Along the Way: Kent Rotary to the rescue of endangered Monarch Butterflies

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When I was 9 years old and vacationing at the home of my maternal grandmother in the Catskills, she showed me a case of mounted butterflies she had created when she studied general science at Cornell University preparing to teach elementary school children.

Grandma was responding to my childhood awe at the beauty of the Monarch butterflies fluttering around her backyard. She said I should net one and we would humanely kill it, mount it, and learn how scientists study butterflies.

All that work did not appeal to me. I also thought Monarchs were so beautiful I could not bear to kill one.

That memory flashed before me months ago when Anita Herington telephoned to say she had read a story in The Rotarian, the Rotary International magazine, that reported the Monarchs are an endangered species.

“We need to get Rotary to support the creation of a Monarch butterfly Milkweed habitat in Portage County,” Anita said. I quickly agreed.

Anita did the leg work. Having consulted with our Portage County Park District, she learned what it would cost to buy Milkweeds, critically important food sources for the Monarchs as they grow from egg to caterpillar, pupa, and finally the gorgeous colored butterflies that emerge from a molt, their wings stretching out in brilliant yellows and browns surrounded by polka-dotted bordering.

Monarchs, I learned, annually migrate thousands of miles from northern United States and Canada to the Oyamel fir tree forests in the mountains west of Mexico City. Their congregation creates one of North America’s great nature spectacles. Doug Fuller, the retired architect, and his wife, Karen, have visited the site and speak enthusiastically of it.

Excessive timbering, climate change, air pollution, and the despoliation of Milkweeds have caused an estimated drop of 90 percent of the Monarch population. As one of the world’s effective pollinators that make plant life possible on earth, that does not augur well for the future of the human race.

Anita secured the Kent Rotary grant. The Portage Park District Foundation kicked in and so did a few citizens. Jennifer White, the wonderful education program coordinator for the Portage County Park District, ordered the Milkweed plants from Monarch Watch and told Rotarians and volunteers from the Portage Park District Foundation when to show up to plant the Milkweeds at a prepared site in Towner’s Woods.

It did not take long for the 7 who volunteered, shovels in hand. We learned it will take two years before we know if the plants survive and provide the nourishment that migrating Monarchs require.

We may not have reversed the decline of the Monarch population, but the Milkweed Habitat we planted may help those beautiful creatures as they fly in search of the nutritious habitats they very much need.

Name That Tune

Elsewhere, at the recent Sunday evening Piano Keyboard program at Kent State’s Ludwig Hall, the last thing I expected to hear was, “Play That Funky Music,” a song popularized by Wild Cherry in 1976, but that is what pianist John Mortensen performed in a program usually devoted to classical music.

Mortensen is a professor of piano at Cedarville University in Ohio and a leader in the international revival of historic improvisation. The program notes say he tours frequently as a pianist in Europe and America often sponsored by the U.S State Department.

It was a one-hour concert. Mortensen asked anyone in the audience to suggest a key and someone said D-Flat. He then created a complex piece that sounded like something Bach might have composed. After that, he announced he would improvise on a song from the modern era and invited us to “name that tune.”

I didn’t have a clue, but Janet recognized “Play That Funky Music” and, telling Mortensen the identity as we were departing, he smiled and said, “You’ve got it!”

He took questions and the one I appreciated most came from a youngster who asked Mortensen if he has to practice very much.

“Several hours a day,” Mortensen replied, “just like you.”

The next concert in the series is Sunday, Jan. 30, 2022. Students in KSU’s School of Music’s Piano Division will perform.

David E. Dix is a former publisher of the Record-Courier.

This article originally appeared on Record-Courier: Along the Way: Kent Rotary to the rescue of endangered Monarchs

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