Ben impressed me as a reincarnation of the spirit of President Teddy Roosevelt. Just as Teddy championed both hunting and wildlife conservation efforts, Ben excelled in pursuing a variety of both hunting and environmental activities. He was recognized as an expert in the field of waterfowl migration, and chaired the Washington Governor’s migratory waterfowl season-setting committee. Building on this reputation and expertise, he supported WNWR-hosted classes in youth hunter safety. Ben’s dedication to the support of environmental education and conservation was evident in his self chosen Friends’ nickname, the Bird Nerd. Ben freely shared his ornithology expertise by organizing and participating in numerous birdwatching programs such as his popular displays and presentations at WOW and Oysterville events. Ben was everywhere Friends gathered. His spirit is still with us.
Ben Welton was many things to many people. To name a few… He was immense supporter of Willapa National Wildlife Refuge Complex, board member of the Friends of Willapa Refuge, lifetime member of Ducks Unlimited, incredible advocate for waterfowl (especially his beloved brant) and waterfowl hunting (especially youth hunting), passionate about giving back to his community and organizations – even in Vietnam. He loved Boykin spaniels and most importantly he loved Patsy. He was a great man and dear friend. Ben – you will be missed.
Ben Welton had so many ideas and energy for the Friends of Willapa National Wildlife Refuge – he was my mentor for raising my little wood ducks from eggs. He bought the eggs for me to incubate (I didn’t realize they were purchased, but that was Ben’s way). We had wonderful dinners, talks, and drives to find what waterfowl were up to. I enjoyed his stories about being in the military during the Vietnam War and being in Vietnam even before President Kennedy took office. He saw vans carrying gold taken out of Vietnam; he helped Salvadoran families find their murdered loved ones during that civil war. He went to Vietnam each year to volunteer and teach.
His stories of growing up on a houseboat in South Bend where his family often caught fish and cut timber illegally and sold them to put food on the table – He definitely did not grow up in a “Leave it to Beaver” type household.
I will always remember him with the greatest fondness.