Birds of a Feather with Stan Kozyra
Some people seem born for a certain mission in life. Stan has given his time, attention and talents “to the birds” – quite literally. His eyes light up when he speaks of song birds and his passionate endeavour to create homes for them in our part of the world. His dream is that generations after him have a chance to behold their beauty and to hear their song. Stan is 88 years old and still labours in his work shop at Whispering Waters towards that purpose.
Stan was born on a homestead near Onoway, AB in 1929. It sounds like he had a bit of a wandering spirit as a young man. After pursuing work in lumber camps and on the oil patch he eventually settled down in marriage and in a career with the Edmonton City Police. But city life was not really for him. He longed to be close to nature. After 9 years in the city he moved around the province for the next 24 years as an Inspector for Highway Supervision, Game Wardens, Fishery Operations and the Fuel/Oil Tax Branch. This job took him to St. Paul, Lac La Biche, and Stettler. The hardest place to leave was Lac La Biche because of his love for fishing.
In each community Stan was dedicated to his job and conservation, but also dedicated to teaching children to love and appreciate nature. He was a leader with the Elks and with Fish and Game Clubs. Stan knew that song birds were essential to a healthy ecology and so he actively participated in a Bird Box Program with numerous schools around the province. Contractors would give him good wood and he would then cut the wood according to a pattern before teaching children in Grades 4, 5 and 6 to assemble. The kids got to take their bird houses home to hang in their own yards. Prior to that plan Stan was trying to put up all these houses himself! The Bird Box Program was the perfect plan to educate kids and to increase the population of birds in the area. Stan also held silent auctions for the Alberta Conservation Association and even recycled shot guns as a way to purchase habitat land in the area. AB now has 200,000 acres for people to enjoy knowing the land will be left as is.
Stan’s favourite birds are bluebirds, tree swallows and chippy sparrows. Throughout his career biologists have commented they had never seen so many song birds in one area. That compliment brings a smile of contentment to Stan’s face.
Stan and his wife retired to Stony Plain in 1987 to be near her father who needed some extra attention. Stan didn’t mind. The move brought him closer to his family (especially a younger brother who is his taxi driver!) who still reside in the area. Stan says he loves the people of Stony Plain because they are easy to talk to and live with. His good reputation with the Elks Lodge preceded his move however. A letter came ahead of him to let the area know a good leader was coming their way. The Elks Lodge in Stony Plain was not very big at the time but under Stan’s leadership they helped many families with home fires and eventually sold the hall to the town of Stony Plain and donated $22,000 towards developing the trail system. This sale also financed the pavilion at the WestView Health Centre.
Stan believes that a big problem for seniors is finding people who they can really connect with over topics that truly interest them. Stan still wants to find new patterns for bird house design and to work on building them. He finds himself alone in his shop for at least a couple of hours a day wishing he could share his love and enthusiasm with someone of like mind. Stan’s best buddy, Layton Stewart, died just before Christmas. He really misses him. “Two brains come up with solutions, but with one you are usually stuck. I love it when people suggest things I never thought of!” Stan watches out the window for his song birds to build nests in his trees. I can imagine that when one eventually arrives Stan is reminded that his buddies are hatched every year and they come to sing him their song of gratitude for his love and concern. If only birds could talk.
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