A Memorial service-- a celebration of Ryan's life-- was held on Friday, September 2nd at 6 pm
at the Rio Grande Nature Center.
Pat Snider reported that the ceremony was very impressive. There were over 500 in attendance. The service began a half hour late, because there were still so many cars coming in at 6. Volunteers had to go out to set up a whole new section of seats.Here are links to a beautiful poster that was displayed at the service, and a copy of the program, courtesy of Laurel Ladwig.
"The music was great, too. A wonderful rendition of Ave Maria, the Moonlight Sonata, and a thing called the Irish Wedding Dance, which Ryan had changed the name to Italian Bird Dance. And it did sound like a bird hopping around. Even a roadrunner attended, sitting on a stump nearby for a long time.
"Lee Hopwood's eulogy was humorous, but also brought tears. Told how Raymond had hired himself to the seed place. Nancy and Steve (Cox) talked about the banding experiences of both boys..."
Pat said that Celestyn's talk was very warm, and "Beth Hurst-Waitz made a very dramatic presentation. She even fell on her back to show how Ryan behaved when he saw a new bird. She was as hyper as they all say Ryan was... Everyone was humorous, as the way Ryan would have enjoyed it...
"Raymond was there in a wheelchair. And Jerry Oldenettel was very dressed up. tie and all. I had not seen him in sartorial spendor before and do not expect to see it again...
"And this is very fanciful on my part, but several mentioned how Ryan was now a spirit above his beloved earth. Each time they said that, a wind would blow over us. It was almost as if Ryan's spirit was speaking to us."
= = = = = = = =
Nancy Cox provided this description:
The service for Ryan was really beautiful. The music, the wonderful words, the amazing number of attendees (over 600 people), the Greater Roadrunner sitting on the sideline, swallows in the air, Black Phoebe checking out the tent the next day.
Gene Romero of the Crest House and Lee Hopwood (Wild Bird Center) each supplied over 100 of the Audubon Birds (with real bird calls). These were given out at the service. They were used for applause and everyone got to keep theirs in Ryan's memory. Lee attached a ribbon with Ryan's year of birth and death.
The Rio Grande Bird Research crew banded a Gray Vireo for the first time at the Nature Center while Ryan's mom Eileen was there on Saturday. This was special in the fact that the photo that she loved the most of Ryan is one in which he is holding a Gray Vireo that they banded on Sandia National Labs banding site. This photo was used to make a memorial bookmark.
Raymond and his mom came out to the banding station at the Rio Grande Nature Center State Park today. He is able to walk but slowly and carefully. He is still as eager as ever to be around birds. In fact, when he heard about an Eastern Wood-Pewee being seen in Melrose, he started trying to convince his mom that he was well enough to have her drive him there tomorrow. I think he succeeded. He is a very persuasive young man. He said he had to "chase this bird for Ryan".
It was great to see him up and about today. He even managed to be the first to see the first Ring-necked Duck on the wetland ponds this fall. He also released a banded Clay-colored Sparrow for us. He later kissed and released a Wilson's Warbler for Ryan.
(Adobe Acrobat reader required)
LEE HOPWOOD of Albuquerque Wild Bird Center tells those gathered HOW RYAN "HIRED HIMSELF"Ryan’s family greatly appreciates your prayers, phones calls, love, and support in getting through this difficult time. Thank you so much.
DON'T MISS READING THIS: Celestyn Brozek tells all about "MY BEST FRIEND"
Nancy Cox Reflects on Ryan's Love for all Creatures (Including People!)
Steve Cox Speaks of Ryan's Energy and Enthusiasm
Report by Cole Wolf, Recipient of Ryan Beaulieu Memorial Youth Scholarship
Beth Hurst-Waitz writes:
Friends: Go to this site for the Burrowing Owl issue that honors Ryan's
legacy and Raymond's future:
Update on Raymond's condition:
August 30, 2005. Beth Hurst-Waitz provided this update after visiting Raymond in the hospital in Roswell all day Sunday (August 28th). Celestyn Brozek and Beth arrived at the hospital in Roswell about 1:30 a.m. Sunday morning and got back Sunday night about 10:00. Steve Cox came Sunday morning. Jerry Oldenettel came Sunday afternoon. She said that all of Raymond's family members were there.
"Raymond was in three different hospital rooms while we were there, asked about his friend Ryan, and improved so much physically that it was like watching a makeover dramatization. He appreciates all the care and support all of you are expressing. He himself asked about lots of people, lots of things, and he initiated phone calls to many...
"Raymond was interactive, sitting up in bed, being introduced back to food, gradually sharing and assimilating, limited ambulating. He has scalp injuries, but no traumatic brain injury. His left wrist/arm had a very bad break which has been repaired. He has literally a hole in his left elbow where there is no tissue left at all...
"In the afternoon Steve Cox drove (some of Raymond's relatives) and me to the State Police headquarters. The report will not be available for another week.
