Louis Arthur Watres
Louis Arthur Watres, known as Arthur to most people, died January 10, 2014 from complications of pneumonia in Paoli Hospital, Paoli, PA. He was 91.
Arthur was a pioneering environmentalist who gave the remaining assets of a once-influential family (his grandfather was a successful Scranton businessman and Lt Governor of Pennsylvania, and his uncle a U.S. Congressman) to the cause of preservation, education and research when he and his mother founded the Lacawac Sanctuary in Lake Ariel, PA, in 1966. Arthur worked the rest of his life to assure the ongoing mission of Lacawac—a work that remains in progress.
Born in 1922 in Bermuda to adventurous parents Reyburn and Isabel Watres, he grew up on the move, living in various locations and on yachts of his father’s making. In all he attended more than 30 primary schools before enrolling in Phillips Exeter Academy. He studied fine art at Yale, though his university years were interrupted by his service as a Japanese interpreter for the US Navy during WWII. He was graduated in 1947 as part of the class of 1945W.
Following his father’s death and a short stint as a securities trader, Arthur and his mother moved to the family’s then-dilapidated country manor at Lake Lacawac in the Pocono Mountains. They spent many years restoring the buildings and trying to eke out a living operating a sawmill, a fish hatchery, and earth moving business. He resorted to textbook editing.
A spirit of adventure—and long winters at Lacawac—led Arthur and his mother to explore the South Pacific in colder months. They booked themselves on a freighter to French Polynesia, and caught copra schooners under sail to various island groups. In 1949 they were passengers on the first commercial flight from Tahiti to the US.
An accomplished artist, he painted and sculpted what he saw, leaving a legacy of mid-century water colors of the Pacific and other island adventures in the Caribbean.
In the 1950s, Arthur began to read early environmental treatises about the limitations of the Earth’s resources. Determined to make a difference, he visited scientists at the Museum of Natural History in New York, which led to his acquaintance with a young Dr. Ruth Patrick, who became one of the world’s pre-eminent limnologists. It was her first visit to Lacawac that set the seeds of the Watres gift of the estate, which surrounds what Patrick called “the southernmost unpolluted glacial lake in the US.”
Arthur spent the rest of his life sharing his passion for the natural world and interest in using science to understand and protect it. His body of work, including founding the NE Pennsylvania Chapter of the Nature Conservancy, has been recognized by numerous national awards, including the Thomas P. Shelburne Environmental Leadership award and the Hornaday Gold Medal, the nation’s oldest conservation award, presented by Gov. Mark Schweiker.
He is survived by his son, Chad Reed-Watres; niece, Elizabeth Noble; grandchildren Sage and Olin Reed-Watres; and grandniece, Megan Noble.
At his request there will be no funeral or service. Those wishing to remember Arthur are invited to send donations to Lacawac Sanctuary, 94 Sanctuary Road, Lake Ariel, PA 18436.