Remembering Craig: A Happy Sad Day

from Wildlife Promise

Last Monday we dedicated the pond and habitat at the National Wildlife Federation’s Virginia headquarters to our beloved and former Chief Naturalist, Craig Tufts, who lost his battle with brain cancer just over a year ago.

As we shared stories from Craig’s life, his passion for NWF’s Backyard Wildlife Habitat Program, his involvement in our Schoolyard Habitat program and his longstanding dedication towards NWF Habitat volunteers, we laughed together and shed a few tears.

Jaime, Jean (Craig's wife), Ben and Dan (Craig's sons)

What we all remembered and miss  is how you felt when you were with him.  His legacy is not the titles he held – although after 33 years at National Wildlife Federation he had amassed quite a lot; nor the projects he worked on even though there were many; or even the hours he logged, and they were plenty.

Instead, every story about Craig also included Craig and an experience the storyteller had with him. Craig made each of one us, and the people who left over 20,000 comments on his Caring Bridge site feel special.  Regardless of  the question you asked about a specific plant or bird or butterfly species, he never made you feel stupid.  This fact fueled a few laughs we all had at the stupidity of some of the questions we had asked of him over the years.

In addition to his gift of knowledge about the natural world he had another gift.  It is not just what Craig knew that attracted so many people to him.  It’s how he went about doing what he did, and that was spreading his passion for the natural world and trying to connect as many as people as possible to it.  Craig  built relationships with the people he met along the way.  No matter the activity.

He had the ability to just be.  To just be in the moment, whether it was taking a group on a nature hike, a bird walk, a gardening workshop, training volunteers  or informally observing wildlife wherever his travels took him.  Craig had the ability to really live in the moment.

Nike is known for its slogan: Just do it!  I think Craig’s would be:  Just be, and preferably outside.

What would your personal slogan be?