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Remembering Don MacGillis

Posted Friday, October 16, 2020

Like so many in the Berkshires and beyond, we are grieving the passing of Don MacGillis, who died in a hiking accident on Mount Katahdin in Maine last week.  He was a highly respected journalist with the Berkshire Eagle and the Boston Globe, and was also a beloved part of BNRC for many decades, most recently as a member of the Board of Directors.  

His contributions were many and legendary. Tad Ames, BNRC’s president from 2002-2017, shared that Don hired him to work at the Eagle and took him on his first Berkshires snowshoe trek, to the top of Perry’s Peak, long before it was conserved land. “We were probably trespassing,” Tad remembered, “part of a long lineage of noble trespassers.”   

In the last few years, Don wrote all the text for BNRC’s kiosks in graceful, concise prose that doesn’t call attention to itself. Fellow board member Kim Seward was on the kiosk committee and saw a number of completed kiosks for the first time this summer. "I wrote him recently to say how wonderful the kiosks are, and to thank him for the crisp, engaging writing. In typical humble fashion, he thanked me and said 'I'm glad I was able to contribute.'” 

Karen Ross, another BNRC board member and longtime close friends of Don’s, writes that “It is a terrible loss for BNRC of a stellar mind, a loyal and dedicated supporter, and a kind and understanding voice. Don applied his best skills—and a big chunk of time—in planning for the High Road and then ground-proofing potential routes, in volunteering for trail work, and in keeping us all on our toes. I will keep forever sharp memories of his bright smile, lively stories, and that long stride in the woods.”

Don was a great ambassador for BNRC — he brought friends to hike our trails countless times — a tireless volunteer, and a forceful advocate for protecting nature. In 2005 The Wilderness Society chose him to receive The Aldo Leopold Award to recognize that he was “a talented writer who knows how to marshal the facts in defense of America’s wilderness and wildlife.”

He was also a kind, soft-spoken, thoughtful friend. He made the Berkshires better. We will miss him. 

Our deepest condolences to his wife Ingrid, and children Alec and Lucy. We look forward to working with them to determine the most appropriate way to memorialize him on a BNRC trail or reserve.  

As George Wislocki, BNRC’s founder, put it, Don was the heart of BNRC.