In July, we of the Locust Fork Watershed lost two great Alabama naturalists. Dave Hollaway passed away on July 19, and Marty Schulman on July 20. Both of these gifted teachers inspired kids for years at Friends of the Locust Fork River’s annual Kids’ Day on the River environmental education event.
Dave Hollaway, aka Big Dave, was a self-taught naturalist extraordinaire. Growing up in St Clair County, he worked at Ruffner Mountain Nature Center, Chattanooga Nature Center, and the Red Wolf Recovery Program, then for 16 years as senior naturalist at Camp McDowell in Nauvoo.
Dave loved creatures of all kinds, but perhaps especially snakes and hawks. Dave’s enthusiasm and teaching style were infectious. Literally thousands of children, parents, and many young naturalists-to-be came to appreciate the value of protecting these critters – really all creatures.
And Dave had another love. Because he was dyslexic, he had a big place in his heart for kids with special needs. He made a point of letting the children know, both through his own experiences and some of the animals he worked with, that a person could overcome challenges in life. He inspired these children like all others.
Another interest of Dave’s was Native American peoples, their way of life, and their relationship with the animal world. He taught with Native American crafts, some of which he made himself. His spirit animal, the Pileated Woodpecker, is, like Dave, special – and not a creature anyone could ignore.
The Friends of the Locust Fork River can never appreciate Dave adequately for what he brought to our Kids’ Day on the River in Blount County. He’d drive the long way from Nauvoo to the Locust Fork River with a few of his snakes, birds, and exhibits for his “Snakes! Alive!” presentation. He’d hold groups of children and parents spellbound with slithering snakes, demonstrations, and stories. By the end of each session, he’d usually have one person (often a mom who had said, “not me!”) holding a snake and grinning big. Imagine how many snakes in our gardens are now valued instead of assaulted because of Dave’s influence. He presented at Kids’ Day on the River for at least 10 years. Dave was 54 at his death.
Marty Schulman devoted much of his life to protecting the fish and reptiles of Alabama. His words: “Besides us humans, there’s a broad spectrum of aquatic and terrestrial life that shares our clean water needs. There’s a common requirement for clean water that doesn’t put human interests above the other critters that we live with.” Marty worked for years at Ruffner Mountain Nature Center. Later he was a volunteer for Cahaba River Society and led trips to view the Cahaba Lilies.
Marty was a water monitor for Alabama Water Watch. He earned many awards for his years of water testing. AWW honored Marty with the newest AWW award, the Biodiversity Guardian Award, now to be known as the Schulman Biodiversity Guardian Award.
Marty also volunteered at Kids’ Day on the River in the early years. He, too, brought snakes and lizards and inspired children and their families to value what these creatures bring to our environment.
People like Dave Hollaway and Marty Schulman have inspired the next generations of naturalists. Some of our children will choose to be naturalists in their adult life, and/or have a greater appreciation for the whole of our environment and why we protect it. Everybody in our watershed will feel the loss.