Bob Spear (1920-2014): Carver and more
Bob Spear was not just the Founding Director of the Birds of Vermont Museum and bird carver. He had many roles throughout his life, and even as others began to carry forward his Museum dream, he remained involved. Into his 80s, he still cut, transported and stacked all the firewood used to heat his workshop. He mowed and maintained the trails on the 100 acres of property, providing access to a rich variety of habitats and animal species. Even his 90s, Bob assisted with the butterfly gardens, the large and small ponds, and the bird feeder area. He also continued to carve—when he was not watching the birds in and around the feeders, ponds, meadows, and forest.
Bob Spear was born in 1920 in Burlington, Vermont. In his youth his parents encouraged him to explore the world of nature around him. His early years were spent in Massachusetts where his family moved when his mother was unable to find a teaching job in Vermont. (At the time, they would not hire married women as teachers.) She found work in Wyben, teaching in a one-room school house, and Bob was her student for 6 years. Bob drew and painted as a youngster and even learned to do taxidermy by age 12.
After his mother’s untimely death when Bob was just 14, the family moved back to Vermont to the family farm in Colchester. Here he continued his self-education as a naturalist, specializing in birds. Here too, at age 18, Bob carved his first birds modeled after a stray parakeet that flew into their shed. For the rest of his life, he carved, painted, and taught others about birds.
Naturalist and Author
With his patient manner and keenly observant eye, Bob Spear became one of the state’s most distinguished naturalists. After 10 years of farming, a tour in the U.S. Navy, and nearly 20 years as a technical specialist at General Electric in Burlington, Bob devoted his life to conservation and education. He founded Vermont’s first chapter of the National Audubon Society in 1962 and was also instrumental in the acquisition and creation of the Green Mountain Audubon Nature Center, which he directed for seven years. He was recipient of the 1966 Wildlife Conservation Award, given by the National Wildlife Federation “for outstanding contributions to the wise use and management of the nation’s natural resources.”
Spear is author of Birds of Vermont and in 1979 he received the Science Educator’s Award “for outstanding contributions to science education in Vermont.” In 2003 he was named a Fellow of the Vermont Academy of Arts and Science, because of “outstanding contribution to the Arts, Humanities, Sciences, or Education.” In 2006, he received the Governor’s Heritage Award for Traditional Artist. In 2014, he received the Olga Hallack Award for Community Service from the Town of Huntington, where the Museum resides.