Planned Gift Profile: Jerry Wayman Lansdowne
On the front of Jerry Lansdowne’s celebration of life card are two photos, one of Jerry with a fishing pole and the other of Jerry with a fish.
Fly fishing the Northwest was an integral part of who he was. He and his partner Nancy Stevens had traveled the region for years, sharing catches – and releases – and invaluable memories on rivers and streams across the Pacific Northwest. Kelly Creek. The Salmon. The Deschutes.
Jerry passed away on January 2, 2015, at 83. His legacy and deep commitment to protecting freshwater will live on in the Jerry Lansdowne & Nancy Stevens Habitat Fund, established to support Oregon Trout, now The Freshwater Trust, in our efforts to restore anadromous wild fish habitat throughout Oregon and Idaho.
“When we talked about setting up the trust, we talked about the organizations that we would support, and there was no question that he wanted to support Oregon Trout,” said Stevens. “The rivers here were deeply important to him.”
Born on a wheat farm in Kansas, most of Jerry’s formative lessons came from working and honoring the land he grew up on with his extended family during the Great Depression.
“When we first bought this place he was the only person that I knew that had to go outside every day and put his hands in the dirt,” said Stevens, as she looked out the window of their home at a thriving garden, one they’d grown together. “That’s what camping was and what farming was. That’s what fishing was. It was him being outside in all the things that nurtured him.”
Nancy admits all of that was foreign to her.
“He remembered his father collecting buffalo bones on the prairie,” said Stevens. “Here I grew up in the suburbs of Baltimore. We would always marvel at how we made it work. For me, all of it has been an acquired taste. But Jer fostered it in me. He was a teacher naturally.”
After serving in the U.S. Army between 1954 and 1956, Lansdowne completed a masters degree in Economics and then a Ph.D. in government from the University of Arizona.
He’s been described as a “defender of democracy and the Declaration of Independence” and an “advocate for free speech and equality.”
Lansdowne spent his career as a professor at Wichita State, UCLA, California Polytechnic, San Luis Obispo, Colorado State University and Portland State University (PSU).
At PSU, he was the first advisor to doctoral candidates in the Urban Studies Program and oversaw many more advisees and graduates over the next 26 years.
Great guy. Smart. Funny. Advisor. Mentor.
That’s how former students – spanning decades – described him in comments on his online obituary.
“His reach went far,” said Stevens, reflecting on him inviting students to their home on Sunday afternoons for coffee and dissertation discussions. “He was a really special guy.”
Toward the end of our conversation, Nancy recounted putting on his waders for the first time and stepping into the Metolius River, where she caught her first fish.
“Have you ever seen a fish rise to a fly?” she asked. “It was unbelievably magical. But that’s what would always get me. Jer would be yelling at me to set the hook and I would just be mesmerized by the dance on the surface. There are so many of those little stories.”
Like their lines so many times, Lansdowne’s ashes were cast in that river.
“I want the gifts we’ve made to The Freshwater Trust to make the rivers in Oregon more accessible, healthy and enjoyable,” said Stevens. “Everyone should know what it feels like to have a fish on the line. For Jer, fishing was soul work. He wasn’t a very religious person, but religion for him was always those rivers.”
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