Heritage Ohio honors Bird Watcher’s Digest

Heritage Ohio honored Bird Watcher’s Digest on May 8 at the fourth annual Appalachia Heritage Luncheon in the Ohio State Capitol, an event held in partnership with Ohio’s Hill Country Heritage Area. Accepting the award on behalf of BWD was founding publisher Elsa Ekenstierna Thompson, and her son, State Rep. Andy Thompson.

The luncheon celebrates “success stories” representing regional culture from people who are passionate about their endeavors, and passionate advocates for making Ohio a better place. The honorees shared their stories with the state General Assembly.

In September 1978, in the living room of their home in Marietta, Elsa and her husband, Bill Thompson Jr., decided to start a magazine for bird watchers. Even their three children, ranging in age from 9 to 15, agreed to the venture, and voted to pool all the family’s money, including the kids’ college fund, to start North America’s first independent birding magazine.

“Through Bird Watcher’s Digest, and with your help and suggestions, we hope to do our part to encourage interest in the study and the preservation of birds,” Elsa and Bill wrote in Volume 1, Number 1.

Thirty-five years and 201 issues later, the company remains based in Marietta, but operates out of a two-story building, not a living room. It employs 13, including all three Thompson kids, each of whom has a college education. Bill Thompson, III, is editor and co-publisher, Andy Thompson is co-publisher, and Laura Thompson Fulton is circulation and marketing director. Even Elsa, now 80, continues to work at the magazine, serving as receptionist, proofreader, circulation assistant, mail handler, sage, historian, and pie maker.

While celebrating its 35-year milestone, Bird Watcher’s Digest continues to do its part to encourage interest in the study and the preservation of birds, and looks forward to another 35 years-or more-of being a success story.

Other success stories celebrated at the luncheon included Geoff Schenkel, also from Marietta, whose REsolve Studios is a mutli-art production space for all populations;

For more information, visit www.birdwatchersdigest.com or Elsa Thompson, 373-5285