It is impossible to express the myriad of deep feelings enveloping me as I write this column. My reasons for writing are to say goodbye, thank people who have been important during my 11 years with the Randell Research Center, and wish the very best to my successor. After 30 years of rewarding work, my husband, Charles O’Connor, and I are retiring to travel, volunteer, and seek out new adventures.

Cindy Bear sitting on a bench smiling with her arms raised. A plaque in the bench reads “Cindy Bear with Love and Respect from your RRC Family.
Cindy shows her appreciation for the new bench and its inscription, “Cindy Bear with Love and Respect from your RRC Family.” Photo courtesy of C. O’Connor

I’m imbued with a sense of pride for a job well done, while humbled that so many people have given so much to help the RRC preserve this site and uncover the lives of its inhabitants. I’ll dearly miss everyone who shares a love of this space that holds in its majestic gumbo limbo trees a deep reverence of time and place.

I never imagined I would be so fortunate when I interviewed with Bill Marquardt and shared an interest in applying my teaching skills and wildlife ecology background in creative ways to further the legacy of the people of Pineland, the Florida Museum, and the RRC. I never imagined I would become a better person by constantly learning and being challenged to find inner strength and develop new or improved skills. I never imagined I  would be so happy and so sad simultaneously about leaving my job. And, I certainly never imagined so many people could keep a secret as so many did in hosting a surprise retirement event at the Trail and presenting me with an honorary bench. I was overcome with emotion and reminded again that “thank you” was the most frequent phrase I heard from people who gave their time, talents, and/or money to RRC. They should be thanked, I often thought. Here, I learned that gratitude is often an expression of shared appreciation.

To Bill Marquardt and Karen Walker, your unwavering dedication, tenacity, and knowledge inspire me and made it all possible. To the staff, Linda, Andy, Jim, Jeremiah, Lois, and Dave, you are the backbone of RRC’s success, partnering with you has been delightful. To the volunteers, each of you brought a unique, essential, and valued set of gifts and strengths to the work we accomplished and the friendships which developed. To Annisa Karim, the new RRC Coordinator, you have the support of a devoted and skilled team of staff, volunteers, and UF professionals and the great fortune of carrying on this legacy. No doubt you too will thrive.

To our members, thank you all. I’ll look for you on the Trail.

This article was taken from the Friends of the Randell Research Center Newsletter Vol 20, No. 2. July 2021.