Cetacean Society International
Whales Alive! - Vol. XV No. 3 - July 2006
Maxine E. McCloskey, 78, passed away on April 14, 2006. The loss of this remarkable woman should sadden anyone who values the grand strides made by the environmental movement from the 60's on, because Maxine was one of the key people that made it all happen. Maxine is survived by four children, five grandchildren, and her loving husband of forty years, Michael McCloskey, who retired as Chairman of the Sierra Club. Together they were leaders in the movement to bring the care of our Earth to the attention of the world.
A child of the Great Depression, she was a lover of beauty in art and nature, and a strong supporter of education. Widowed in 1964, she established the Clyde R. Johnson Award for Excellence in Chemistry at Portland State University. An active Democrat, she ran Senator Richard Neuberger's office, and later helped his wife, Senator Maurine Neuberger.
Maxine nurtured a tremendous variety of environmental causes, mostly as an unpaid volunteer. With a focus on whales and wildlife, she started Project Jonah and later created and ran the Whale Center in Oakland for about a decade in the mid-seventies. Her understanding of the need to protect habitats was decades before the rest of the world caught on. One example was her work to establish the Point Reyes/Farallones National Marine Sanctuary. As an example of her international work, she was head of an IUCN working group that defined the values of the high seas as other than resources for human exploitation.
A leader among IWC NGO's, she served on the US Delegation to the IWC for six years, and played a key role in the IWC's Schedule Amendment that established zero quotas for commercial whaling from 1986 on. As well as building environmental protections Maxine was skilled at blocking great losses when national politics swung towards exploitation. Judy Olmer, who stepped in when Maxine "retired" as the IWC NGO representative for the Sierra Club, recalls: "Several weeks ago, I had occasion to go through some of Maxine's old files on IWC, dolphin-safe tuna, precursors to LFA sonar, and other issues. I was so struck by the passion and energy she brought to her work - by how much pushing and prodding she had been doing for years to protect the animals whose fate moved her so much, how many letters she had generated to members of Congress and others, and how widely she had circulated to do this work ... Maxine was deeply engaged and played an important role in saving the whales back in the years when that work was only beginning, and when it was so critical."
Maxine's legacy of protected species, sanctuaries, wildernesses and habitats around the world will bear testament to her unselfish work. She never asked for any thanks for her immense achievements, and our Earth is a better place for her having worked so tirelessly.
Memorial contributions for a magnolia tree in honor of Maxine McCloskey can be sent to Portland's Walk of the Heroines, PO Box 751, Portland, OR 97207 (http://www.woh.pdx.edu/), or to the Sierra Club Foundation, for the oral history program, at The Sierra Club, Attention: John De Cock, 85 Second St., Suite 750, San Francisco, CA 94105. - William Rossiter
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