In April we learned of the sudden passing of our friend, Paul Summerskill, of St. Catharines. In recent years Paul had become an infrequent visitor at the Beamer Hawkwatch, but in the past he had been a staunch supporter. He served several years on the executive, mainly responsible for education in which role he spoke about hawks to students at their schools and met with school groups at the watch site.
Paul was also a valuable counter, far more so than our records indicate. In the last couple of years that Walter Klabunde counted on weekdays, his eyesight was not sufficient to find all the birds. Walter kept the tallies, but on many days Paul was present to spot the birds so the two of them could then make the identifications.
Paul was a greeter; not the irritating kind found in retail outlets, but quietly. He spoke to everybody, whether he knew them or not, with an inquiring mind, endeavouring to engage with them and frequently learning astonishing things about total strangers. Young and old considered him a friend because he was willing to listen.
Paul was also an artist and, perhaps because of that, an innovative thinker. He and his wife, Tineke (Tina), loved to travel (they must have driven the Dempster Highway to Inuvik a half dozen times). On visiting Newfoundland, Paul was so taken with the people and the place that he purchased a property in Twillingate so they had a place to stay. Realizing it had been habitat for Great Auks, an extinct, flightless seabird, Paul investigated their size and appearance, crafted a likeness, created a mold and then cast a dozen replicas with concrete. These he placed around his property. They may not swim as well as the originals but they do fly just as well!
Through discussions with indigenous Canadians, Paul learned that their respect for nature matched his own. The celebration of life service for him was led by a native pastor and included a native funeral ceremony complete with a drummer that was very moving. The large crowd that attended included several hawkwatchers. Paul touched many people and gave freely of his time. He will be missed by all.