By Frederick N. Rasmussen, The Baltimore Sun
September 8, 2011
Russell Gordon "Buz" Meyer Sr., a conservationist who converted his Woodwardville farm into a habitat for animals and plants that he opened to Scouting groups, 4-H clubs, church camps, schoolchildren and the Audubon Society, died there Sept. 1 of pancreatic cancer.
He was 80.
The son of farmers, Mr. Meyer, who dropped his given name and called himself "Buz" with one "z," was raised on his parents' farm, which his Swiss immigrant grandparents had established in 1899.
After graduating from Arundel High School in 1948, Mr. Meyer worked as an auto body repairman for Hill & Tibbits Ford in Washington, and then at Bauserman's Chrysler-Plymouth in Arlington, Va.
In the early 1960s, he opened Buz's Body Shop behind his Woodwardville home, which he operated until 1989.
Mr. Meyer spent his youth roaming his father's land between the Little Patuxent and Patuxent Rivers, where he learned the rhythm of the woods, the wildlife that lived there, and the trees and plants that flourished in the forest.
It would become a lifelong passion. In 1971, he began building four nature trails on his 135-acre farm, which he turned into a conservation area and named MeyerStation. He did it with his own money.
In a 1991 interview with The Baltimore Sun, Mr. Meyer explained that "I can say I own that land, [but] that's just a pompous attitude. I don't figure I am an owner. I figure I am just a steward of it."
With his blue eyes, shock of white hair and his usual dress of park ranger browns and camouflage sweat shirts and knitted watch cap, Mr. Meyer proved to be an able and informative guide to his woods and wetlands.
After retiring, giving free hiking tours of MeyerStation became a full-time job.
"The only nature most people see is what they get on the boob tube," he told a Baltimore Sun reporter in 2000. "If you don't feel it under your feet or on your face, you really don't know what it's all about."
He relished explaining to children how animals communicate with one another and how humans can return the favor. "I've been talking to the ducks for years, but I don't know what I was saying," he said in the 2000 interview. "The deer talk to me with their voices and tails. It's up to me to understand them."
Mr. Meyer especially enjoyed telling visitors what plants were edible as well as the varied wildlife that lived at MeyerStation, from the red and gray fox, deer, mink, muskrat, opossum, raccoons, squirrels, otter, chipmunks and bobcat to such birds as the great blue heron, barred owls, screech owls, wild turkeys and the rare hooded merganser.
He also spent most of his lifetime hunting deer and wild turkey on his land.
Mr. Meyer told The Sun that hunting for wild turkey "is the most challenging hunting there is. After I got my first turkey, deer hunting wasn't fun anymore."
He assisted in the effort to reintroduce wild turkeys to Maryland and was an active member of the Central Maryland Chapter of the National Turkey Foundation.
Mr. Meyer had been an active 4-H leader for nearly 50 years.
"He was truly amazing naturalist," said Paul Peditto, who is the state Department of Natural Resources Wildlife and Heritage Service director. "He saw his work as important and worthwhile, and that you could connect to the land by showing it."
Wendy Sites, a longtime friend, is the leader of the Friendship Outdoor Skills 4-H Club, Mr. Meyer's old club.
"His love of nature was his absolute passion, and he wanted to instill it in others, and that will live on in all the youth that he taught," she said.
For years, Mr. Meyer, a certified firearms instructor, taught the Department of Natural Resources' hunter safety course at a shooting range his family had built in 1936 deep in the woods.
"Buz was one of the founding fathers of the modern-day version of hunter safety in Maryland. He broke new ground both literally and figuratively," said Mr. Peditto. "The Shooter Qualification Days are now common across the state."
An uproar occurred in 2001, when Anne Arundel County officials proposed taking the abandoned Washington, Baltimore & Annapolis Railroad line that crossed Mr. Meyer's property and converting it into a hiker-biker trail that would connect with another trail in Prince George's County.
When the county initiated condemnation proceedings, Mr. Meyer fought back, producing a 100-year-old deed to the railbed stating that the right of way would revert to the original landowners if the railroad ceased operation.
The county dropped its lawsuit and promised to find another route for the trail.
Mr. Meyer was a former president, director and secretary of the Forks of the Patuxent Community Association.
He was a member of the First Lutheran Church of Bowie, where funeral services were held Monday.
Surviving are his wife of 60 years, the former Sally Lovell; four sons, Russell G. Meyer Jr., Timothy Meyer and Andy Meyer, of Odenton, and Daniel Meyer of Philadelphia; three daughters, Penny Meyer and Sue Meyer, both of Odenton, and Sally Hiller of Bowie; two brothers, Robert Meyer and William Meyer of Odenton; 12 grandchildren; and 15 great-grandchildren.
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