird feeders with grain and suet.  I met Roger and his friends Gordon Carlson and Sigurd Carlsten who were on a similar mission.  For some reason, Roger threw me down and washed my face in the snow.  This done, his mastery asserted, he never fought with me again.  I was 11 and he was 13 years old at the time.

         in the years that followed, until he left Jamestown in 1927 at the age of 19, we hiked countless miles in the hills of Chautauqua county.  He was graduated from Jamestown high School in 1925; his 50th alumni meeting will be in June 1975.  Beneath his photograph in the senior annual where the words, "Woods! Birds! Flowers! Here are the making of a great naturalist!" At that time there was probably none who took the words seriously, one of whom was Roger's father.

         On many occasions Roger's father, Charles Peterson, confronted me, "Clarence, you have influence with Roger.  For God's sake why don't you convince him to give up his idea of being a bird- watcher? He'll starve to death with that profession!" But I sympathized with Roger and knew it would be futile to argue the matter.  I felt that Roger believed that he would be a famous naturalist and always kept his goal in mind.  He could Converse intelligently on many subjects, but seldom wandered far from his interest in birds.

         In school he was generally indifferent, often a discipline problem, being sent to the principal for punishment, especially in the sixth grade.  He frequently told me of his clashes with authority.

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         He was excellent in his art classes in high school and took all the courses available.  He enjoyed his work in English composition.  In mechanical drawing final exams he had the honor of a perfect score.  But when he was offered a drafting job in the Dahlstrom factory, he turned it down.  He preferred a living subject for his vocation.

         As for his family, his father was of Swedish descent whose mother was from the Swedish university town of Uppsala north of Stockholm.  His father was a salesman for many years, a good talker with a repertoire of jokes.  He later became a craftsman at the Art Metal factory where he worked for many years.  He was afflicted with arthritis in his old age and died in 1946, one month short of 78 years old.

         Roger's mother may have had her doubts, but she never asked me to interfere.  She was a likeable woman, kind-hearted, quiet, of German descent ( Wendish ).   She worked for years as a housekeeper at the local YMCS.  At the age of 94, she is living in a nursing home in California, near her daughter Margaret Peterson Lager.

         Margaret graduated from Elmira college, Elmira, New york.  I remember attending a dance at that school to which she had invited me in 1934.  During their younger years she and Roger, like many brothers and sisters were not compatible.  They frequently argued, until she exited through the screen door, dodging a gentle brotherly kick.  Margaret was an imaginative girl who taught English after graduating from college.  She married Edwin Lager and lived in Jamestown several years before they left for Ventura, California.

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         It is not surprising that Roger was not the best of students, for he seldom took home a school book.  He carried the Morning Post newspaper, starting before 3:00 a.m., so he was often sleepy in school.  On his paper route he earned money to buy a Premo #9 camera.  This camera, made by Eastman, was excellent for birds and flowers.  It had a 13 inch bellows, and F6:3 lens, and when used on a tripod it could be focused closely for Sharp pictures.

         I bought an identical camera myself and we were both busy snapping pictures.  I recall in 1923 Roger mentioning that he would have photos of 25 species of birds by the years end.  I believe he did.  On one May 23rd morning in 1923, I helped Roger peddle his paper route starting at 2:00 a.m.  then we headed up the outlet of Chautauqua lake, listing all the birds we saw and heard.  Then we boarded the JWNW railroad ( Jamestown, Westfield, and Northwestern ) to Westfield on Lake Erie where we continued our search.  We saw 123 species on that sunny spring day.

         I attended Washington Junior high School in 1925 there I met the Gustavus Bentley family.  Gus was principal and his wife was librarian.  They were ardent outdoor people and often invited Roger and I to accompany them on field trips along with their children Ruth and bud.  Once at Chautauqua Gorge, Roger showed his diversity of skills by throwing peanuts in the air and catching them in his mouth.  He concluded by catching a difficult throw, but landed on his back in Chautauqua creek.

         Roger was definitely interested in girls, but his hobby didn't help him.  He told of taking an attractive girlfriend on a long hike.  She was soon exhausted and didn't go hiking with Roger again.

