Sunday, January 22, 2023

Dan and Soozie Darrow: Two of PTMSC’s most dedicated volunteers


A wonderful encounter with former Port Townsend Marine Science Center Executive Director Anne Murphy at the Low Tide Festival is what initially drew Dan and Soozie Darrow to the Port Townsend area from their long-time home north of Chicago. 

The Low Tide Festival was the annual PTMSC thank you to the community and celebration of our marine environment (that formerly took place in July).Their delight with this event encouraged them to move west, and after arriving in 2002, they were eager to get involved in their new community. They both became involved with PTMSC.

Soozie and Dan Darrow
Soozie and Dan began their volunteer journey as greeters in the aquarium, and since that time, they have been involved with nearly every volunteer task the organization has to offer, including  extensive work with the Citizen Science program, collecting megalops for the Skokomish tribe, helping with fish seining for school groups, and hosting Protection Island cruises and low tide walks. In past years they have also done considerable work assisting with the annual fundraising auction.

After their initial greeting days, Soozie says they “graduated from taking money” and joined the Home Crew. The Home Crew was the team of volunteers who assisted in the aquarium, cleaning tanks and taking care of the animals.

“Cleaning was fun, and the people we worked with were nice and we got to feed the animals,” recalls Soozie.

The very persuasive Gordon James encouraged Dan to join the board, which he did, providing his services as a board member for nine years, two of those as board president. Dan continues his board service today as a member of the Finance Committee.

Fate brought the two together in their college days where Soozie attended Mount Holyoke and Dan went to Amherst College. Dan had a career with distribution companies, handling inventory and supplies. Soozie enjoyed a career in the admissions office of a community college.

Dan says, “I’ve always been a sailor,” and  notes that his very first words were “hard a-lee” (sailor talk for turning the helm hard to leeward – into the wind) and he enjoyed his time racing a J30 on Lake Michigan with a dedicated crew of seven. Soozie was not as involved in sailing as a racer, but enjoyed cruising with Dan and their two daughters.

The J30 stayed in Illinois and, once at their new home in Port Ludlow, Dan began racing with the Port Ludlow Fleet, a group of eleven Etchells 30s, an open cockpit, no-amenities sailboat made for racing. 

The current fleet of Etchells is now down to two boats, so Dan now focuses on sailing his T37 - a 37-inch long, radio-controlled boat that he races on the pond in front of the Port Ludlow Yacht Club. He proudly shares his favorite part of this current racing endeavor, the post-race gathering of friends all bundled up and relaxing in portable chairs on the lawn.

Soozie’s fascination with the natural world began as a child as she accompanied her older brother in the marshes in New Jersey, where he collected animal specimens which he then taxidermied and brought to the Museum of Natural History in New York City.

“I was scared to death walking over the boardwalk into the marsh, but I loved seeing all the birds, so I just kept going,” Soozie recalls about those early expeditions with her brother.

The Darrows have been active as citizen scientists with the SoundToxins program for 10 years now, taking water samples from Mystery Bay and then examining them with a microscope for the existence of harmful phytoplanktons. 

“I like to think we’re helping other scientists figure out how we can help the earth,” Soozie says about her motivation for continuing with the monitoring.

“Plus, I like to look in the microscope and see creatures that no one else gets to see,” she continues.

Both Soozie and Dan stress the importance of the organization’s role in educating the public. They feel strongly that PTMSC is “not just for the grandkids” and that the perils of climate change and the threats to the Salish Sea are important for the public to know.

Their commitment to the important education work of the organization is made clear through their financial support of the Future of Oceans lecture series, currently underway on various Sunday afternoons this month through March. Their ongoing support has made this series possible and they both particularly enjoyed Dr. Christopher Kelley’s November lecture, “Deep Sea Mining is coming: What you need to know about this potentially huge new industry.”

Beyond their considerable involvement with PTMSC, Dan and Soozie have volunteered for years with other organizations, with Soozie serving as Secretary for the Port Ludlow Trails Crew, and Dan serving on his Home Owners Association finance committee.

Their goals for the PTMSC include seeing the organization transition into the Flagship Landing location, and to continue shining a light on the issues important to the protection of the Salish Sea.

Written by PTMSC Volunteer Program Coordinator Tracy Thompson

#volunteers #citizenscience #salishsea #soundtoxins

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