Marcus Charles Rich died seventy-five years ago today, on November 12, 1941.
I did not know him, and I doubt that anyone living now did, at least not well. I have never heard his name in conversation, and as far as I know there are no memorial bird walks, no annually awarded prizes, no commemorative park bench plaques in his honor.
And I find that comforting.
Rich, a securities broker in New York City, was a prominent figure in the Central Park birding scene in the 1930s, eventually becoming “the unofficial compiler” of records from that famous site. His eulogist, Eugene Eisenmann, praised him for the ardor with which he approached his role, the encouragement he and his wife offered young birders, and his efforts to make city officials more aware of the park’s value to migrants and their watchers.
His passing was a great loss to his many friends.
And now, just a lifetime later, he is forgotten. That circumstance could be a source of introspection, even regret; but Rich’s life, his death, and our oblivion remind me instead that all of us are links in a chain of tradition and transmission, and that though history may not remember and posterity not much care, each of us makes a contribution that is essential to the way the future will be.