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         He occasionally had to prove his strength by wrestling and invariably won his fights.  Although he was slim, he was deceptively strong and could defend himself.

         Roger was unconcerned about the latest styles or any styles whatever.  Once near Goose Creek we climbed a Swamp Maple to a Barred Owl's nest and Roger's trousers were badly torn.  Before boarding the Lakewood Trolley he bought a pack of safety pins to make himself presentable.

         Again, when he took some paintings to new york, his shoe soles were so holy that his socks touched the sidewalks.

         He had four cousins whom I have met.  One in industry, one a banker, one in industry and banking and a cousin Elizabeth who taught in an upstate college.

         Roger left Jamestown in 1927 to attend art schools.  After graduating from high school he had worked in a local furniture factory decorating Chinese furniture.  He obtained similar work in New York City to support himself while he studied.

         In October 1930, Harold Lundberg and I from Jamestown visited Roger in New York and then we attended the American Ornithologist Union meeting in Salem, Massachusetts.  Harold was more interested in the nautical museum than in the bird lectures and hikes.

         I forgot to mention that in June 1928, after graduating from high school I made an unforgettable trip to New Jersey with Roger and with Ed Stearns of Caldwell, New Jersey.  I took the Erie railroad to New York where I met Roger.  We then proceeded to Caldwell where it was the year of the locust.  There were thousands of the insects "Waowing" and humming in the trees and bushes.  They swarmed on every twig and their empty pupae cases hung from every tree trunk.  The locusts were orange in color, not green as in the common cicada.

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         On June 27th, 1928 we hitchhiked south from Caldwell to Brigantine, north of Atlantic city.  The town was glaring in the sun, white sands, turns, galls, piping plovers, bronzed people, waves on the ocean and waving grasses in the salt marshes.  At Brigantine we met a Dr Johnson who said, "Roger will be a great man, if he doesn't go to the dogs!" Roger went to the birds!

         On June 29 we rode out to Little Beach with the Coast Guard on their boat.  There we planned to photograph the Laughing Gulls and the Black Skimmers.  Roger and Ed left me in a photographic blind on the marsh, surrounded by gulls nests.  I had a rowboat with which to pick them up at the Black skimmer colony later in the afternoon.  Soon the gulls returned to their nests and I took their portraits from the hot shelter of the blind.

         The tide Rose in the marshes, a storm developed, and I set out to reach Roger and Ed, but became hopelessly lost.  I finally beached the boat and walked back to the Coast Guard station.  In the mean - time the Coast Guard rescued Roger and Ed, but thought that I had been swept to sea.  So Roger sent home a telegram and our two Jamestown families were quite upset until the truth was known.

         On April 4-5 1931, Roger, Phil? Kessler and I rode in Phil's car from Buffalo to Kingsville, Ontario.  We had to stop frequently to fill the leaky car radiator with water from the roadside ditches.  We visited Long Point and Point Pelee and saw many ducks.  At Jack Miner's sanctuary we saw 5,000 geese feeding on corn, honking and flocking.  Before meeting the famous Jack Miner we found numerous pole traps, one of which held a dead robin.  We regretted that Jack's concern for his wildfowl did not extend to Hawks and owls.

         On the nearby Bay there were 700 white Whistling Swans.

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         In the early summer of 1931, when Roger was still 22 years old, he made a breeding bird survey of the forty acre Bentley farm near Jamestown.  He drew a map showing the location of the nesting birds.  This map is in the possession of the Bentley family.  Mr Gustavus Bentley in the 1960s presented the farm to the Jamestown Audubon Society with the provision that it be maintained as a nature sanctuary.

         In 1934 Roger was teaching science at the Rivers School in Brookline, Massachusetts.  While there he completed his manuscript A Field guide to the Birds.  At the time I was attending Cornell University and one of my professors was the noted Ornithologist, Arthur A.  Allen.  When Houghton-Mifflin company, publishers, printed Rogers book, Roger sent me a couple of first editions one for me and one for Dr.  Allen.  When I gave Dr.  Allen his copy, his face lit up as he thumbed through the pages.  He later used the book as a text in his Ornithology classes.

