We are deeply saddened to share the devastating news of the passing of one of our most dedicated volunteers, Emil Kotik, who lost his life in a traffic accident earlier this year.
Emil grew up in California in the 1960s and served as an Army Ranger during the Vietnam War. He worked a variety of jobs after his military service, including plant nursery handyman and machinist. He loved exploring the desert when he lived out west and once hiked to the bottom of the Grand Canyon and back in one day!
Emil's love of nature continued with his move to Florida. He volunteered with our chapter for many years at our Crosby Sanctuary conservation property in Orange Park, FL, and contributed an incredible amount of time and effort on projects to enhance the preserve. It would be impossible to list them all, but here are just a few of the many projects that he completed for us at Crosby:
~ Donated his own handcrafted nesting boxes that have been installed at various spots around the sanctuary;
~ Singlehandedly constructed a beautiful 12-foot long wooden bridge (right) across the ravine on the Swamp Trail, donating all of the materials and labor;
~ Built and installed lovely trail markers at trail entrances and junctions at the sanctuary, again donating all of the materials and labor;
~ Implemented many improvements to the 2.5 miles of trails at the sanctuary, and singlehandedly blazed an entire trail around the soil mound hilltop;
~ Using materials he found discarded around the sanctuary, built a wire trellis which now hosts some beautiful native coral honeysuckle that is a favorite of hummingbirds;
~ And much, much more.
He also participated in our monthly workdays, helping with whatever needed to be done – mowing, weeding, trash pickup, hedge trimming, clearing hornet’s nests, sawing up fallen trees and other trail maintenance – the list goes on and on. He was not one to hem and haw about things that needed to be done – he would just look around, see what needed to be done and do it, without any fanfare.
Although we frequently tried to express our appreciation to him for everything he did for us, his reaction to our accolades was simply that he liked to work hard, and just wanted to help out. Emil was a deeply private man who spent most of his time doing things for others. Besides his love of nature, he loved classical music and attended many concerts all over town. He was also a talented photographer and shared his beautiful nature photographs not only with our chapter but also with the senior community where he lived. An avid bicyclist and kayaker, he spent time enjoying the outdoors whenever possible.
His contributions to enhancing our Crosby Sanctuary nature preserve over the years cannot be overstated, and we are deeply grateful for his incredible dedication to our chapter. He was also a dear friend to many of us, and we will miss his sharp wit and matter of fact approach to life. We are heartbroken at this tragic loss.
~ Carolyn Antman, Conservation Director
~ Carol Bailey-White, President
~ Pete Johnson, Crosby Sanctuary Director