Gene Chague | Berkshire Woods and Waters: A final farewell to 'Gige'

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Readers may recall that retired Fish & Wildlife Board Chairman George "Gige" Darey, of Lenox, passed away last December. Per his request, some of his ashes were distributed in his favorite places, with the rest to be interred into the family plot at the Church on the Hill cemetery in Lenox. On Wednesday, June 5, there was a graveside ceremony to inter Gige's ashes. It was a beautiful, warm day and approximately 50 of Gige's relatives, close friends and associates attended. Several of Gige's former F&W board members drove a long way to be there.

His mate, Ginny Akabane, led the ceremony. During the ceremony, many of his friends and associates spoke and here are some of the comments:

Chalis Bird, field biologist with MassWildlife, said that she got to know Gige while they were both outdoor sports guides at Canyon Ranch. She said that Gige was instrumental in her learning about the possibilities in her field and in her getting where she is now.

Attorney Mike Considine said that Gige and his mother, Francine, were the first people to welcome them to the community 30 years ago. Gige and Mike were both community walkers at Canyon Ranch. Gige always wanted to be on the harder walks, and if no guests showed up, they would go out together anyway and Gige would tell him about Lenox, the houses they were passing and the people who lived there.

Attorney Shawn Considine asked Gige shortly before he passed, one day when they were alone: "Are there really ghosts at the Mount?" Gige smiled and answered: "Only the ones that I created."

Jake Creedon, retired F&W board member, spoke about their years on that board.

Bob Durand, recently appointed member of the F&W board, said that as an incoming freshman state representative, he was told to go out to the Berkshires to meet Gige, whom he had already heard about. When they met, Gige told him that he had to represent the sportsmen in the legislature. It made Bob feel very special, until he found out that Gige had said the same thing to several other politicos.

Anne Gannon was a student of Gige's at Wahconah. He helped her not only with reading, which was difficult for her due to learning difficulties, but also in feeling good about herself. "I would never be where I am now without having met Gige", she said.

Leah Larmon didn't plan to speak, but had to say how much fun it was to work with Gige and hear his stories. "He was so good with kids", she said, "that it is ironic that the Lenox fifth-graders are at this moment paddling down the river from the George Darey Wildlife Management Area".

Wayne MacCallum, retired DFW director, said he was the deputy director when Dick Cronin, the director, died and Gige and the Board appointed him acting director. The governor wanted to have someone else appointed, and Gige refused to let politics get involved. The fellow was a nice guy, but was not a professional in fish and wildlife. The governor's chief of staff directed Gige at a private meeting: "The Board is meeting the end of this month. You will appoint (the other fellow)." To which Gige responded: "Out our way, they would indict your ass for what you just said." According to Wayne, the man stormed out, slammed the door, and then went around the Statehouse telling people what had just happened.

As director, Wayne talked with Gige just about every day discussing fish and wildlife issues.

John McNinch, local proprietor of the Olde Heritage Tavern in Lenox, said Gige knew his grandfather (George Bisaca) and his father (Robert McNinch). "He has been a part of my life forever," he said.

Jeanne Penvenne said that Gige was her cousin. Her father died when she was young and Gige stepped in and was like a father to her and to her siblings.

Mike Roche, Vice Chairman of the F&W Board spoke. He said that when he was six and wanted to go bird hunting with Gige and his father after school, Gige would have to carry him out of the woods on his shoulders, where he would fall asleep and his head would slump down and bang against Gige's.

Tom Romeo said that Gige knew his grandfather and father, and was a lifelong friend of the Romeo family. "As a child, I had reading difficulties," he said. "Gige started a summer speed reading program in town and told me to come, at no charge." Gige, he said, was his mentor and he would have never become what he is now without his influence.

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Narain Schroeder, of the Berkshire Natural Resources Council, first met Gige at a restaurant in Lee called Salmon Run. He had already heard about Gige, and worried what he was getting himself into, but they hit it off immediately with their shared interest in the outdoors. Gige was a mentor to him in land conservation, and created the important link to the sportsmen's community for BNRC.

Steve Sears, who replaced Gige on the F&W board when he retired, was a former student of Gige's at Wahconah High School and had been his mentor. Gige talked him into coaching cross-country skiing at Wahconah.

Matt Tannenbaum, proprietor of The Book Store, said that Gige was one of the first people to greet him when he opened his bookstore in Lenox, and then he began to stop by to tell him stories about Lenox and about his own life.

Dr. Terry Weaver said that Gige was instrumental in the development of his children, particularly Patrick, who became an Olympic skier. Patrick would never have done that or become the successful college coach he is now without Gige. Gige was his mentor. Gige was also a great influence on his children too.

My wife Jan spoke of the fond memory of Gige when he took her and several Lenox Historic Society members to the top of Baldhead Mountain looking for Mountain School and old cellar holes. They fanned out about 10 feet apart and started walking. When a cellar hole was found they would let the others know. At least five cellar holes were found that day. Gige really knew that mountain.

George Wislocki, retired BNRC President, said that they worked together on land conservation very successfully for years. "Gige is a memory now, not here", he said, "but if you go out on the land or in the forest, he is there."

There were many others there who chose not to speak representing the Berkshire County League of Sportsmen, BNRC, Mass Audubon, Green Berkshires, Housatonic Valley Association and others.

Gige was a Korean War veteran, and this was a military funeral. Two active members of the U.S. Army folded the flag and played taps. He was member of the Lenox VFW Post 12079. I was honored to be part of the VFW Color Guard, along with comrades Post Commander Mike King, Lew Fortune, Tom Roche and Charles Thompson, all friends of Gige. When the three rifle volleys rang out, I couldn't help but smile, thinking that old Gige is truly going out with a bang.

It was a beautiful gravesite ceremony and following that, some met at the Olde Heritage Tavern for food and refreshments.

Beginner's Paddle

On Wednesday from 4-7 p.m., you are invited to join the HVA for a Beginner's Paddle on a stretch of the river in Lenox. This is your chance to learn how to safely enter and exit a canoe, learn the basic strokes and steer and paddle safely. It will be led by HVA volunteer Charles Murray, an experienced canoeist and ACA certified instructor. This paddle is suitable for families with children 10 and up. A rain date is scheduled June 26. Canoes provided or register to bring your own boat.

For more information, contact the HVA at 413-298-7024.

Landlocked Salmon Stocking

Recently, MassWildlife completed stocking the Quabbin Reservoir with its annual allotment of 10,000 landlocked salmon raised at our Palmer Fish Hatchery. It will take about three years for these fish to reach the 15-inch minimum size requirement for harvest.

Gene Chague can be reached at berkwoodsandwaters@roadrunner.com or 413-637-1818.


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