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John R. 'Jack' Lorenz, 1939 – 2009

Memorial contributions may be made to the Friends of the North Fork of the Shenandoah River, P.O. Box 746, Woodstock, VA 22664.

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By Paul Hansen

John R. “Jack” Lorenz, one of America’s greatest conservationists, died March 2, 2009. Born March 14, 1939, in St. Louis, he graduated from the University of Tulsa in 1961 with a B.S. degree in journalism. He was executive director of the Izaak Walton League of America from 1974 to 1992.

At the Izaak Walton League, Jack established the Outdoor Ethics program, initiated the award-winning Save Our Streams citizen action project, helped found the Jackson Hole Land Trust, and worked to protect millions of acres of habitat critical to wildlife. He was co-founder of the business community’s Wildlife Habitat Council and the environmental community’s Green Group, chairman of the Washington Conservation Roundtable and served as president of the American League of Anglers and Boaters.

During his career, Jack won many of America’s most esteemed conservation awards: the OWAA’s Jade of Chiefs, the Chevron Times/Mirror Conservation Award, the Award of Honor from the Natural Resources Council of America and the Izaak Walton League Hall of Fame and 54 Founders awards.

Jack knew, and was liked by, almost everyone in conservation – hunters, anglers, conservation-minded business people and environmentalists. “To know Jack was to love him,” said Maitland Sharpe, Jack’s friend and associate at the League for 20 years. “He treated people well, and dealt heroically and gracefully with adversity.”

Jack was equally at home at a small rural League chapter house or at lunch in the White House. He was proud to represent “the streak of blaze orange in the green movement, the greenest hunters, the most well-armed environmentalists.” He cherished history so much that it always improved with each telling. An avid and enthusiastic fisherman, recently he achieved a lifelong ambition of casting a line in all 50 states.

He was a great teacher and mentor to a generation of conservationists. He taught us all that durable change depended on a broad range of support – that we could not protect America’s outdoors without working together. His greatest source of his considerable talent may have been his humility. He used the wisdom of those around him with extraordinary skill, generously giving the credit to others. Among those of us who worked for him, he was known for putting his staff experts forward at high profile events, when as executive director he could have stepped into the limelight himself.

Jack’s response to the long days, travel and stress of running a very diverse and mission-driven organization of independent-minded members was classic: “The gratitude of our children will be thanks enough for our work.” ◊

Paul Hansen was a staff member of the Izaak Walton League of America, 1982-2007, and has been an OWAA member since 1982.

Remembering Jack Lorenz

By Rich Patterson

“Get in the car, Patterson,” said a man sitting in a rental car with a temporary Izaak Walton League banner on the door. I was ready to return to the hotel from Shooting Day, and Jack Lorenz said he was heading that way.

A few minutes later we were roaring down the Maine Turnpike. Jack told me both his parents had died at an early age from heart disease. He peeled back his shirt to reveal sensors glued to his chest with wires leading to a black box. A few inches away the speedometer hovered at 90. “I could go any minute,” he said.

“Could you slow down a bit, Jack?” I stammered.

Jack’s health problems were real. He suffered many strokes that forced him to retire early. One day I had a few spare minutes before a meeting. I called Jack from my Iowa office to say “hi” but was greeted with a raspy voice. “Rich, get me an ambulance. I’m on the floor and need help right now.”

“Can you hang up and call 9-1-1, Jack?” I responded.

“I can’t. Get an ambulance,” he replied.

I don’t know how I got connected with the Alexandria rescue squad. I was in Iowa, Jack in Virginia. Within seconds I was reading Jack’s address from my OWAA Directory to a dispatcher. They assured me they were on the way. They were, and Jack came through that episode fine.

A couple of years later Jack, David Hart and I were at the OWAA conference in Greensboro, N.C., and decided to slip out for some fishing. When we got to the pond that Bodie McDowell had suggested, there was a woman sitting on the porch of a somewhat rough-looking house. Jack turned to me and said, “Patterson, keep your damn Yankee mouth shut and let us Southern boys do the talking.” I sat in the car while they negotiated. After a few minutes I heard the woman say, “Why I think the world of Bodie McDowell. You boys go ahead and fish.” ◊

Rich Patterson of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, is OWAA’s immediate past president.

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One Response to John R. 'Jack' Lorenz, 1939 – 2009

  1. April 2, 2009 at 1:08 pm #

    Fishing with Jack

    There is no greater fishing experience than with Jack. With his 10 rods, all with a different lure, Jack dazzled us all with humor and the importance of conservation.

    But underneath the humor was a passion. A passion that not even ill health could control. I remember calling Jack one day to see if he wanted to do a “biological survey” on a local Virginia pond that we frequently visited. Too my surprise his speech was slurring as he explained he was recovering from a stroke and that he was under tough instructions to stay at home. Feeling awful, I told Jack to get well and the fish will just have to count their blessings today.

    To my utter surprise, about 30 minutes later I received a call from Jack. He said, “I am on my way, see you in 30 minutes.” In disbelief, I started to say, “But I thought” to which Jack interjected and said, “I snuck out the house and left a note for Margaret saying “If its the last thing I do, I am going fishing.”

    Jack, we miss you! Your legacy is imprinted on all of us who knew you and to everyone who cherishes clean water.

    Chandler Van Voorhis

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