Celebrating 45 Years – Memories - International Crane Foundation

International Crane Foundation


Celebrating 45 Years – Memories

  • I have been blessed to meet Miss Amber Wilson who represented the International Crane Foundation at Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge in Decatur, Alabama this year and two years ago. Miss Wilson gave crane presentations to our 3rd Grade students at Priceville Elementary. I am the Art and Music teacher at Priceville Elementary. I taught lessons in Art and Music about cranes and ducks. I am thankful for the resources that the International Crane Foundation has provided to public school students. Together we can impact future generations to raise awareness and carry on conservation efforts.

    - Susie Bagwell

  • One of the first interns was Jim Bruskiwitz seated on the fence with George and Ron.He was a very close friend to me.I was just finishing up a backpack journey in the Rocky mountains and called my mother in Denver to check in.She told me that I was to call Jim right away.Got the phone number called it .Jim answered and said I need your help so come to Baraboo Wisconsin .I said when and he said now.I had know Idea where Baraboo was.I asked what he needed me to do and the reply was ,just get here.Jim said when you get to the town look for the red and white water tower on the hill ,walk to it turn right and walk to the white house.So that is what I did all the way from Colorado to Baraboo on a Greyhound bus.When I arrived at the white house Jim was there and said follow me .We went to a shed and opened the door and in front of me stood two huge birds standing as tall as me at least thats how it seemed.They were the blind pair,I think I was told they were Sarus cranes.I did not know about cranes at all.This was early fall and he said to me"I will show how tend to all the cranes in the then headquarters the International Crane Foundation."The next morning he left on a two week vacation with his girlfriends family,I stayed on ,met George,Ron and a host of other amazing people.I stayed for a month,now I have been involved for 45 years as a volunteer,outreach for schools in Northern Illinois and as a donor.I have met some wonderful people and am have been given the rare opportunity that very few people get.So ,thanks to the world of Cranes and the wonderful knowledge I have received.Richard Wilson

    - Richard Wilson

  • From 1990 to 1994, I was one of the part-time staff veterinarians. Was the greatest experience working with the greatest people!

    - Thomas Curro

  • ...the old days in the Sauey barn.  Ron & George were working madly to try to get the research projects up and running.  The BIG one in those days was a trip to Korea to view cranes on the DMZ and to work with Korean scientists to start some research there.  I remember climbing up in the old barn so I could look down on the birds and watch them do their stuff--sleeping, eating, or dancing.  I remember taking a couple of school groups on field trips, including having the class flap their wings to get the local cranes to fly with them.  I remember meeting Owen Gromme who was working on paintings of cranes for ICF to use in postcards and to sell/give to sponsors.  Owen was saying that he priced his work by the square inch--which at the time I thought was really strange (now I see it's as practical as any other way).  I remember taking a Swedish text to someone who spoke Swedish and a French text to a group of Swiss cloistered nuns to see if someone there could translate it for us.  I think I was the 2nd paid employee, the first being a man who did janitor/maintenance work.  We were both part time.

    - Roena Oesting

  • The first time I visited ICF I went on a tour and was mesmerized by the birds and the story of ICF. Cranes always held a place in my heart and I was a zoology student and fell in love with the work ICF does.

    A few years later, when I was losing hope for a career in conservation and struggling to break into the field during the recession, I was selected as an intern at ICF. Those nine months were the most amazing months of my life. The people I met, from fellow interns to staff to international partners, were amazing and many of these are people I now consider my second family. The things I learned in my time there made me who I am today, and I work to use what I learned in my current position in running a conservation education program. Thank you, ICF staff, members, and birds. You changed my life and I will for the rest of my life use the ethics, values, and skills I leaned there to continue the mission.

    - Aszya Summers

  • meeting Ron and watching him work with the cranes in the old family barn, being able to walk among  the cranes after washing your shoes, watching an imprinted crane parade with a caretaker, and now seeing the beautiful enclosure for the woopers.

    - Martha Hunt

  • I interned at ICF 34 years ago. It started me on a path to a life long love of cranes. I continue to work with them to this day!
    I remember my first days in the chick house. That was the year George brought back 36 Brolga and Sarus crane eggs from Australia!
    Many memories. My connections later led to 2 trips to the Russian Far East, where I worked with Khinganski Nature Reserve and later many collaborations with Muraviovka Park and Sergei and Elena.
    That was also the year we moved more of the birds from the old site to the Johnson pod.
    Happy Anniversary!

