With the unexpected death, on December 22, of Les Mehrhoff, the natural history family lost one of its greatest, most visionary members. Les–botanist, ecologist, teacher, founder and leader and leader of IPANE (Invasive Plant Atlas of New England), and all-round invasive plant guru–suffered a massive heart attack at his home in Connecticut. Les was working hard right to the end on one of the greatest priorities in conservation, one that he did much to bring to all our attention–mitigating the environmental damage caused by invasive plants. Les had been a long time adviser and supporter of RINHS and was a frequent companion to RINHS staff, board, and members in the field, at meetings and conferences, and in all manner of regular communication. Les presented at three of RINHS’s annual conferences–1999, 2003, and 2007–each time addressing a different aspect of invasive plants. Whomever was the nominal keynote speaker at the CIPWG (Connecticut Invasive Plant Working Group) annual meeting, everyone looked forward to Les’s appearances just as much.
Events such as Les’s unexpected passing, like the sudden loss of member and mycologist Doug Greene this spring, remind us how much we naturalists owe to each other for our interests and passions and how each such loss highlights a responsibility to share and promulgate those interests and passions so they do not pass with us, when it is eventually our time.
There will be a celebration of Les’s life organized in Storrs, CT, later in the winter and RINHS will pass word when we know more. You may also contact the RINHS office to be kept up to date. Les’s family has asked that we remember him by performing an act of kindness for the preservation of our environment.