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Ralph K. Bell, May 20, 2014


Melanie Colón

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Ralph K. Bell, 99, of Clarksville, died Tuesday, May 20, 2014, in his home.He was born January 27, 1915, at home on the Bell Family Farm in Clarksville, Greene County, a son of the late Harold Kennedy Bell and Harriett Gaddis Luse.Mr. Bell was a 1938 graduate of Penn State University.On September 2, 1939, he married Mary Elizabeth "Betty" Kern, from State College, and they owned and operated the Bell Farm, raising chickens, sheep and Christmas trees.Surviving are two children, David Kern Bell and wife Ruth of State College and Joan Bell Pattison and husband Donald of Fort Myers, Fla.; two grandsons, Cristian David Bell and his Leah, and Luke David Pattison.Deceased, in addition to his wife, Betty, who died October 16, 1995, are a brother, Frank Heaton Bell; a sister, Esther Bell Tuckish Cordray; and a grandson, Grant Charles Pattison.He was a member of Jefferson Presbyterian Church, Sons of the American Revolution, Fort Jackson Chapter, Greene County Soil Conservation, Eastern Bird Banding Association, Brooks Bird Club, Izaak Walton League, Three Rivers Birding Club, Pennsylvania Society for Ornithology, Purple Martin Conservation Society and many other organizations.On September 18, 1958, Mr. Bell founded Allegheny Front Migration Observatory. AFMO is the oldest, continuous running bird banding station in North America. In 2002, on site at AFMO in Dolly Sods, W.Va., the West Virginia Public Broadcasting System filmed a documentary of him regarding the founding of AFMO.He began studying birds around the age of 12 and kept records from that time on. He obtained his Bird Banding Mater Permit in 1954. Over the years, he had 15 sub permitees, whom he mentored for their Bird Banding Permit. As of May 2013, he banded 142,255 birds and had 1,481 recoveries.Mr. Bell was given the Pennsylvania Game Commission Certificate of Appreciation in 2006, in recognition of more than 50 years of unparalleled service, "Your exemplary achievement in bird banding, bird research and providing homes for wildlife is truly inspirational to everyone who has a love and appreciation for the natural world." He was given the John and Norah Lane Award for "outstanding contribution to bluebird conservation by an individual," from the North American Bluebird Society in 1983. At that time, he had more than 250 bluebird nest boxes in Greene County that he monitored, kept records, and banding the nestlings and some adults. He was awarded the U.S. Department of Forest Service 2003 Volunteer Award of the Year for 46 years of outstanding dedication and service, PA Society for Ornithology Earl Poole Award in 1998, 2006 Purple Martin Preservation Alliance Award "for a lifetime of dedication to Purple Martin Conservation in Western Pennsylvania." He was Pennsylvania Envirothon Leader for many years, Ornithological leader for 46 years at West Virginia Wildflower Pilgrimage in Blackwater Falls, W.Va., founder and leader of Jefferson Audubon Christmas Bird Count in Clarksville until December 1958 for 50-plus years and contributed research to the first and second Atlas of Breeding Birds in Pennsylvania.He lectured for more than 65 years on birds and nature to schoolchildren, civic groups, bird clubs, Boy Scouts and many other organizations. He was interviewed on the radio in Pittsburgh and was as an expert on the subject of birds and nature.Mr. Bell published more 200 articles on birds and nature. From 1956 to 1975, he published articles in EBBA News for the Eastern Bird Banding Association, including the years 1964 to 1973, when he wrote a column titled "A Bird Bander's Diary." He published articles in The Redstart and The Mailbag for the Brooks Bird Club for many years. He wrote a column titled "Bluebirds" for the Nature Society News in Griggsville, Ill., and published articles in many other publications.In his memory, please consider memorials to Ralph K. Bell Bird Club, care of Marjorie Howard-President, 149 Preachers Road, Waynesburg, PA 15370, or Allegheny Front Migration Observatory, care of Joan Bell Pattison-Project Leader, 10391 Glastonbury Circle 202, Fort Myers, FL 33913.Friends will be received from 1 to 3 and 6 to 8 p.m. Friday and 1 to 3 p.m., the time of service, Saturday, May 24, in Behm Funeral Homes Inc., 1477 Jefferson Road, Jefferson, PA 15344, Gregory P. Rohanna, supervisor, with the Rev. David Crowe officiating.Condolences may be expressed at www.behm-funeralhomes.com.

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