The Nature of History: Honoring the legacy of Roy Lukes 

by Julie Hein, Lake Ledge Naturalist and Director of Special Projects, Egg Harbor Historical Society

Most often, when one reads the word history, it evokes a vision of people, places and artifacts. Even the definition of the word puts humans front and center: History is the study of past events, particularly in human affairs.

Yet the foundation of our heritage is rooted far beyond human affairs. Our heritage is rooted in geologic time, shaped by the bedrock below our feet, by the surrounding waters that drive the unique climate of this region. The geologic foundation and geography of this peninsula also determined the flora and fauna that grow and thrive here, shaped which resources were available and dictated why we should move or where we should settle.

We owe our heritage to the landscape first, and naturalist Roy Lukes knew this better than most. He saw — and could then communicate with such grace of prose — how the land molded our working lives and influenced our cultural practices, and how the land has therefore become the foundation of our heritage.

Roy’s keen observations, intense research and ability to cultivate the relationships among nature and place and the heritage of its people were woven into each of his writings and reflected in each person he connected with. Read any of Roy’s books, and you will experience firsthand how the history of the sciences and the history of the humanities benefit each other in the most fruitful way possible. He tirelessly illustrated that only when the two are combined does the richest, most complete story of a landscape and its people appear.

We at the Egg Harbor Historical Society encourage you to take a fresh look at history through the lens of nature this year. Join a historical society. Explore the natural splendor of the area. Contemplate how the natural history of this region shaped the people within your heritage.

How does the landscape continue to influence our working lives? To shape our history? We will use Roy’s method of intersecting the natural and cultural sciences in the new year and beyond as we further our mission. Even our restoration efforts of the Door County Bookmobile will consider how the geography of this region impacted rural reading and the dissemination of knowledge, and how each town and village, isolated by this geography, grew (often in spite of the challenges of landscape) through a richness of intellect and work ethic that we know today as our heritage.

Join us on March 3, 2 pm, at the Kress Pavilion in Egg Harbor as we honor the legacy of Roy Lukes with a program and reception. We will pay tribute to his contributions to the study of history, his belief in the importance of collaboration and his wisdom as a naturalist to know that no single discipline by itself can begin to explain the origins of our cultural heritage.

For this special event, we have invited his widow, Charlotte Lukes, to present “Roy Lukes, Renowned Naturalist.” Charlotte is planning a new program that will introduce us to Roy’s family and early years growing up in Kewaunee, his youth serving in the army and playing in the Green Bay Packers’ Lumberjacks Band but primarily, his love of nature and conveying that appreciation to so many young people and adults during his time teaching in elementary schools and at The Ridges Sanctuary. She will share his photographs of many aspects of wildlife that he studied and wrote about for Door County newspapers from 1968 through 2015. Roy touched so many lives and was encouraged and helped by so many others.

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