Heroes of Old Woman Creek

Mar 29, 2023

From left: Rudy and Joli Reising and Bill Pifer.

Every estuary needs heroes—not only to help protect these special places, but to inspire the rest of us. Congratulations to Rudy and Joli Reising and Bill Pifer, the 2023 Heroes of the Friends of Old Woman Creek!

“All of our volunteers are truly well loved and appreciated,” says Janice Kerns, manager of Ohio’s Old Woman Creek Reserve. “This award goes to those who make outstanding contributions to the stewardship of our Reserve; they go that extra mile with their time, their knowledge, and above all their hearts.”

The Reisings have been volunteers at Old Woman Creek since 2016, monitoring marshes, birds, frogs, the eagle nest, muskrats, and more recently, nurdles. Like many community scientists around the System, they provide regular and accurate data to support Reserve science and monitoring.

“They’ve accumulated more than 1,300 volunteer hours with their efforts,” said Emily Kuzmick, the Reserve’s coastal training program coordinator, who presented their award. 

“The Reisings always say ‘yes’ to requests to help with canoe trips,” says Jen Bucheit, Reserve education coordinator. “It is such a huge help to know that they are there, so that I can focus on teaching.”

The Reisings never pass up an opportunity to help out with canoe trips.

The Reisings support Reserve interns and visiting scientists, providing guidance, training, and education of the estuary and the monitoring programs. They assisted graduate students from the University of Toledo and the University of Michigan in their thesis work and helped seasonal interns work in the species monitoring program.

“Rudy and Joli’s extensive knowledge of the estuary has been foundational to my understanding of my project and the successful completion of my internship,” said Keanu Rochette-Yu, 2022 Holings Scholar at the Reserve. “I am thankful for the time they gave me.”

The Reisings have a history of educational guidance and support of young minds. They were active in Boy Scouts and Venture Crew for 10 years and share a love of paddling. 

“They’ve been paddle partners since high school,” says their daughter-in-law, Giovanna Reising, a part-time Reserve staffer and co-nominator. Rudy worked for the city of Vermilion utilities department and Joli was a nurse for 42 years.

Bill Pifer is one of the three awardees of this year’s Hero Award, granted by the Friends of Old Woman Creek.

Bill Pifer started volunteering at the Reserve in 2008, helping with trail projects. In 2012, he became a natural resource technician, continuing to monitor the trails and helping fight invasive species before retiring in 2021.

“After retirement, Bill still volunteered with public canoe tours, whenever we needed him,” says Bucheit. “He can strike up a conversation with anyone. Regular Reserve visitors know Bill. He is a part of the reason they love this place.”

After his official retirement in 2021, Pifer continued to help out with public canoe tours at the Reserve.

If there was a need, Pifer could usually come up with a solution, whether it was as a rack to store rubber boots, a plankton pump to collect samples, or a fish viewer so students could study fish samples up-close. 

Pifer and his wife, Jackie, are avid campers and nature lovers. He is a coach of the Ohio National Guard Biathlon Team and retired from General Motors and the US Air Force.

Thankful for our volunteers!

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ReservesOld Woman Creek, OhioHeroes of Old Woman Creek