Monday, November 9, 2015

The "Community" in CoCoRaHS

In the fall of 2008 I conducted a CoCoRaHS training session in a small county in east-central Illinois in my role as Illinois Coordinator. It was surprisingly well-attended, though in the end we only picked up two observers out of the group. One in particular came up to see me after the presentation. He introduced himself as Max and we spent a few minutes talking about weather and weather observations. He told me how he had been keeping his own weather observations for 30 years or more and it was something he was passionate about. Max was excited to finally have somewhere to report his observations. The only problem was that he did not use a computer or the Internet. For all of the years he had been taking observations he recorded them by hand in notebooks. As far as I was concerned, that wasn't a problem. We made an arrangement that he would mail me his observations at the end of the month, and I would then enter them into the CoCoRaHS database. So began our relationship.

Each month, as promised, Max would send me the previous month's observations and I would enter them in the database. I'd then print them off and send them back to him along with our monthly newsletter. Max would usually call me each month to make sure I received his observations and see if I had any questions about them. As our monthly phone conversations progressed our chats branched out to mutual interests (fishing, for one). Max was an avid outdoorsman. He loved to fish, hunt, hunt for mushrooms and go camping. One of his favorite spots to camp was the Shawnee National Forest in southern Illinois and he told me about a number of his experiences there. He was coordinator for his county bluebird society. Every year Max maintained more than 200 bluebird nesting boxes in east-central Illinois and western Indiana. They would be cleaned out during the winter and early spring, and then he would check them periodically to see how many baby bluebirds were hatched, recording the information at each nesting box.  Max was most proud of his efforts with the bluebirds.

About two years ago Max developed a few health issues, but he didn't let that slow him down much. He enlisted the help of friends to read his rain gauge when he couldn't get outside, and to drive him around to check his bluebird boxes. He also had a friend transcribe his rainfall observations to the form he sent me every month. He would call to assure me the observations were coming, even if they might be late, and then call again to be sure I got them.

Max submitted his first CoCoRaHS observation on November 20, 2008. He had only a few missing observations until this spring, when health issues prevented him from observing in March. He picked it right up again, however, and didn't miss a day the rest of the spring and summer.

I was saddened to learn today that Max passed away a few weeks ago. I really looked forward to his calls each month and will miss our conversations. I only met Max in person that one time, but over the next six plus years we developed a relationship through our conversations and common interests. I often thought, after our phone calls, that this is part of what the "community" aspect of CoCoRaHS is about.

Rest in peace, Max.

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