    - Carol Hesch

  • In 1988 I was moving from Kotzebue, Alaska to Baraboo, Wisconsin to teach.  When I told some of my Alaskan friends where I was moving, they made sure that I knew that Baraboo was the home of the International Crane Foundation.  Of course I needed to visit soon after my arrival in town and was very impressed with the work that they were doing.  I started bringing students to ICF to learn about the cranes, help with prairie seed collection and participate in the Crane the Bird of Peace Art Exhibit.  I made sure that they knew how fortunate they were to have this world-class organization right here in small town Baraboo.  
    In 1996 I was fortunate enough to accompany Sergei and Elena Smirenski and Jim Harris as well as other Wisconsin educators to Far Eastern Russia to Muraviovka Park to work with teachers and students in the area.  I didn't speak Russian, but was able to communicate with some of the students in French since they had learned it at school.  And we also had the common language of music where we sang around the campfire with "A la la la"-very few words and lots of motions like shaking your neighbor's hand.  And the sound of crane calls in the marsh united us with a cause.
    I'm now bringing grandkids to ICF to learn about the cranes and the importance in keeping all the parts of the ecosystem (the idea of Aldo Leopold whose "Shack" is only a few miles down the road).  We are so lucky to have people at ICF who go to many countries around the world to empower the people there to care about cranes and the rest of the environment and inspire (and fund) them to do something to save these species.  I've also gotten insights into the research done by ICF to find out more about the 15 different species.
    Last November my husband and I went to Bhutan with ICF.  We loved seeing the birds and learning about the culture, but two weeks of seeing George in action was incredible.  He is able to make almost anyone that he comes in contact with a good friend in less than 5 minutes.  He knows how to work with people to unite them in a common goal-making the world a better place for cranes and also for us since we can experience the wonder of these birds.

    - Karen Mesmer

  • Twenty-some years of visiting the Crane Foundation on opening day and being so thankful to have such an inspiring place to come to to celebrate another coming of Spring.  Every time I visit, I’m inspired with hope that we can save cranes, habitats and the planet.  So thank you for all you do and for giving so many of us optimism, even in the toughest of times.

    See you opening day.

    Sharron Andresen

    - Sharron Andresen

  • The first time I visited ICF with a group of friends, I knew about cranes but wasn't informed much about their peril and grace.  As a I sat in the beautifully painted theater room to watch a video, I slowly became transfixed.  My interest grew and my desire to learn more about these birds became borderline obsessive once I walked the grounds and saw them all face to face.  The information that was available peaked my interest, but to see these birds up close, it really was love at first sight.  Soon after I became an ICF member and in 2012 I made my first (solo) trip west to Nebraska to see the incredible Sandhill Crane migration.  At the risk of sounding like a sap, it brought tears to my eyes, nothing in my life was ever so beautiful as seeing thousands of cranes, in the wild, calling, dancing and in their native habitat.  I now go to Nebraska to see the migration every year since, it has become my second home.

    As I read more books about cranes from George Archibald, Dayton Hyde and Paul Johnsgard, I really felt inspired!  But the best way I've learned about cranes was travelling to see them in the wild, visiting ICF and listening to other who helped pave the way for these birds.

    As a member of ICF and a Wisconsinite, I attended special functions at ICF such as An Evening with the Cranes, Cranes of the World, Member Appreciation Day and more.  At these functions I was granted special insight to behind-the-scenes work, kept up-to-date on future plans and ideas and I really felt a part of the process.

    In the Fall of 2016 I went to a lecture George was holding at the Urban Ecology Center in Milwaukee and he briefly talked about the Whooping Cranes in Texas.  My curiosity was sparked, I did some research online and next thing you know, I booked a flight and a hotel room and in February of 2017 I flew to Port Aransas, Texas and saw 53 Whooping Cranes in the wild with my own two eyes.  Words cannot express the thoughts, feelings and humbleness I felt seeing those birds.  While I have done some of these trips solo, I am greeted by fellow Wisconsinites, birders and even George and his crew, therefore I am never really alone.  

