Weldon Springs Foundation, Inc.
The Best Friends - A Personal Tribute to Carol McFeeters Thompson
by Carl J. Wenning (with the assistance of Lauren Thompson)
I first met park naturalist Carol McFeeters Thompson about 25 years ago. It was a delightful summer day when my family and I visited Weldon Springs State Park for the first time. We had a picnic near the springs, visited the boat dock and restaurant, and then took off on a hike around the lake. I carried my 5-year-old daughter Rebecca upon my shoulders while my wife Carolyn carried newborn Teresa.
On our way around the lake we noticed what appeared to be a nature center on the south side of the park. We also saw what appeared to be a naturalist sitting outside on a picnic table in front of the nature center. After finishing our hike, we drove over to the nature center to see what sort of interest it might hold for Rebecca. Little did we realize that we would make the acquaintance that day of someone with whom we'd have a family relationship for the next 25 years. Unfortunately, that relationship was cut short when Carol passed away from cancer at 58 years of age on July 18, 2015.
I was a nature interpreter from the time I first started working in a planetarium which I did for more than 25 years. As a fellow nature interpreter, Carol was a kindred spirit. While she was "lord of the earth"; I was "lord of the sky." Our knowledge complemented each others', and it was part of the basis of our long-time relationship. Just like she did with so many others, she'd carefully instruct me and my family in the way of the world. Carol always had ready answers for our questions about bugs, insects, birds, flowers, trees, and almost everything else in Weldon Springs State Park and the wider world. In return, I shared my knowledge about the sun, moon, stars, planets, and the wider universe with Carol. We also shared our mutual trials and tribulations as nature interpreters. It was a strongly supportive relationship. So, much so that with the passing of the years, I got to know Carol as "my sister."
Even at a young age, Carol had a passion for nature. She spent her free time collecting rocks, watching birds, and identifying animals. Self-taught in the marvels of nature, she started volunteering at Weldon Springs State Park in 1984. Through her efforts, she got the one-room Union School House to be relocated to Weldon Springs State Park where it became the parks' nature center. Carol worked with taxidermists in the area to professionally mount animals so that people of all ages could get a close up look at the animals around the park, and in their backyards. Carol donated countless hours to the displays, projects, and visitors to Weldon Springs.
Carol further noted, "Park interpreters serve as links between a park and its visitors. Interpreters unlock the secrets of Nature and of distant times in an effort to enrich the visitor's experience. Interpreters provide both information and inspiration - challenging the intellect and touching the emotions. In other words, we discover 'cool stuff' in our parks and share it with others."
The loss of Carol as a nature interpreter will have an incalculable impact on the community of Clinton and visitors at Weldon Springs State Park. On a more personal note, her loss leaves a deep hole in the heart of all who knew and loved her.
As a living memorial to Carol, the Weldon Springs Foundation wants to continue as many of her programs as possible. To help us honor Carol's memory, please consider becoming an active member of the Weldon Springs Foundation.