Nature Nut: Vince Herring was a naturalist, too

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Vince Herring kept a phenology calendar.

A year ago today I slid into the water of the first lane as I had so many times before. Libby Kappel was in the lane next to me getting ready to start her swim. I said hi to Libby and she looked at me and simply said "Vince is gone."

For a few moments I wasn't sure what she meant until she said, "Vince died yesterday."

I was so stunned I just began swimming, thinking how unreal that seemed. Libby and I had swum next to Vince Herring many times over the years and couldn't imagine the RAC pool without his presence.

Since his death, Vince's storied life has been written about a handful of times, including a recent P-B article on the swim meet now named after him. Vince was well-known for many things, although few may know he was once a teacher at Quarry Hill and quite a naturalist in his own right.

As he did with most people, Vince would strike up a conversation with me, which often was something about nature. I was always impressed with his knowledge, and especially enjoyed hearing about some nature occurrences that he had noted for years in a journal.


Little did I know that his journal was actually the phenology calendar book which he and Quarry Hill director Harry Buck had produced more than 30 years ago. In a recent conversation with Vince's wife, Mary, she told me "Vince entered bird sightings, daily weather, and other observations faithfully for many years." She said the calendar is still on the kitchen counter, although she confesses to "not be as good about entries."

Was a teacher

Before getting into the framing business, Vince was a school district elementary teacher, spending six of those years teaching at Quarry Hill in the '70s. I recall him doing presentations for my high school Sportsman Biology classes. I especially remember when he hung up wooden silhouettes of different types of ducks to show how hunters had to be able to identify them quickly by shape and size.

I was also told by Mary Herring that Vince taught many birding classes which were very popular. I know one of them got renowned birders like Jerry Pruett and Jerry Bonkoski started in their lifelong hobbies.

Vince also got me started transferring spider webs to black pieces of matting board he used in his business. He showed me how to spray silver paint on a web and press the matting up to the web to fix it on the board. He shared how he once used this technique at a national framing competition in Atlanta many years ago.

Mary elaborated the story for me, indicating Vince had framed a picture of an abandoned Mack truck in an old field. He won the competition, as he had many times before, largely because of the spider web he superimposed on the window of the truck. Oddly enough, it was later disqualified because the spider web was not "natural enough."

During the week before he died, Mary indicated Vince was making bluebird houses with his grandkids to give away, typical of this very personable and generous man. She also noted after his death that a pileated woodpecker which they would see only on rare occasions began showing up almost daily at her feeders. This caused a priest visiting Mary to suggest it would be just like Vince to "come back as a woodpecker."

Vince will always be a reminder to me, and I suspect to many others, how we should appreciate each and every day.


Greg Munson.

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