    In April of 2017 I spoke out against the Sandhill Crane hunt at the Conservation Congress open forum meeting in my county.  While I wasn't the only one there who expressed serious concern, I was greeted by a male dominated group of farmers who, while intelligent, were not up to speed on Sandhill Cranes, let alone Whoopers.  I'd like to believe I made a small impact as I spoke to many folks after the meeting and encouraged them to not only visit ICF but really take the time to learn about these birds before jumping to assumptions.  It was a nerve-wracking yet empowering moment for me, but it was all for the cranes.  
    I find myself talking about cranes to others, teaching them what I've learned and encouraging them to see the great migration or enjoy some sunshine in February while you view Whooping Cranes from a boat with dolphins leaping beside you in the water.

    Being a part of the ICF family has given me insight, education and opportunities to travel, speak out and learn more than I could have ever imagined.  I am ever so grateful for the staff, volunteers world-wide and every member who takes the time to support these amazing birds.  
    ICF has given me more than I could have ever hoped for, I am a lucky lady to live in Wisconsin and to have become a "craniac."

    - Becky Von Haden

  • One of the summer seasons I worked doing tours we had a tornado outbreak & had 2 large groups of very young & very seasoned visitors all crammed in the basement of the library together. Fortunately there was an art exhibit as well that kept some busy, while the ICF guides kept most everyone else entertained for a very long time!

    - Lyn Lorenz

  • I remember the first time we visited the cranes in Baraboo, I was totally blown away by their beauty!! Some of them even danced and vocalized for us...Some even came up to the fences and seemed to enjoy seeing us as much as we enjoyed seeing them! What a fantastic experience!

    - Maura Hanson

  • Mother's Day means I'm in Baraboo visiting my daughter, an intern at ICF. Last year's trip was magical - I fell in love with all things "CRANE" - and Sabine knows she must share my heart with Slidell. This year's Mother's Day trip is booked. Much daughter and crane love is in my imminent future. My husband and I were honored to meet George Archibald in Colorado, where we live, last summer at the Steamboat Springs Crane Festival. We were in the presence of greatness. The world would be blessed if George could be cloned. Our deepest and sincerest appreciation go out to every single person who helps The International Crane Foundation. May it last many lifetimes.


  • I was a wildlife rehabilitator and worked with the Crane Foundation for years to rehab cranes that could not go to the center in Baraboo.
    Fabulous people to work with and such a great cause.
    So happy to have been a part of such a great team.

    - LaVinda Carlson

  • I used to drive Indian Navy Submarines, During vacations, I used to visit Keoladeo Ghana Bird Reserve, I met Ron Sauey there. I learnt so much from Ron about everything. Our friendsfip lasted 3 years 8until Ron's untimely death. I have very fond memoories of Ron; a very dear friend. RIP Ron.

    - Deepak Sikand

  • I remember the first time I heard George Archibald speak. It was at the old Chicago Academy of Sciences building on Clark Street, in the basement auditorium. I think it must have been in the late 1970s or early '80s. My ex and I were so inspired that we planned a trip, bringing along an interested neighbor, to either the original ICF site or a much smaller version of the current facilities. I remember pulling up in my old VW Beetle (which dropped its exhaust system on the trip home) and parking not far from a large circular pen. A building was close behind it. We had a great time, bought T-shirts and became supporters.

    Another long-ago (and somewhat fuzzy) memory was reading in International Wildlife magazine about George's work in a war-torn country, somewhere where Americans were not welcome, maybe in East Asia or the Middle East. I think it had something to do with moving crane eggs. He went in peace, advocating for birds that migrated between hostile countries, saying that conservation of birds that were important to multiple cultures could unite scientists and citizens to work together to protect them. Sorry that's so fuzzy. But I kept the concept that conservation of the symbolic cranes could broker some kind of peace and cooperation among stakeholders.

    I've had a number of enjoyable visits to ICF. But the one that stands out was a trip in 2000. I'd been in Madison for a workshop and realized that ICF was only a hour north. I hit the highway and arrived on what might have been opening weekend for the season. I remember crowds. I started my visit with the orientation in the packed auditorium, admiring the magnificent mural of cranes on the Platte River. When the lights went down and the recording of sandhills bugling came up, I was suddenly overcome with uncontrollable sobbing, which I had to struggle to keep silent. I was grateful for the darkness. The vocalizations reached a deeper place within me than I thought I had, and I can only call it an atavistic response. I am not aware of any of my ethnic origins including totem animals, but I had to think the cranes were speaking to me that day, and I recommitted myself to their conservation.

