Gerald A. "Gerry" Smith, recently known as Sherri Leigh Smith, died on September 13, 2022 following a brief illness. She was 73. She was born March 29, 1949 in Syracuse and her parents, Arthur and Grace Smith, raised her on the Onondaga Hill. Sherri/Gerry loved birds and was a dedicated activist from an early age. She graduated from Onondaga Community College and SUNY Oswego. Her early service included jobs at Rice Creek Field Station and other projects around bird conservation and environmental education. Sherri/Gerry was a dedicated member of Onondaga Audubon Society, and a founding member of Derby Hill Bird Observatory, as well as its first staff ornithologist. She was a founding member of some small land trusts, and the Eastern Lake Ontario Dune Coalition. She served as Land Steward for the Nature Conservancy for many years, always advocating for the needs of birds both within her organization and to local, state, and federal agencies, and the public at large. She was never afraid to speak truth to power. In recent decades, Sherri was self-employed, serving as advisor and consultant to several small land trusts in Northern New York. She wrote and taught about birds and natural history for both professionals and the general public. All through her adulthood, Sherri/Gerry mentored many young (and not so young) biologists. She cared about so many people personally, helping them get a foothold in the professional world and develop their professional skills. Her generosity with her time and expertise was legendary. It is a tribute to her legacy that the Endangered Piping Plover has re-established a population at Sandy Pond after an absence of over 30 years. As Sherri/Gerry always signed off on email, “Birds rise above it all.”
Gerry/Sherri has been cremated and a memorial service will be held in early spring of 2023.
Donations in her memory may be sent to Onondaga Audubon Society, PO Box 620, Syracuse, NY 13201.
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