Birdwatching Area Dedicated in Memory of Alan Ross Kumpe

This fall, Fletcher Library has a new birdwatching area created in memory of a nature-loving young man, Alan Ross Kumpe.

Meredith Ross, Alan’s mother, initiated the gift and was joined by Alan’s father, Peter Kumpe, and Alan’s brother, Elliot Kumpe, for the dedication on November 12. Though Alan left the world too early, his memory will go on in the lovely and educational space that his family has enabled through their donation and the contributions of friends and supporters.

“Alan loved the library and he loved birds,” said Meredith Ross, “so this is a way to carry on his passion.”

The birdwatching area in the children’s section features picture windows where visitors can observe many bird feeders installed outside as well as a bird bath. Dogwoods and hollies provide bird-friendly foliage, and in spring, the library will add purple martin houses.

A  view of nature’s beauty

Inside, the space includes a seating area by the windows, a book collection on birds and birdwatching, special bird binoculars and flash cards, and two electronic tablets with apps to help children identify birds that they spot from the windows. Colorful bird posters adorn the walls, and a massive copy of Audubon’s Birds of America graces a bookstand with its heavy pages and beautiful illustrations. The design and setting fill this birdwatching area with peace and the reverence for nature that inspired the gift.

The Kumpe-Ross family gift also includes items for the whole library system: each CALS library will receive two sets of bird binoculars and field guides that can be checked out to patrons. A birdwatching program kit available to all libraries holds 20 sets of bird binoculars and 10 field guides to equip larger group programs and field expeditions. The Fletcher Library will be hosting birdwatching programs and will also serve as a host to support Wings Over Arkansas and encourage people to sign up.

Alan Ross Kumpe’s passion for birds and animals

Family members recalled Alan’s enthusiasm for the natural world in the dedication ceremony.

“He loved to go on butterfly and snake-hunting expeditions,” Meredith Ross said. The gathered listeners laughed at her stories of Alan’s snakes getting loose in the house, and his unusual zest for cleaning aquariums and ponds so he could commune with the fish and turtles.

Peter Kumpe described coming home one day to find young Alan stretched out on the ground, gazing into the English ivy on the terrace. “He was peering into the leaves to see what the spiders were doing with their webs,” Mr. Kumpe said.

Leaving a legacy of support for birds

Nate Coulter, Executive Director of CALS, recalled his personal memory of Alan’s memorial service many years ago. “It’s a bittersweet occasion tonight,” he said in his remarks to the gathered crowd. “March 26th would have been Alan’s fiftieth birthday. When we spoke to Alan’s family about this project, we asked how the library could partner with the Kumpes and the Rosses to remember Alan in the most appropriate way, and to perpetuate his love of birds. And this birdwatching area is a perfect choice.”

A gift to the community for years to come

Cindy Franklin, president of the local Audubon Society of Central Arkansas, attended the dedication to support the good cause. “Anytime you can expose people to nature, it’s a positive thing for the environment,” Franklin said. “It is exciting to encourage kids to get outside and open their eyes to what they can find in nature around them.”

Thanks to this generous and thoughtful gift, children and adults in our community will have a peaceful haven to appreciate nature, and abundant books and resources to pique their curiosity. Alan Ross Kumpe will be remembered fondly for many years in this new space that celebrates his love for birds.