         In the summer of 1934 I became assistant nature counselor to Roger at the boys camp Chewonki, near Wiscasset, Maine.  This camp was run by Mr.  Clarence Allen who also headed the Rivers School where Roger taught science.  This was an ideal camp and boasted a 54' yawl with full sales and an auxiliary engine for cruising at sea, including an old sea captain.   Thus we were able to visit many offshore Islands to observe the seals, dolphins, whales and the multitude of nesting sea birds black - Backed and Herring Gulls, Arctic Turns, Black Guillemots, Eider Ducks, parrot-beaked Puffins, and tube-nosed Wilsons LEACH's Petrels.

         I recall one canoe trip with Roger to visit a Great Blue Heron colony on an oak covered island in the Penobscot River the photography was successful, but I will never forget the 5' waves which nearly swamped our canoe!

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         I believe it was in 1936 (1936) when Roger married Mildred Warner Washington, descendant of Lawrence Washington who was an uncle of George, our first president.  They were married at Wiscasset, Maine.  I was best man at the wedding, which was printed in the New York Times.  I can remember the 22-hour train ride from Western New York to Maine, Roger had met Mildred at the Audubon Nature Center on Hog Island, Maine where she was a camper.  She was an attractive, athletic girl.  They lived together in New York City, where her family had been listed in the social register.  When the New York World's Fair was showing in 1940, Roger and Mildred provided me with a girlfriend to escort me around the fairgrounds.

         Roger and Mildred separated eventually.  Roger's sister Margaret said that for two separated people they were very friendly, even though she was more social minded and Roger was too occupied with his birds.

         Roger is usually optimistic, but many years ago he visited Jamestown and appeared very depressed.  He thought that he had seen most of the birds, he had written his Field Guide to the Birds and there was not much to look forward to.

         In the meantime Roger married Barbara Coulter who has born them two sons, Tory and Lee.  She has been a wife, secretary, proofreader, and consultant.  Roger has been revising his many guides, writing new books, traveling the world, painting bird portraits, taking thousands of still photos, making movies, lecturing, and receiving honors.  And now that his; their children are self sufficient, Barbara often accompanies her husband on his excursions.

         In 1962 my wife Evangeline and I and our three young daughters visited the Petersons at their home near Old Lyme Connecticut.  I was impressed by his 70 acres, his studio, their pre-revolutionary

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         cemetery, their home, the nearby Marsh's and the beaches of Long Island Sound.

         Roger visits Jamestown every year or two, to show his wildlife films, to lecture, and even to be named to the Jamestown High School Hall of Fame.  He and his wife usually stay with his cousins, the Allen Jones, the Stanford Jones, or with his friends, the Lorimer Moes.  On several occasions I have introduced Roger while serving as toastmaster and I am including some of these introductions.

         Barbara sends out the Peterson newsletter every January which describes the highlights of their previous year, the scope of which can easily humble the average American.

         Why is Roger successful? He has an all consuming interest in birds.   He has great artistic skill.  He is intelligent with good memory and ability to stress the important facts.  He has keen ears and perceptive eyes.  He can be very persevering, competitive, or stubborn.  He can seek out authorities and learn from others.  He has a wife who can guide his efforts.

         My wife and I visited Sweden this past summer and of course we used Peterson's Guide to the Birds of Britain and Europe.

         At one time I had many letters from Roger dating back to 1927.  He wrote frequently from New York City telling of the Linnaean Society, his hikes, his friends, his studies at the Art Students League and the National Academy.  I seem to have lost those letters.  I am enclosing a copy or two of later cards and letters and some banquet introductions, also a couple of photographs.

Sincerely, (signature)

Clarence M. Beal           Feb. 10, 1975
R.D.2, N. Main Ext.
Jamestown, New York

You can view scans of the above letter here.


Below is a remembrance of Roger Tory Peterson's childhood friend Clarence Beal. Peterson was going to include it in his autobiography to be titled "Free as the Birds". Alas, the book was never finished.

One evening in April, 1981, Lorimer Moe phoned to tell me some distressing news. Clarence Beal and Evangeline had just returned to Jamestown from a trip south to see their children and grandchildren. In preparation for the spring planting, he was burning off the grass, weeds, and brush in the field in back of the house when the fire got out of hand. Apparently in his attempt to get over the fence he became entangled in the barbed wire and was enveloped in the flames. He died on the way to the hospital.