    I have many other great memories, including the most recent of George's keynote presentation for Chicago Audubon Society's Birding America. It was a riveting talk, and I learned so many new things about cranes.

    - Karen Furnweger

  • I was taking an Environmental Studies class from Prof. Cal DeWitt at the UW Madison in Fall, 1976. The TA was John Baldwin, who was also working at the International Crane Foundation. He took us on a field trip there. There were young Sandhill cranes (colts) walking around among us, when we arrived. They poked our buttons and shoe laces. One of them untied one of my shoes. It was exciting to see them so close up. George Archibald talked to us. He showed us Tex.  It was a real treat to see the cranes and to learn about the work going on to save them all. Years later, my husband and I brought our daughters to see the cranes.

    - Genie Ogden

  • IN 2012 I contacted ICF for information that might be of help in an effort to oppose a Sandhill Crane hunting proposal that had been put forth in Northwest Colorado.  The ICF staff was extremely responsive!  Next thing I knew, I received an email from ICF co-founder, George Archibald, offering to come to Steamboat Springs to talk about cranes. As a result of that offer, the Yampa Valley Crane Festival (now in it's 7th year) took flight.  Since 2012 I have travelled with ICF to Nebraska, South Africa, Botswana, Mongolia and Bhutan. I have witnessed, first hand, the amazing conservation work that ICF does with cranes and their ecosystems while also promoting livelihoods for local populations. I have become a devoted "craniac", co-founding the Colorado Crane Conservation Coalition and joining the ICF board in 2014. It's wonderful to celebrate ICF's 45th anniversary and to be part of an organization that has developed into one of the most respected and effective conservation organizations on earth.

    - Nancy Merrill

  • I remember two years ago in September we had driven from southwest Virginia where we live to Wisconsin to find the sanctuary. To find is the operative set of words. We had directions from a nice young lady, but we never found the crane sanctuary much to my dismay as I wanted to see the cranes. I was thrilled, however, to see two pairs flying as we travelled across to the Upper Peninsula and down into the Michigan mitten to my dear cousin's memorial service where I sang a lovely song, "Sweet, Sweet Spirit." One day I hope we get back out west and find the crane sanctuary. Blessings, Jac

    - Jacqueline Hull

  • We well remember visiting the crane center quite by fortuitous accident two summers ago. What a thrill to see all 16 crane species in one place and learn of the center’s efforts to work for the survival of these majestic birds. Congratulations to the center for your efforts and here’s to the next 45 years. Ann & Dobie Jenkins

    - Ann & Dobie Jenkins

  • Our first trip to ICF was Thanksgiving day of 1979. We had finished eating, and Gerald Scott, Ron's high school biology teacher, offered to take us to see The cranes.  We went to the old Sauey farm to see cranes for the first time, carrying our now 39 year old son, and meet Tex.  Gerald offered to show the mating dance. He opened and entered the chicken wire covered pen.  Tex was not excited about this intruder and began pecking at his hands. He hollered back at him and began running, jumping and waving his hands. At that point instinct took over, and Tex began to call and dance with Gerald.  I'll never forget the image of a 70 ish man, and a crane that towered over him, dancing together on a windy, cold, November day in Wisconsin.

    - Dave Hatz

  • The Crane Foundation has been a special place for me for the last 38 years.  I went to visit my brothers in Wisconsin from South Carolina.  My oldest brother, Bill took my young family to see the cranes in about 1980.  I was fascinated with the work you were doing and each year that I visited my brothers, we returned to see the cranes.  My boys were entranced by those large, beautiful birds.  There was a gap of about 30 years when I didn't visit Wisconsin because two of my brothers had moved away and the other had passed away.  My daughter started a residency in Madison 2 1/2 years ago and my visits to Wisconsin and the cranes started up again.  Whenever I go, it brings back memories of seeing them for the first time with Bill.  Bill is gone now but the memories remain.  I look forward to seeing the cranes again this summer.

    - Josephine O'Ryan

  • Seeing Siberian Cranes in the wild for the first time! In February 2004, we were at Poyang Lake in southwestern China conducting an environmental education camp for local students with our partners Beijing Brooks Education Center. We drove to a nearby area to see the cranes – the cranes were often very far away, but we were lucky to see a family group circle over our heads, calling to each other. Siberians have always been my favorite crane, and to see them in the wild – a critically endangered species – was breathtaking.

    - Sara