"Then we went to the salvage yard where the vehicle is. Steve retrieved all personal belongings of the boys. Folks, it's what the police call a "clean" car -- filled with empty water bottles, not beer bottles. A pizza box, not drugs. The car gives silent and unrefutable evidence that Ryan never suffered; that he was indeed killed instantly. Since some of you may have heard the reports that the boys were in the vehicle for two hours before rescue came, I send this news so that you will know that Ryan did not suffer.
"The other news I want to share is that Raymond was blessed with "accident amnesia," I'll call it: Until help did come to the side of the vehicle in the form of a man whose name we still don't know (it will be on the police report), Raymond did not have awareness/consciousness that Ryan was in the vehicle; until the man came and he heard the words, "There's another person in the vehicle," he thought that he was alone. He has been assured that Ryan didn't suffer and that he couldn't have done anything to help him."
Nancy Cox wrote (August 29, 2005):
Raymond is now back home. His boss, Lee, was there visiting him when I called her. We are all so glad that he is alive and will be able to attend the service. [Raymond did attend, in a wheelchair-- Ken]
Lee Hopwood of Wild Bird Center provided this good news (September 29, 2005):
Raymond returned to work yesterday, 9/28/05, at the Wild Bird Center. His first day back was sad and sweet. We laughed a little and cried some too. We talked of the wonderful times we had in the store with Ryan - the three of us, and 'rubberband incidents' - a favorite of ours to pass the time when things are slow. Raymond is healing well physically and his spirit is slowly healing too. Thanks for the web site and the wonderful tribute to Ryan. Lee
Nancy Cox reports (October 8, 2005):
...Raymond is very much committed to continuing the Rosy-Finch banding project for Ryan. He and Steve [Cox] went yesterday to get solenoids for trying another trapping method. Ryan's dad, Dana, is also wanting to help finance transmitters for the Rosies to try to find out where the Rosies are when they are not at the Crest.
Raymond is now undergoing a lot of physical therapy but is making great progress. His eyes are back to normal (they had been very red). He is out birding this week-end with Christopher Rustay and Michael Hilchey (another teenage birder). He called us today to let us know that he did get the Varied Thrush at Melrose. They also had a Palm Warbler. ..
"People wondered how I could keep doing this after the accident," Raymond says, fingering a tiny band. "How could I not?"
[Link to Full Text of Albuquerque Journal article with beautiful photos of Raymond and Ryan]
Sunday, February 12, 2006
Tragic Accident Makes Young Friend More Committed to Bird Project
By Toby Smith
Journal Staff Writer
One breezy Sunday morning last month, Raymond VanBuskirk sat in a back corner of the Sandia Crest House. As he held a tiny bird in one hand, he attached an even tinier band to the bird's right leg.
Just 16, VanBuskirk appeared too young to be banding, though he started at age 12. He has always been precocious when it comes to birds. That's particularly true with this species, a rosy-finch.
In winter, while most birds flee to warmer, low-lying retreats, the rosy-finch prefers high, cold climes, a chief one being Sandia Peak.
VanBuskirk began banding rosy-finches three years ago with his friend, Ryan Beaulieu, to track how many were returning from previous years. The endeavor became much more than a science project. It became a passion.
"Raymond and Ryan," says Nancy Cox, a longtime Albuquerque birder, "fell in love with those birds."
The rosy-finch project, says Nancy's husband, Steve Cox, may ultimately yield important data. The project is among the first of its kind in the country.
This is the first winter Ryan isn't a part of it. Last August, while on a birding trip with Raymond, 17-year-old Ryan died in a car accident.
Now Raymond, although devastated by the loss, is determined to carry on for his best friend.
Not the standard
Bird-watchers, at least in some stereotypes, are senior citizens with time on their hands.
Maybe that's why Raymond and Ryan stood out.
Raymond and Ryan, Ryan and Raymond. It was easy to mix them up. Tow-headed, full of energy, they seemed about as far removed from conventional birders as you can get.
"It didn't matter if you were 9 or 90, Raymond and Ryan wanted to share what they knew about birds, which was a lot," says Lee Hopwood.
Both teens worked at Hopwood's store, the Wild Bird Center Westside. "They were hilarious," remembers Hopwood. "They'd have bird-calling contests. Then they'd walk like a certain bird, strut about the store. It was the most fun I've ever had."
Their youthful verve and superb identification skills were, among other attributes, why the New Mexico birding community was devastated over Ryan's death.
And why birders worried so much about Raymond.
Last August, Ryan had just begun his freshman year at the University of New Mexico. Raymond, then 15, was a sophomore at Eldorado High School.
They decided to take a trip— the sort of weekend they had gone on many times before— to woodlands across the state.
This time, Raymond, who had recently earned his driver's license, was behind the wheel of his Jeep Grand Cherokee. After picking up Ryan at his dorm on a late Friday afternoon, the two headed off.
