ALLEN BROUSSARD, 1961-1990
In his short life, Allen touched many people around him. Friends remember his quick wit and ability to bring smiles to the faces of those around him. Friends and family felt the great loss of Allen’s death, and yet the contribution of Allen’s love for the environment would continue for years to come.
Another tribute is located along the beautiful Lake Wales Ridge, Allen David Broussard Catfish Creek Preserve State Park, covers more than 8,000 acres of scrub, sandhill and flatwoods land, in addition to 65 acres of submerged land. The preserve offers six miles of hiking trails, seven miles of equestrian trails, a covered pavilion, fishing and excellent wildlife viewing opportunities. The preserve is home to numerous rare plants, such as scrub morning glory, scrub plum, pygmy fringe tree and cutthroat grass and several protected animal species including Florida scrub-jays, bald eagles, gopher tortoises and Florida scrub lizards. When you visit the preserve make sure you are prepared for the rugged conditions typical of the scrub habitat. Bring plenty of water and be prepared for the challenging trails at the park.
In His Mother’s Words
Allen had a pleasant, cheerful personality and a charming sense of humor. Called “Smiley” as a little boy because of his friendly smile, he liked everybody and was fun to be around. Girls thought he was cute, boys liked his humor and teachers liked his eagerness and participation. He accepted popularity without selfconsciousness or conceit. It was a joke around the Ecology Department at the University of Illinois that Allen had increased the enrollment of girls’ many-fold as a Graduate Assistant teaching Freshman Biology labs.
From his infancy, Allen had shown a strong interest in Nature. Even as a pre-schooler, he had learned things from observation which most adults do not know, about the habits and characteristics of animals. He was an official counter for The Audubon Society’s Christmas Counts while still a pre-teen because his observations were so trustworthy. Fellow Boy Scouts also found him a reliable source of information and sometimes called him “Nature Boy.” As a teen-age surfer and water skier, he had opportunities to observe living things in the water, sometimes eating little things he found in floating seaweed (sushi!) or cooking fish on the islands in the Indian River. He was, without even realizing it, constantly exercising his unique ability, not just to observe, but to understand the workings of nature.
We knew Allen was unusually good at nature, but it wasn’t until a camping/backpacking trip we took to Alaska the summer he graduated from High School that we began to realize how truly talented he was. Every day brought new instances of his teaching us about things we were able to see only after he pointed them out to us – the differing habits of different species of salmon spawning in a stream, interpretations of different animal tracks in the mud, tiny dots on a distant mountainside that he knew were Dall sheep, eagles, moose, bear, caribou – things we would never have seen without him. That trip defined for him what he was, and what he wanted to do with his life.
After a two year break during which he was treated for his cancer, Allen was anxious to get to college at Colorado State, about whose exemplary wildlife program he had heard. He started off with straight A’s and graduated with honors from their Wildlife Management School. He wanted to do field research and later go to graduate school and become a college professor. Already recognized as an able field biologist, he was able to get into some serious research projects right away, first with sage grouse in Northwest Colorado and then with a reclusive wading bird called the Yuma clapper rail in a Colorado River marsh bordering Lake Havasu.
It was in Lake Havasu City, Arizona, that he had a near-fatal heart attack, an entirely unexpected side effect of his almost-forgotten radiotherapy and/or chemotherapy. At a hospital in Phoenix, we were told he needed a heart transplant, but that they couldn’t do it there. Back he had to go to Stanford, where he had been operated on and treated for Hodgkin’s disease six years earlier. The Stanford heart surgeons patched up his heart enough to postpone the transplant a few years – long enough, we hoped, for him to finish graduate school and for heart science to be refined to the point that other surgery could be used instead of a transplant, with all its risks of rejection, etc. Sadly, that was not to be.
After Allen’s death, one of his colleagues, Dr. Rob Deblinger, wrote: “It’s only once in a long while that I meet someone who is so gifted. Allen had that rare talent to take lots of seemingly unrelated information and synthesize it into a workable hypothesis. Soon after came an ecological concept and finally a theory. I can’t tell you how many Broussard’s Theories of Wildlife Biology there are. I used to listen to him talk and talk, digesting and positioning facts until it all made sense. Then he would say, ‘And if that is so, what we used to think about in this way is really like this…’ and so on and so forth. What a great mind. There is no doubt that Allen would have made a great ecologist.”