Remembering Jim Harris - International Crane Foundation

International Crane Foundation


Remembering Jim Harris

  • For everyone who knew Jim, we will always remember his laugh. It crossed cultural and language barriers and reminded us of our shared humanity – and that we could laugh at life too!

    - Sara Gavney Moore

  • Jim was such a gentle man, a true gentleman and most considerate host during my visit to Baraboo, and attendance at the ICF Board meeting in Milwaukee, in 2016.  His love of his own family, his ICF family and the cranes shone through in every word and action.  May his legacy inspire us all to continue the important work of conserving cranes, biodiversity and the environment in general.

    Mandy Poole
    Chief Operations Officer
    The Endangered Wildlife Trust
    South Africa

    - Mandy Poole

  • Jim is my  first host at ICF when I was an Aviculture Intern during the fall of 1987. He was a persona behind to initiate Sarus Crane Conservation in Nepal. Jim is my mentor, a friend and a great birding partner. Jim Harris with support from George Archibald and Rich Beilfuss  established Lumbini Crane Sanctuary in the birthplace of Lord Buddha by leasing a plot land from Lumbini Development Trust. In 1994. Nepali Crane conservationists shall miss his warm personality and professional crane conservation advice. Great knowing you Jim.

    - Rajendra Suwal

  • Jim Harris and I grew up in Pelham, Massachusetts. He was a fellow who was both at an extraordinary level of intelligence and the most caring and friendly person that I ever knew. I know his enormous efforts dedicated to the well being of cranes throughout the world will be an incredible legacy.

    - Edwin Knihnicki

  • I only worked in the Education Dept. for a couple seasons, but every time tall Jim passed by short Lyn he always stopped & asked what happy task I was engaged in that day. I always appreciated his genuine interest.

    - Lyn Lorenz

  • I only worked in the Education Dept. for a couple seasons, but every time tall Jim passed by short Lyn he always stopped & asked what happy task I was engaged in that day. I always appreciated his genuine interest.

    - Lyn Lorenz

  • How could any of us forget Jim's infectious laugh? He was a kind and wonderful human. Though Jim and I shared quite a few memories together during my time as an intern at ICF, what I remember most about him was how proud he was of his son's poetry. He shared one of Steve's poems with me in every email he sent to me along with an accompanying story. I could talk to Jim about anything and I deeply appreciate the time I had with him.

    - Danielle Bunch

  • I first met Jim while working for the Environmental Resources Unit of Extension in the early 1980s. I came to know him again at the end of the 1980s when I volunteered to help design and build the Ron Sauey Memorial Library for Bird Conservation. He was my strongest ally in my dream to building a professional technical research information center that could serve crane researchers, students and crane lovers all over the world. He understood that a library could mean so much more than a room with books in it. I believe the library and the talented librarians that have worked to build the research library have succeeded in this dream.

    I also will miss the beautiful way Jim could tell a story. His word pictures and sensitive prose really helped to capture the magic of cranes.

    - Barbara J Arnold

  • There is so much more bloodroot this year than I have ever seen before! Every year we walked at Baxter's Hollow to find it. This year I didn't go because you weren't there to go with me. Maybe next year....
  • Hello,

    I worked at ICF for 17 years. I often took Jim to the Dane County Airport for his flights to China.  He always had interesting stories to share weeks later upon me picking him up at the airport.

    He was a kind and gentle soul and he made ICF a pleasure to work for.

    Michael G. Schwerman

    - Michael Schwerman

  • I was honored to work with Jim during my internship with the Education Department in the summer of 1984. Words are inadequate to express the profound effect that summer, and our relationship, had on the rest of my life. I was on the cusp of adulthood, trying to find my way in the world. Jim was kind enough to accept me as I was and thoughtful enough treat me like the person I was still struggling to become. He modeled how to be that person: knowledgeable about a little bit of everything, engaged with the community and the world, good work ethic but also a good play ethic. I remember his laugh lightening the serious moments, learning that broccoli could be a pizza topping, discovering the squeakiness of cheese curds, and mostly his gentle, wise guidance.

    - Diana Griffiths Osborn

  • I knew Jim Harris since I was an undergraduate in the Northeast forestry university, China. He was a gentle and thoughtful man, encouraging and supporting mentor, persistent and dedicated conservationist. The love of natural and birds so does the love to his family, was deeply rooted in his blood. Even the argument between him and Liying about “which crane is the most beautiful one” was full of joy and happiness. I’m deeply appreciating to knew him, treasuring everything I’ve learned from him and acknowledging all the efforts he has made for Chinese Cranes and wetland as a Chinese.

