DRIGGS - Michael F. DeLate, aka Birdman - ornithologist and gardener, passed away on October 4, 2011, in Driggs, Idaho, after a courageous battle with pancreatic cancer. He was born September 15, 1944, in Pocatello, Idaho, the only son of Jack and Mildred DeLate. Mike attended school at St. Joseph's and Washington Elementary, Franklin Junior High and graduated from Pocatello High School in 1963. He completed his education at Idaho State University with a master's of science degree in zoology. Birdman leaves behind his sister, Kate DeLate, and brother-in-law, Bob Bloxham, and nephew extraordinaire, Skyler Bloxham. He will be missed, but as you can read in the message he sent at the beginning of his illness, he lived a full life, and although we are sad, we should rejoice with him knowing that he is free of pain and is now in a better place, surrounded by family and friends who have gone before him. Below is the letter he sent out as his prospects for recovery seemed dim. We can take joy, knowing that his life was full of adventure and interesting things before his illness overcame even the best of spirits. I HAVE A BIT OF SAD NEWS FOR YOU I am dying of cancer. There is an inoperable and incurable golf ball-sized tumor on/in the head of my pancreas. There are also liver lesions (evidence of spread) and lymph involvement. In my mind, the lymph involvement alone is most likely the death sentence. I begin chemotherapy and will assess the efficacy and quality of life afterwards to determine whether or not to continue. Please don't feel pity for me, I have led a very rich and full life. In fact, I have had the kind of life most folks can only dream of. It all began (well, except for the early years) with surviving Vietnam and earning the GI Bill, which ultimately paid for my advanced schooling. On my initial return to college, I simply was not mature enough to accept the responsibility of being a serious student. I got a job at the Post Office and filled in for two physical therapists on the weekends. A ski trip to Aspen, Colorado, ended my desire to continue working at the Post Office and I became a ski bum there for the next five years. Upon my father's death, I returned to Pocatello and held varying jobs. I was soon freelancing as a mountaineer with the city of Pocatello's outdoor program. There I met and was taught more extensive mountain skill by Tom Amberson, John Wolfe and Charlie Reubelmann and many other fine mountain folk. Probably, my most notable achievement was climbing the Grand Teton with Ike Gayfield, what a view! I returned to college, this time mature enough to make the Dean's List in the pre-med program. One afternoon in an organic chemistry lab, I looked out on the quadrangle and watched students throwing a Frisbee. I recall thinking that to become a doctor, I would be looking at 16 or so labs just like the one I was in. While perusing the class schedule I happened to notice sessions in kayaking and bird identification. I think you can guess the rest of the story. I went on to a wonderful job at the Birds of Prey Nature Area, which had the distinction of the highest concentration of raptors in North America. I did all this while working on a BS and later an MS in zoology (ornithology). Next, I became a river guide on both the Main and Middle Fork of the Salmon River, all the while dreaming of having my own garden. Now, I have the almost perfect organic garden. I am intrigued if not slightly obsessed with biochar and the soil food web. Lastly, I have recently worked on Wind Farm impact on bald eagles and greater sage grouse for Tim Reynolds. My passions are cooking, baking, gardening and bird watching. My crowning achievement was making the perfect loaf of French bread, only five years in the making! Back to no pity. I have no regrets other than the fact that we won't be able to continue our friendship. It is most gratifying to have the quality of friends and relatives, your kindness exceeds all expectations. I almost feel undeserving. When you look back try to remember my smiling face and the good times. Think of the joy, friendship and the knowledge shared, not the fact that I croaked.
Besides his immediate family, Bird leaves behind a circle of friends that has been there through thick and thin, especially Ron Becquart, Jim and Brenda King, who stepped up to the plate for the past five months. Thank you to all, Charlie, Jan, Kathy, Ole, Dougie, Linda, Paul, Lisa, Ty, Travis, Kitt, Clair, Chuck Trost, Mike and Jo. We owe a special debt of gratitude to the wonderful caregivers at Teton Valley Hospital. It is one of the finest groupings of individuals we have ever encountered. Thank you to all - especially Angela Booker and Nikki, who made our final day so memorable and to Dr. Redd, whose honesty and straightforwardness was truly appreciated. In consideration of memorial contributions, Bird would have approved and appreciated contributions in his name to the Sagebrush Steppe Land Trust, P.O. Box 1404, Pocatello, Idaho 83204 (www.sagebrushlandtrust.org).