family, in memory, thatcher, thoughts, travel

The Legacy of Ranger Tim

Ranger Tim was my uncle.

People would often ask him, “So, have you lived in Pittsburgh all your life?” To which he would say, “Not yet.”

On September 4, 2019 Uncle Tim passed away. He had indeed lived all his life in Pittsburgh.

the house Uncle Tim lived in for 68 years–his childhood home
at Fort Pitt in January 2019

He liked to be called Ranger because rangering in National Parks all over the US was his first love. He even branded his clothes and books with his original Ranger Tim logo.

his logo on the bird book he carried all over the globe, visiting 6 continents and more than 100 countries

First, he was a ranger in Shenandoah National Park, where he shared his wonder for and encyclopedic knowledge of nature with visitors for many seasons.

Ranger Tim in Shenandoah
Ranger Tim at Mount Ranier
Ranger Tim at Cape Cod
Ranger Tim in Shenandoah

He also worked in the Everglades, Cape Cod, Grand Canyon, Mount Ranier, and Ocracoke Island. His absolute dream job was to be a ranger in Glacier National Park. While he did visit the park, he never achieved his goal of rangering there in his lifetime. But in his death, he was made an honorary park ranger in Glacier for one day–September 28, 2019–the day of his burial.

Brynn and Great Uncle Tim 2016

I was honored to be with Ranger Tim on that day. Thatcher and I flew from Portland to Pittsburgh, and I’m forever thankful we did.

obligatory PDX airport carpet pic
traveler Thatch

Uncle Tim was not only a ranger, but he also was a science teacher for decades–receiving the Who’s Who Among American Teachers honor in 1992. He graduated from Clarion University with a bachelor’s in biology and an earth and space science teaching certificate. At Carnegie Mellon University he taught his most famous student, Judy Resnik {who was the 4th woman in space and was later tragically killed in the Challenger Space Shuttle explosion}. Uncle Tim taught at Etna High School and Shaler Area Middle School for years. He impacted class after class of Pittsburgh area students and worked to learn each of their names.

As a boy, Uncle Tim came up through the Boy Scouts and earned the rank of Eagle Scout. He then served as a merit badge coach in scouting {troops 173 of Etna and 23 of Edgewood} for more than 45 years. In honor of his dedicated service, he was awarded the Silver Beaver Award in 2002 by the Scouts. At the funeral home, the local scout troops, scoutmasters, and former scouts gathered to honor Ranger Tim with a “Scout Gone Home” ceremony. It was standing room only!

Scout Gone Home ceremony

Uncle Tim is one of four boys–Paul, Tim, John and Dan (my dad). All four sons were Boy Scouts with three of them earning the rank of Eagle Scout. As the scouts led in the Scout Law and the Scout Oath, I loved seeing my dad and uncles raise their hand in the scout salute to join in. The Boy Scouts presented a plaque to the family in honor of Ranger Tim’s contributions to scouting and then opened the floor for friends to share memories. Those were the best stories! The ceremony ended with everyone joining hands to sing the scout vespers.

scout oath
the brothers

Uncle Tim was idiosyncratic, but those quirks translated into a memorable teacher and scout leader that everyone loved. He himself loved learning, and he made learning fun and contagious for others. He inspired wonder at the nature that surrounds us. Uncle Tim was part of the Audobon Society, Botanical Society of Western Pennsylvania, the Wissahickon Nature Club, and the Amateur Astronomers Association of Pittsburgh where he often led star parties. He volunteered his time at the Carnegie museums and at various community/science events through the years. He was a walking almanac and took many trips to visit museums and zoos across the country taking notes–ever the learner.


My dad was privileged to conduct the funeral and committal services where he shared Uncle Tim’s love for nature and commitment to the Creator to whom Uncle Tim entrusted his eternal destiny. Ranger Tim was a gentle and humble soul. Both my dad and my Bubba John observed that neither of them had ever seen my Uncle Tim speak in anger.

Dad playing “Shenandoah” on the dulcimer Bubba John made
Thatcher meeting Grandpa for the first time

Uncle Tim’s way of loving people was to find out what they were interested in and then pepper them with knowledge about their interests. When he found out Silas had done a report on the red eyed tree frog, Great Uncle Tim would save pictures and articles about the frog to give to Silas.

Silas & Great Uncle Tim 2011

I still remember hiking along Valley Falls with Uncle Tim when I was a little girl. He never stopped teaching. As we picked our way through the West Virginia forest, Uncle Tim was teaching me that Santiago was the capital of Chile. His kindness and generosity throughout the years was overwhelming. Among many other gifts, he paid for all of our diapers for our oldest three children. I’m thankful we were able to tell him of Thatcher’s birth this summer.

Christmas 2016
Grandma meeting Thatcher for the first time

I’ll miss Uncle Tim especially on my birthday as he would call each year to sing to me and always squeak on the highest note. He remembered each one of the kids’ birthdays too. Family was important to him, and he valued memories. One day, I hope to take my kids to Kennywood amusement park where I’ll tell them of my adventures there with their Great Uncle Tim.

Christmas 2013
at Uncle Tim’s Eat’n Park

Bubba John commented that though Uncle Tim was short {at only 5′ 2″}, he cast a tall shadow. His legacy will live on in the thousands of lives he touched. What an overwhelming tribute!

Silver Beaver award

4 thoughts on “The Legacy of Ranger Tim

  1. Elizabeth – this tribute for Tim is wonderful! You share your love, respect, “Tim” adventures and pure joy and love for his dedication, humor and even his idiosyncracies (which made him one of those most memorable characters of a lifetime). I’m so glad I had a chance to know him – just wish for more time. Thanks, honey! The pics are great!

  2. Very nice tribute which expresses your love and preserves many of your memories of your Uncle Tim. He will also be missed in our lives.

  3. This is such a beautiful, honoring tribute. I’m so glad you and Thatcher were able to be there.

  4. What a special guy Uncle Tim was! I didnt realize he was so widely traveled. I’m so glad you were able to be there for the funeral. Your tribute to Uncle Tim is beautiful.

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