S. Kent Carnie
Bill lived a life based on the philosophy of Think Globally, Act
Locally’. He was a lifelong supporter of causes which focused on
wildlife preservation, open space preservation and improving
the ecology of the Santa Clara Valley and California. A lifelong
resident of California, living in what is now known as Silicon
Valley, he actively supported the Sierra Club, the Sempervirens
Fund, the Mid-Peninsula Open and the Midpeninsula Open
Space District. The Peregrine Fund was one of those causes close
to his heart.
He was born at home on the family farm in Palo Alto, California,
as the local hospital burned down the day before he was born.
Growing up on farms in Northern California, he developed a
love of the outdoors, plant life, insects and of course, birds of
prey. He was drafted during the Korea War and spent three
years at Fort Ord as a surgical technician in the base hospital.
Following the war he attended San Jose State College, where he
studied biology, focusing on entomology and ornithology. He
also met his wife of 50+ years, Joan, while attending SJSU and
they had three sons.
Bill was Green long before the Green movement came to the
public’s attention in the early 1970s. He was also a bit of a
contradiction, as early in his working career he was a salesman
for an agricultural chemical manufacturer – selling insecticides,
herbicides and fertilizers to the major growers in the Santa Clara
and Salinas Valley regions. Yet, he was firm in his beliefs that
home gardens were to be organic – no chemicals were ever used
on the family’s backyard orchard or gardens. Soils were amended
with composted cuttings. Insects were sprayed with various
solutions made from safe natural products.
He shared his love and respect for the outdoors and the
stewardship of the environment through many channels.
His three sons were all in the Boy Scouts and over a 12-year
period, he counselled hundreds of their fellow Scouts in the
areas of Nature, Bird Study, Environmental Science, Forestry,
Plant Science and Weather. He also taught Integrated Pest
Management courses at local Community Colleges. He was
an active member of the Western Horticultural Society. In
retirement, he began propagating plants in his backyard
greenhouses, which led to him becoming an expert in the
production of succulents, focusing on Sansevierias and
Bromeliads. He was actively involved with a number of Cactus
and Succulent Societies during his last two decades.
William (Bill) B. Kurtz
23 August 1928 – 17 November 2018
Bill was a lifelong supporter of causes which focused on wildlife preservation, open
space preservation and improving the ecology of the Santa Clara Valley and California.
With the recent passing of Bill Kurtz, the roll
of surviving membership of The Bate and Slice
Society is down to one (this writer). We had met
at a junior museum when we were both in high
school, sharing a mutual interest in hawks and
snakes (a not uncommon combination I learned
in later years). We both benefitted from Bill’s
very supportive family. While my own folks were
focused on earning a living, Bill’s dad devoted
many a Saturday in driving us about in pursuit of
our shared interest before we were old enough
for drivers’ licenses. From collecting snakes and
lizards we graduated to looking for hawk nests,
to banding young (we banded something like
half of the raptors banded by the Western Bird
Banding Assn. for some 5 years). Our efforts
were enhanced by Bill’s photographic skills.
Eventually we acquired eyesses though it must
be remembered that those were the years when
American “falconry” consisted far more of having
rather than in hawking.
From a treasured trove of American Falconer
magazines found in a San Francisco used book/
magazine store we learned of the existence
nearby (at least within 50 miles) of one of the
pioneering masters of the sport, Minard Stevens
and all our lives were changed. We, joined
by Ben Stilwell, then starting Stanford, had
found a mentor. It is no exaggeration that we
parasitized ourselves on Stevens’ life and that of
is wife “Dirk.” Saturday mornings saw us piled
into Stilwell’s Jeep, descending on the Stevens,
eating them out of house and home, spending
Saturday nights in sleeping bags on their living
room floor and inundating them with a million
falconry questions. Steve had an excellent library
and a great collection of Bob Widmeier original
drawings and paintings sent to Stevens for
safekeeping while Widmeier was in the army in
India. From Steve we learned to appreciate the
wonders of the sport’s art and literature heritage
and the ethics demanded in a devotion to falcons.
Thus was born the four-man (plus Dirk) “ Bate and
Slice Society.” Steve taught us hood making (or at
least he tried to) and demonstrated his skills as a
trapper. Admittedly, trying to follow his example
was difficult for three kids but what we lacked in
practical application in the field we made up for
in enthusiasm and a serious interest in the sport.
In all of this, Bill’s practical approach, possibly
stemming from his service experience, helped
balance my own over-enthusiastic tendencies.
Maturity (at least as represented with the passage
of time) separated Bill, Ben and I, each going off
to the college of his choice. Bill chose San Jose
State. Although I have kept my focus on hawking,
both the others drifted away from the sport. Bill,
trained as a chemist also followed his father’s
great skill in horticulture, both professionally
and as an avocation as described elsewhere
on these pages. He never lost his love of nature
and his enthusiasm for the wild. Annually he was
absorbed in back-packing in the wilds of the
Sierras, those adventures enhanced by all that
was passed to us, both from Bill’s dad and from
Minard Stevens.
A Falconer’s Remembrances by S. Kent Carnie