Bird Watcher’s Digest honors late publisher

Photo by Janelle Patterson From left to right, Dawn Hewitt and Bruce Wunderlich look over donated proofs Friday from Suzanne Quinn, who hold the edits and writings of the late Bill Thompson III, former publisher of the Bird Watcher's Digest.

Continuing the legacy left by the Bill Thompson III, Bird Watcher’s Digest is not only increasing its Reader Rendevous’, but also celebrating the Marietta-based publication’s history with plans for an archival museum.

“We are growing and in 2020 will be traveling to more hotspots with our readers than ever before,” said Dawn Hewitt, editor of the publication.

Hewitt, now editor, has worked for the publication for six years as managing editor.

She and Bill’s partner Wendy Clark, former editor and now publisher, have taken over the operations of Bird Watcher’s Digest following his passing in March from pancreatic cancer.

Two months later, Bill’s mother Elsa, a founder of the publication with her late husband Bill Thompson II, passed away during a fire in her Marietta home.

But their presence is still felt within the walls of the Acme Street office.

“I often find myself asking ‘what would Bill do?'” said Hewitt.

Bill Thompson was the last of his family to have hands-on control in the family business before his passing.

And he’s been on the minds of not only staff within the office working to publish the rest of Volume 42 this year, but readers as well.

Suzanne Quinn, 72, of Dallas, W.Va., is one fan who has utilized the publication’s Reader Rendevous’ as an excuse to travel and who traveled back to Marietta Friday in his honor.

She has watched birds with Bill, learned from him and invited both Bill and Elsa to a recent anniversary for her local birding club.

But Friday, she stopped by with what will be a jewel of the coming museum room.

In 2010, a book called “Hummingbirds and Butterflies” was written and published by Connie Toops and Bill Thompson.

Unbeknownst to the Bird Watcher’s Digest staff, Toops kept the galley proofs Thompson sent her as they worked on the book.

“Connie, here are the gallies. Hope you can read my chicken scratch,” reads the note from Bill preserved with the proofs.

And Quinn’s first thought when she saw Toops had donated the proofs to the New River Birding and Nature Festival’s silent auction in May was to bid for the benefit of Bill’s charitable fund at the Marietta Community Foundation.

“I knew as soon as I saw them that they belonged back here at Bird Watcher’s Digest,” said Quinn.

“This has such special meaning to us, especially with Bill gone,” said Hewitt as she choked back tears Friday. “I’m sure Bill would have just recycled the paper.”

Instead, the publication will get to preserve the finished copies of publications produced by the Thompsons since September of 1978–though there’s no date yet set for that archive to be open to the public.

“You can tell which notes are Connie’s and which are Bill’s,” laughed Bruce Wunderlich, photographer and production director for BWD. “I can read hers.”

And for Quinn, getting to bring those notes back home, was an honor.

“He was such a presence in the birding community and so passionate about getting kids into birding,” she said. “Since I was 5 or 6 years old I’ve loved birds… we could pass around the binoculars from kid to kid.”

Now, Hewitt hopes, through both the archives and through the Bill Thompson III Young Birders Fund at the Marietta Community Foundation, those proverbial binoculars can be shared with more children for generations to come.

Janelle Patterson can be reached at jpatterson@mariettatimes.com.

Honor the memory:

• The Bill Thompson III Young Birders Fund at the Marietta Community Foundation is set up to provide scholarships for youth interested in birding experiences.

• Donations can be made to the fund by calling 740-373-3286 or through specific note online at mcfohio.org/donate-online.

Source: Dawn Hewitt.


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