TRAVERSE CITY — Jim Dal Sasso was a horse packer in Wyoming, a search and rescue crew member in the Florida Keys and a backcountry ranger in California.
But his job as a park ranger with the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore has been one of his most fulfilling.
Dal Sasso, 65, will retire from Sleeping Bear in July, after 22 years — longer than he spent working at 23 other national parks combined.
“You could say I had wanderlust,” said Dal Sasso, who spent a total of nearly 40 years in the National Park Service, most in law enforcement and many in remote areas without plumbing or electricity. “From 1975 to 1990 I moved every six months to a different park. It was always exciting to see new places, new people.”
In 1992 Sleeping Bear’s scenic terrain, friendly visitors, accessible hunting and proximity to his Indiana hometown inspired Dal Sasso to finally settle down. He spent the next few decades enforcing federal laws within the park — from Empire south — by foot, car, skis and snowshoes.
Along the way he made friends even of adversaries.
“He’s just a pillar of the community,” said park acting district ranger Joe Lachowski, Dal Sasso’s co-worker for about three years and his acting supervisor for three weeks. “Everybody knows him, everybody loves him, from Boy Scouts to EMTs, hunters to fishermen. That’s going to be a huge loss.
“What makes him special is the fact that he takes the time and helps and talks to everybody. He’s a trusted source of information, he’s a trusted place to give information. I’ve had hunters and fishermen come up and say, ‘I have my license. I don’t break the rules because Ranger Jim will find me.’ Jim was and is everywhere. He’s constantly in the woods and you don’t know when or where you’ll run into him. That’s the mark of a great ranger.”