"I gave up a party to do this weekend," Ryan told his friend as they drove to southeastern New Mexico in search of an aplomado falcon.
Though Ryan was two-and-a-half years older than Raymond, their age difference mattered little. As boys, they had tried soccer, but once they found birding, other interests dimmed.
They argued about birds, laughed at their obsession, learned from each other.
"Some people at school thought birding was stupid," Raymond says. "Ryan taught me not to pay any attention."
Brothers. That's what Raymond's mother, Connie VanBuskirk, sensed. "They were like brothers."
An odd pair
Once on Interstate 25 that Friday, the two listened to Green Day CDs and talked about girls. They talked trash— "Like who had seen the most birds the weekend before," Raymond recalls.
Oddly, five or six years before, when they met during a Central New Mexico Audubon Society outing to the Las Vegas Wildlife Refuge, intense dislike filled the air.
Ryan was too loud, too jumpy, thought Raymond. Raymond was too calm, too snobby, decided Ryan.
Later, they participated in a bird count along the Rio Grande bosque. Mention of a pinkish, hard-to-see bird that day pulled them together.
There are three species of rosy-finch: black, brown-capped and gray-crowned. What distinguishes the three from species, besides some pink feathers, what brings birders from around the world to Sandia Crest, is that all three species live in mountainous elevations their entire lives.
Ryan had seen rosy-finches at the crest. He got Raymond to go there with him, where the birds are seen from November to early April. That sighting changed Raymond forever.
Soon, the teens told Steve and Nancy Cox they wanted to do a banding project with rosy-finches. They wanted to find how many of the birds came back to the Sandias each winter after summering in high, northern regions.
With the Coxes, and with birders Ken Schneider and Beth Hurst-Waitz advising, Raymond and Ryan drew up a proposal, gained permission from various governmental groups to band the birds, built traps and waited.
Raymond and Ryan spent that August Friday night in a Las Cruces motel and arose early the following morning. An aplomado falcon, usually seen in northern Mexico, had been sighted near Carlsbad.
On Saturday, the pair left for Carlsbad, where they met up with Jerry Oldenettel, a retiree always on the lookout for seldom-seen birds. Oldenettel didn't see an aplomado falcon that weekend, nor did the teens.
Late in the day, Oldenettel told Raymond and Ryan he was staying the night in Carlsbad, then getting up early and driving home to Socorro. Raymond and Ryan had other ideas. On Sunday, they wanted to be at the popular Melrose trap, east of Fort Sumner, for the beginning of migration. Their aim was to spend Saturday night in Fort Sumner.
About 8 p.m., the two stopped in Roswell and bought snacks. Thirty miles from Roswell, Raymond turned onto N.M. 20, the cutoff to Fort Sumner.
It was about 9 p.m. when Raymond saw the deer crossing the highway.He swerved— not a lot, he says, but enough to send the Jeep onto a gravel shoulder. When Raymond overcorrected, the Jeep was airborne...The Jeep slammed into the ground and rolled three or four times. It came to rest in a pitch-black field.
The impact knocked out Raymond. When he awakened, pinned inside the Jeep, he found he was 50 or so feet from the highway.
Traffic is usually scarce on N.M. 20, and at night even more so. His headlights weren't working. No one stopped.
After about three hours, Raymond, exhausted and in great pain, suddenly saw a flashlight beam move about the interior of the Jeep.
A motorist happened to glimpse the wreck. Through the window, the motorist put a blanket on top of Raymond. "Don't go to sleep," the stranger urged. He then asked for Raymond's phone number and called Raymond's mother.
Eventually, paramedics from Roswell arrived. As emergency workers cut off Raymond's door, he heard the whispers he hadn't wanted to hear.
Ryan was gone.
Raymond spent three days in the ICU at Eastern New Mexico Medical Center. A severe gash on his head had caused his skull to swell. His left wrist required two surgeries.
The weekend after the accident, Raymond knew he had to go birding. Had to go to the Melrose trap.
Connie VanBuskirk took her son— in a wheelchair. Bandages swaddled his head, a cast covered his arm. In the big stand of trees, he saw what he wanted: a great-crested flycatcher.
Now, aided by grief counseling, the healing continues.
In December, Ryan's mother, Eileen Beaulieu, journeyed to the crest to observe the banding project. Being there was difficult, and she left quickly, but not before hugging Raymond.
Raymond's mother attends banding sessions when she can. Still, she says, "It's never easy. We all miss Ryan."
No one knows that better than her son. "People wondered how I could keep doing this after the accident," Raymond says, fingering a tiny band. "How could I not?"
2006 © Albuquerque Journal; used with permission.
Bird book published in Ryan's Memory on Sale at
Sandia Crest House Gift Shop.
OR CLICK HERE TO BUY
(Introduction and dedication by Ken Schneider, who has no financial interest in this publication)