    - Yachang Cheng

  • Jim for his vital contributions to conservation, his quiet, modest, sincere presence, and his effective ability to bridge cultural, international and personal challenges.  

    We all valued Jim's opinions and ability to translate scientific information into language that we could understand and appreciate.  

    Jim wrote very well.  His book on his early expedition to study gyrfalcons in Greenland, ICF's final Siberian crane report, and uncountable articles and reports over the years, as well as his recognition of his son Steven's poetic abilities, all evidence Jim's special insights and skills.  

    Yes, Jim deeply touched our lives.  Our memories of him will last as long as we do.

    - john Day

  • I worked for two seasons at ICF in the gift shop during the time that Jim was ICF's Director (besides my husband and I being long time members of ICF).  Most evenings I was responsible for closing out the cash register in the gift shop and taking the money to the safe in the staff building.  Jim was always still working at his desk when I came to put the money away (most staff had left for the day).  He often would stop what he was doing and come and visit with me for a bit as I was securing the days money in the safe.  I always thought it was so nice of him to take some time to come and see how my day went and visit with me for a bit before I headed for home.  I liked and admired Jim so much.

    - Cathy Ley

  • While working at the International Crane Foundation I assisted Jim on a birdwatching trip to Florida.  Wherever we went, Jim, another friend and I chose to camp while the rest of the group stayed in a motel.  That left the 3 of us free to birdwatch in more "off the trail"  and "after hours" ways in the evenings and early mornings without the motel contingent.  One night we went snooping around for birds in one of the hammocks (stands of hardwood trees) of Corkscrew Swamp with no other humans around.  Jim said he had heard you can easily call in Barred Owls there by imitating their call.  He gave it a try and although his imitation sounded very authentic, no Barred Owls revealed themselves.  
     The very next day around mid-day,  we were in that same hammock birdwatching with the rest of our group.  There were many other visitors as well, including one woman who had been talking loudly throughout.  At one point we heard her say, "They say you can call in Barred Owls here by imitating their call."  With that, she opened her mouth very wide and called out a very poor version of the owl's call.  Jim and I snickered, expecting nothing to happen.  Within seconds, a lovely Barred Owl flew in right above her, in plain view for all of us.  We had a great laugh over that event for a  long time afterwards.  Jim was always fun to be with in the field and I loved the perspectives and respect he had for all of nature.  And his laugh.  A brilliant man and cherished friend.

    - Lisa Hartman

  • Through the years, every time I was with Jim, I learned something.  Often, it would be about cranes, but just as often, it would be about life and our connection to the natural world.  He was a man of great grace.  As we grew older, we discovered our mutual interest in poetry and we would share favorite lines back and forth.  We both were touched by the Chinese poet  Su T'ung Po from the Sung Dynasty (960-1269 A.D.)  When another poet we admired, W.S. Merwin, wrote about Po, it deepened our kinship.  I post the poem here in memory of Jim:

    A Letter to Su T'ung Po

    Almost a thousand years later
    I am asking the same questions
    you did the ones you kept finding
    yourself returning to as though
    nothing had changed except the tone
    of their echo growing deeper
    and what you knew of the coming
    of age before you had grown old
    I do not know any more now
    than you did then about what you
    were asking as I sit at night
    above the hushed valley thinking
    of you on your river that one
    bright sheet of moonlight in the dream
    of the water birds and I hear
    the silence after your questions
    how old are the questions tonight

    --W.S. Merwin

    Jim did so much for the cranes, for the natural world, and for all of us.

    - Mark Lefebvre

  • I first met Jim on a visit to Baraboo in May 1986 to prepare for the 1987 International Crane Workshop in Qiqihar, Heilongjiang Province, China. I would be assisting at the workshop and then stay on as an education volunteer at the nearby Zhalong Crane Refuge. Jim immediately made me feel comfortable and welcome and helped me prepare education program materials for my time at Zhalong. When we visited the Zhalong Refuge to meet the staff and local residents, I witnessed his wonderful combination of warmth, diplomacy and thoughtful concentration on the conservation issues involved in protecting that wonderful home of the cranes, balancing with the interests of the local farming communities.  Like so many others, I will always remember his generous spirit, wonderful smile, great laugh and the twinkle in his eyes. Jim made the world a better place for the cranes and for us.

    Ted Gilman

    - Ted Gilman

  • I met Jim through my husband,  John Moulton, many years ago.  John had met Jim at Darmouth, where he taught.  Jim was one of his students.  They were best friends.  I remember Jim as so playful, so dedicated to cranes, so hard-working, so all-encompassing in his vision.  

    My heart goes out to Su Lying, Stephen and Alissa.  What a light that has gone out.  Inga Berg

    - Inga Berg