TRAVERSE CITY — JoAnne Bier Beemon remembers checking in on her friend, veterinarian John Richter, and watching him operate on an eagle sickened by lead poisoning.
“He was so intensely involved, he had this deep love for living things,” Beemon said. “What he understood was that all living things are connected.”
Richter, an East Jordan veterinarian, environmentalist and a founder and president of the Friends of the Jordan River Watershed, died May 28 of cancer at age 62. Friends and family will remember him at a celebration of life on Saturday.
He brought community leaders and activists together to win a number of environmental victories. He successfully fought against injecting toxic leachate into an Alba well and also kept oil and gas drilling from the Jordan Valley.
“He was very good at reaching out to people and bringing people together,” said Anne Zukowski, who's filling in as president for Friends of the Jordan River Watershed. “He had the courage to stand up for what he believed in.”
Fellow activists praised Richter for his foresight and vision. The Northern Michigan Environmental Action Council named him an environmentalist of the year in 2008 and awarded him the Clarence Kroupa Lifetime Achievement Award in 2013.
"John was was strong on the word watershed because that’s what we're talking about protecting. Not just the Jordan River but the Jordan River watershed, which is part of Charlevoix watershed, which is part of the Great Lakes watershed, which is part of the Atlantic watershed," said Tim Goodwin, the vice president of the Friends of the Jordan River Watershed. "John was very keen on the inter-relatedness of all things nature.
Recently, Richter had been outspoken against hydraulic fracturing and the erosion of the banks along the Jordan River.
Richter’s environmental activism shaped the East Jordan area, community members said.