It was a sad, gray morning, two days later, when I landed at the little hilltop airport not far from the Beals' home for the funeral. Large flocks of pectoral sandpipers were coursing over the grassy meadows beyond the runways, part of a major flight of these Arctic bound shorebirds that was noted elsewhere that week in western New York State.

That afternoon when we lowered the casket into its place in the Lakeview Cemetery I was within sight of the very spot where Clarence and I first met, but in nearly 60 years every thing had changed. The cemetery itself had extended for fully a quarter of a mile since the old days, to accommodate the two more generations of citizens. Olson's Woods and Peterson's Pasture were gone. So were Beckerink's fields and the pig farm where we saw our first starlings. Suburbia was closing in. A broad interstate highway swept across the valley, speeding commerce on its way to Ohio. All the landmarks I knew were gone. Everything but memories.

Source: Roger Tory Peterson - A Biography By Douglas Carlson
© Estate of Roger Tory Peterson


Image © Estate of Roger Tory Peterson Used by permission
Courtesy of Roger Tory Peterson Institute

Clarence Beal's daughter Priscilla sent me the items below. Heart breaking.

News Item

Local Man Dies Of
Cardiac Arrest, Burns

Clarence M. Beal, 70, of North Main Street Extension, Jamestown, died at about 3 p.m. yesterday after suffering a cardiac arrest and being burned when he became entangled in a barbed wire fence while trying to extinguish a fire that had gotten out of control.
A certificate of accidental death has been issued by county Coroner John C. Sixbey.
Sixbey said Beal had started a brush fire in his backyard to burn off debris that had gathered during the winter. 8ixbey added that Beal had returned home from Florida Saturday.
The fire spread out of control to a pasture area, Six bey said. Beal became entangled in a barbed wire fence surrounding the area while trying to extinguish the blaze. He - was found by Fluvanna Volunteer Firemen and was pronounced dead at the scene at 3:38 p.m.
Sixbey said Beal suffered a cardiac arrest as well as first, second and third degree burns. See obituary page 2.


Clarence Beal,
Dead at 70

Clarence M. Beal, 70, of North Main Street Extension, R.D. 2, Jamestown, died at 3:38 p.m. Sunday (March 29, 1981) at home.
A well-known local landscape architect, he was owner and operator of the Beal Landscape Service.
Beal was burning brush he accumulated at home from his business when wind brought the fire out of control, causing his death.
A long-time resident, he was born in Jamestown, Dec. 14, 1910, a son of S. Clarence and Carrie Chamberlin Beal. He was a graduate of Jamestown High School, class of 1928 and Cornell University Class of 1935, where he studied ornamental horticulture and ornithology. He completed graduate studies at Cornell and Michigan State Universities.
An early member of the Buffalo Ornithological Society, he was charter member of the Jamestown Audubon Society, serving as, a past president and former secretary-treasurer and director, He was currently a member of the Sanctuary committee of the society. He was a long-time friend of world renowned ornithologist Roger Tory Peterson.
Beal was a life-long member of the First Presbyterian Church, where he was baptized and confirmed. He was a member of the first board and secretary of the Jamestown Junior Chamber of Commerce; member of American Scandinavian Foundation; and the American Association of Retired Persons.
Surviving are his wife, the former Evangeline Leave; three daughters, Christine J. Leitch, Jamestown, Rosemary L. Stimson of Morning Sun, Ohio, and Priscilla A. Beal, St. Petersburg, Fla.; a granddaughter, Krista M. Stimson of Morning Sun, Ohio; two brothers, William F . Beal, Richwood, W. Va., and Arthur A. Beal, Uniontown, Ohio; a sister, Harriet Magnuson, Jamestown. He was preceded in death by a brother, James C. Beal who died Feb. 2nd 1981.
The funeral will be at 3 p.m. Wednesday in Lind Funeral Home. The Rev. Richard L. Fenn, rector of St. Luke's Episcopal Church, will officiate. Burial will be in Lake View Cemetery.





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