Published on April 25, 2023
Audubon Remembers Hugh Willoughby
By Robert Bushnell
Hugh Willoughby served the Audubon Society as a volunteer in many capacities. He was a former Board member, property committee member, and an enthusiastic Chairman of the Field Trip Committee in the 1970s and 1980s. He was a long-time leader of Block Island Weekends and of numerous and varied natural history walks. He was known for his expertise in birds, mammals, dragonflies, wildflowers, and geology (and a long list of other fields of study). He was also known for still remembering the names of most, if not all the participants on his many walks.
Hugh was a life-long learner with an incredible memory for details. This, combined with his love of observation and field identification, made him a master teacher, and teaching others about the natural world was Hugh’s passion.
No remembrance of Hugh would be complete without mentioning his notoriously dry wit. He was a master of the pun, the one-liner, and the double entendre. His humor was often self-deprecating, and he saw no reason why a good joke or story could not be told multiple times! Hugh’s ability to get a group laughing, even at himself, was an asset to his gift for teaching.
In 2003, Hugh was honored by the Rhode Island Natural History Survey with their Distinguished Naturalist Award. The award was given in recognition of Hugh’s life-long influence on so many others. Through his teaching, Hugh inspired a love of the natural world, he encouraged countless students to pursue careers in the natural sciences, and he educated so countless others on the importance of caring for and maintaining a healthy environment.
Hugh Willoughby passed away on April 10, 2023, at age 91. His greatest legacy is the many of us he taught and influenced, a legacy we will continue to pass on to others. For this, we are all indebted to Hugh.
Robert Bushnell is the former Audubon Board President.