Eulogy for Priscilla Pratt

by Joan Smith

It was a sad day, but a beautiful day, the day Priscilla left us. We will miss her terribly. Yet we know she had a good life right up to the very end. She led a well-examined life, blessed by good friends and family, and she was committed to the welfare of animals and the environment. Love of Priscilla now keeps us going.

Priscilla led the GOSA cabal (as my husband calls it) in a quiet, thoughtful and dignified manner. Neighbors may have wondered what was going on in the Pratt-Wright Gallery, where we met, but we knew about GOSA’s efforts to protect the environment, sensitive lands, habitats and waters. Priscilla and GOSA helped to protect Haley Farm, Bluff Point, 57 new Haley Farm acres, and The Merritt Family Forest, more than 1,100 acres in all. Priscilla’s tenure as president covered GOSA’s incorporation as a nonprofit and GOSA’s twenty-two year program of mowing Haley Farm’s fields.

Because of Priscilla, we know we are not alone. Her legacy is the backbone and quiet confidence we need to follow our convictions, to deal with challenges and to speak clearly and effectively. She is within us and still corrects our spelling. She makes sure that we are careful in what we say and that we show restraint and respect for others. She sees that we do not back down in the face of intimidation, but that we can also accept correction and learn to do better. Anyone who mistook her small size and quiet manner for timidity, at their peril, learned otherwise. We can only emulate her sharp mind.

Love of nature brought us together. Once upon a time, Frank Williams invited me to a board meeting, where I met Priscilla, Charlie and the rest of the cabal. The topic of discussion was logging at the Mortimer Wright Preserve, and I immediately knew this was the right group for me. Haley Farm attracted me to the area, and here was the group that had saved it! I was hooked.

Priscilla, Edith Fairgrieve and I began spending full days, in the time before we had computers, typing statements, correcting spelling, and researching science — speaking in what seemed to be a lonely voice for the environment. And then the community responded in spades. Engineers taught us how to read a site plan, land trustees gave us language, and biologists, educators and experts in birds, botany, amphibians, water, shellfish, saltwater marshes, nitrogen and turtles joined the fray. Even lawyers, many pro bono, lined up one behind the other, like a train sitting in the gallery, to teach us how to intervene, appeal and negotiate hard. Neighbors, friends and local businesses gave generously to our fundraising campaigns.

Everyone respected Priscilla, especially our adversaries. Those of us who knew her loved her best. Let us hope there is a little bit of Priscilla in each of us: she took time to know individuals; she mentored and encouraged us, and let each person develop and contribute his particular talent. She spoke kindly and clearly, and had an uncanny eye for detail and a firm grasp of complex issues. By example, she helped us all become better people, and she gave us hope for the future of our planet. What a great and inspirational woman she was!

[Priscilla Pratt’s obituary, which appeared June 20 in The Day, the Hartford Courant, and the Norwich Bulletin, is reprinted below this eulogy by Joan Smith, a GOSA director]

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