Editorial: Lasting impact
Quiet, smiling, unassuming and determined, Mary Pulley joined the rather new Audubon Bird Count to Mathews 40 years ago, became its compiler, and established it as an important and lasting feature in the county’s annual calendar of events.
The count has recorded some good news, such as increasing numbers of bluebirds, and some bad news too, decreasing numbers of other species. Mary Pulley’s work has created nearly a half-century’s worth of solid data for those who track wildlife populations. We feel sure she was deeply pleased by the comeback of the bald eagles, the ospreys and the bluebirds, which were rarities when she started her work.
When the time arrived for the year-end bird count, she got to work. She sent out the notices. She gathered the bird counters. She served hot soup at the end of a long icy Sunday, thawing out the fingers and feet of her fellow census takers. When the years caught up with her, she counted birds out the back window, and still made hot soup for those who spent the day in the cold. When the numbers came in, she compiled them, sent them to the newspaper, and filed them with the National Audubon Society.
Mary Pulley, who died Monday at age 93 after staying active right to the end, finally retired as compiler a few years ago, but her work will live on in two ways. The most obvious will be the continuing bird count. And through the Mathews Community Foundation, the Mary Watt Pulley Wildlife Preservation Fund, established in her honor in 2007, will promote the preservation of wildlife habitats.
She was active in other venues as well, especially Friends of Mathews Memorial Library. She came to Mathews County at mid-life and made it her own hometown. She went about her work without any fuss or desire for public acclaim. The county will miss the beneficent influence of its adopted daughter, who earned the gratitude not only of the birds she loved so dearly, but also of the community which is sorry to say goodbye.