Montana Audubon recently learned of the passing of Sam Sperry. Sam was first and foremost involved with the Helena Audubon Chapter, Last Chance Audubon (LCAS). He joined LCAS in February 1974 and became involved in a hurry. He was elected secretary in May of that year, then president in 1975 and again in 1979. He worked hard to help the nascent chapter develop, strengthening its bylaws and creating a formal budget process.
Sam also played an important role with Montana Audubon: our organization held its first meeting at Sam’s home in Helena in September 1976—and Sam was elected our first president. Montana Audubon was formed to “further the Audubon cause in Montana,” and “to speak with a single message and to develop a legislative presence.” When Montana Audubon was formed, there were only three chapters present at the meeting: Helena, Bozeman, and Yellowstone Valley (Billings); the Missoula and Flathead chapters were not at the first meeting.
In a May 1976 article, Sam described himself as a “militant and emotional environmentalist.” He wrote: “There is no doubt in my mind that I am the least likely person in town to have been president of an Audubon chapter… I am not a birder, but I am a devoted member of the Audubon Society. This year has convinced me that the goals, objectives and methods of the National Audubon Society offer some hope for future generations of life.” He spoke of his vision for LCAS: “I have not tried to make Audubon entertaining. I contend that unless the LCAS devotes a major share of its effort to conservation, land use planning, habitat protection and other non-entertaining activities, our society as we know it is going to wither and die.”
In another article he wrote: “This beleaguered earth cannot stand much more of our objectivity. If, in order to permit all species on this planet to live, we humans must accept a different (and perhaps lower) standard of living, then so be it! If we cannot live as we are trying to do and still allow other living things to exist, then we have a moral obligation to abandon our present path.” Militant and emotional, to be sure. Thank you, Sam. After leaving the board, the Sperry family continued to be part of the LCAS family. Sam and his wife, Joyce Beckes, created the chapter’s monthly newsletter from 1985 to 1998, and then Joyce continued serving as editor until 2013. That’s a lot of newsletters! Sam and Joyce recently moved to New Mexico, and Sam passed away on July 16 in Albuquerque.
NOTE: Sue Jackson wrote this article, which originally appeared in the Last Chance Audubon newsletter in December 2017. Janet Ellis added some specifics about Sam’s role with Montana Audubon.
The photo above: Sam Sperry receives recognition from Janice Miller, 1991. Photo by Naomi Smith.