By Cara Lewis, Senior Communications Manager
Friends and colleagues of Ross Andrews, who died in October 2013, met at Swift Creek Bluffs Nature Preserve on a crisp Fall evening to celebrate his life. Organized by long-time member and TLC volunteer, Bob Sowa, the gathering coincided with the opening of the new boardwalk bridge on the Beech Bluffs Loop trail.
Sowa and guests shared their memories and stories about Andrews whose environmental work in the Triangle was all-encompassing. He could often be found on TLC properties, especially Swift Creek Bluffs where he was a Site Steward and bringing youth and adults closer to our natural world.
Amin Davis met Ross during a tree identification class at Lake Johnson in Raleigh.
“I remember how he asked so many questions,” said Davis. “He and I shared a love for the natural world and became great friends. Ross was a groomsman at my wedding and we both served as site stewards for TLC.”
Randy and Iris Senzig vividly recall the passion Andrews had to get kids outside and help them develop a special and spiritual connection to the land and water around them.
“We were amazed by his dedication to create outdoor learning environments,” said Randy Senzig. “Ross worked with several school systems, state parks, and ultimately Triangle Land Conservancy to create programs to get kids outside. Temple Flat Rock and Swift Creek Bluffs were favorites for the kids, many of whom have never hiked or spent much time in nature.”
“Ross was absolutely great with kids and adults,” said Iris Senzig. “He made you feel like you were his best friend and his love and passion for the outdoors was contagious.” The Senzigs also remember how Andrews loved peach tea and M&Ms!
Frank McKay and Andrews worked with Partners for Environmental Justice to engage students in community service-learning projects in the Walnut Creek Wetlands where Andrews was later known for navigating his canoe deep into the creek to plan tree saplings.
After many stories and laughter were shared, Bob Sowa moved the group by singing the poem “wild peace” that is displayed on a plague alongside the boardwalk bridge on the Beech Bluffs Loop trail.
Ross began writing poetry under the great oaks and poplars of the UNC campus, and in 2008 he published a book of poems called “Wild Peace.” Regular visitors to Swift Creek Bluffs preserve are familiar with the beautiful plaque displaying displaying the poem dedicated to Ross’s mother, Marjorie Andrews.
Known as an environmental scientist, educator and poet, Ross was the Executive Director of the Center for Human-Earth Restoration, a non-profit he co-founded based in part on a belief that if people expand their connection to the Earth, they will find deeper joy in time outdoors and, in turn, will protect the Earth and live with I wisely.