January 17, 2014
The Paul Kroegel Memorial in Sebastian, Florida
Picture credit: Ebyabe
Like many of you, I am sure, my Ancestors came to America from so many places.
One of them was my Grandfather who was from Prussia, a place that no longer exists and is now called Germany.
At home, he primarily spoke in German to me as a child and attempted to teach it to me.
Regretfully, I was not a very good student and only managed to learn a few words before he passed away.
But, the one thing that he did leave with me, that resonates in much of what I attempt even today, was his strong, proud work ethic.
With this thought in mind, today while reading my mail, I came across a story about a man who sadly, I had never heard of, perhaps because I did not grow up here in Florida, but in Indiana and California.
The man I speak of is Paul Kroegel, who came to Florida from Germany as a child in 1881 and left his mark on it and the world of wild life forever.
Recently there was a Festival in Sebastian, where he had lived, to celebrate the 150th anniversary of his birth.
I wish I could have known him, much like my grandfather, Kroegel was diligent, hardworking and so dedicated to what he believed in.
He loved animals, especially birds, and did his best to protect them from marauding, murdering bullies.
Paul was quite passionate about the local Brown Pelicans who were being slaughtered for their feathers and was determined to stop it.
Mr. Kroegel was a primary impetus for the beginnings of our National Wildlife Refuge System and it was his vision of how wildlife should be treated, that initiated the overall system that we have in place today.
In 1903, President Teddy Roosevelt made Kroegel’s dream a reality, by ordering Pelican Island to become the first National Wildlife Refuge.
Kroegel became the first park Warden and was paid $1 a month for his duties.
Many years later, following a devastating Hurricane, the Pelicans temporarily abandoned the Island, and Kroegel was to have another first, a mandatory Government retirement.
He died in Sebastian in 1948.
This man fought nearly all of his life in the defense of helpless animals, proving once again, that one person can make a difference.
Kroegel, like my grandfather, led his life in an exemplary manner, giving me the will to continue fighting for animals in trouble, even on those days when I am not sure if anyone is really out there?
These are some places where you may learn more about this remarkable man:
American Conservation Hero – Paul Kroegel
German Immigrant Honored for Role in U.S. Wildlife Protection
Paul Kroegel – First Refuge Employee
Kroegel and Pelican Island
Paul Kroegel and the Story of Pelican Island
Paul Kroegel and America’s First Wildlife Refuge