Our Hero ~ Bob Hatcher
On July 22, 2014 the American Eagle Foundation (AEF) lost a beloved friend and dedicated supporter with the passing of Bob Hatcher.
Bob Hatcher served as the Non-Game & Endangered Species Coordinator for the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency from 1987 to 2001, but served TWRA for a total of thirty-eight years. He initiated Tennessee’s Bald Eagle recovery efforts in the early 1980s.
Tennessee’s first Bald Eagle hacking/release programs were started and sponsored by the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) at Land Between the Lakes, and by Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA) at Reelfoot Lake. Bob Hatcher and Don Hammer, with the TVA, led and guided the start-up of these two Bald Eagle hacking programs. Hatcher went on to establish and coordinate Bald Eagle hacking/release efforts at four more Tennessee locations, not including the Hack site at Douglas Lake established by the American Eagle Foundation. Approximately 225 Bald Eaglets were released in Tennessee from 1980-1994 from these 6 Hack sites.
In the mid-80s, Al Cecere, Founder and President of the American Eagle Foundation came to Bob Hatcher with a vision and desire to help save Bald Eagles. From that point on, Hatcher became a mentor and close friend of Al, selflessly sharing his guidance, wisdom, experience, expertise, and enthusiasm for Bald Eagles. Hatcher is one of the primary reasons the AEF exists today, having generously volunteered thousands of hours of time and expertise to the cause for three decades.
He was also responsible for entrusting a one-year-old Bald Eagle to the AEF in 1990 after it was deemed non-releasable by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services. Today, this eagle goes by the name of Challenger. Have you heard of him?
Bob was dearly loved and respected by family, friends, and conservation representatives all over Tennessee and the country. He was the epitome of selflessness, integrity, patience, passion, and humility. He went above and beyond the call of duty for the sake of Bald Eagle and endangered species conservation. He was always a big promoter of ‘symbiotic relationships,’ focusing on what people could achieve by working cooperatively together and sharing the credit. He humbly never accepted full credit that his friends and colleagues all knew he so greatly deserved.
In our eyes, he is a hero and a legacy. On July 15th, the American Eagle Foundation, in cooperation with the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, released a 13-week-old Bald Eaglet hatched by one of AEF’s non-releasable Bald Eagle breeding pair, Peace and Faithful. This special eagle release was conducted to honor and thank 76-year-old Bob Hatcher for his dedication in helping bring our nation’s living symbol, the Bald Eagle, back from the brink of extinction. This eaglet was appropriately named ‘Hatcher’s Legacy’ (wing patagial tag HL4).
Hundreds of friends, family members, and colleagues gathered at Bells Bend Park near the Cumberland River in Nashville, TN for the event. Hearts were lifted as family and friends shared stories and words of gratitude and appreciation for Bob. Bob’s friend and country music entertainer James Rogers sang a medley of songs he had written about Bald Eagles, including Fly, Eagle, Fly. The TWRA also announced the new Bob Hatcher Ornithological Foundation Scholarship. Each year, a student with an emphasis in ornithology and wildlife will receive the award.
Up until the very end, Bob held steadfast to the positive and uplifting attitude he exhibited his whole life. He was the epitome of selflessness, integrity, passion, and humility. He went above and beyond the call of duty for the sake of Bald Eagle and endangered species conservation.
On the morning of the release of Hatcher’s Legacy, Challenger the Eagle paid a surprise visit to Bob at a hospice in Nashville. When Challenger flapped his wings, Bob, known by his friends to have a wonderful sense of humor, smiled and said, “That’s my biggest fan.”
We are all your biggest fans, Bob.
On July 22nd, surrounded by his family, Bob passed away after fighting a year-long battle with cancer. He enjoyed watching the DVD recording of the release of Hatcher’s Legacy during the days prior.
There are no words to describe how incredible a man he was. He is a legacy. He will be remembered, missed and cherished always. He is an Eagle—and now he finally has his wings.
~ Al Cecere