Frontera Audubon honors late conservationist during fundraising event

Mary Jo Tansel, Maurie Haas, and Wayne Schooley

The lawn was aglow and the crowd enjoyed fine wine, soothing jazz sounds and good conversation during Frontera Audubon’s fundraising event Autumn on the Lawn, held on November 16th.

Memories were also shared, along with considerable support and goodwill for the organization.

One guest in particular, Mrs. Mary Jo Tansel, who attended with her husband Wayne Schooley, presented Frontera Audubon with a generous donation to honor the memory of her late son, Michael Cattaruzza.

“He loved wildlife and volunteered a huge amount of his time to the [Frontera] Audubon,” Mrs. Tansel said.

Cattaruzza, who died in 1995, was Frontera Audubon’s conservation director and was part of the early efforts to increase federal funding for the expansion of the Wildlife Corridor.

MIKE CATTARUZZA

Frontera Audubon’s Vice President, Maurie Haas, remembers traveling to Washington, D.C. back in 1993 with Cattaruzza to educate members of Congress on conservation issues and the funding of a federal refuge in the Lower Rio Grande Valley.

“I remember the long days marching the halls of the House and Senate office buildings to keep our 40-plus appointments,” Haas said. “We both had our unique points of view—we made a great team.”

Haas remembers she and Cattaruzza were introduced by Congressman Kika de la Garza to a House Subcommittee on Natural Resources.

“It was the highlight of our week, and we were the first private conservation group in the nation to testify before Congress to get funding for a federal refuge,” she said.

Cattaruzza considered himself to be an advocate rather than an activist.

Mary Lou Campbell and Maurie Haas speak about Michael Cattaruzza during Autumn on the Lawn.

In the September 1993 issue of Frontera Audubon’s newsletter, “The Altamira,” Cattaruzza wrote: “The advocate speaks for that which cannot speak for itself. The advocate speaks with an authority that arises from a sense of ownership; in this case, of the natural heritage common to all of us in the Valley. Discovery of one’s authority to speak lends strength to the advocate.

“As long as we have a voice, we can each speak, in whatever tone the situation requires on behalf of our stake in the natural world that supports our own,” he said.

Haas said Cattaruzza was a true advocate for land conservation and natural history.

“He was straightforward and rational, and yet had a big heart and wonderful soul, and he is still greatly missed,” she said. “We hope to continue to honor his memory at Frontera Audubon Society.”

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