There are many inspirational moments in this field….but none more than when someone honors a loved ones by continuing their passion. All of us in our North American office were so very touched by the Rodecker’s we asked one of this year’s interns, Michelle Collins, to share their story.
One of the things I’ve enjoyed most this summer interning has been interacting with others who share the same love for marine life as myself. This past week, I had the opportunity to meet and go whale watching with Jack Rodecker. Jack’s pursuit of whale and dolphin watching has taken him not just to Massachusetts but also Florida, Alaska, Texas, and even the Bahamas. While many passengers come aboard whale watches to see these large, majestic creatures while on vacation, whale watching is so much more to Jack.
Jack’s interest in whales was originally inspired by his daughter Alison. Ever since a young age, Alison was very interested in marine life and was the one who dragged Jack to all of the exotic locations in order to see her favorite animals in the wild. They came to Plymouth every year and went whale watching on Captain John Boats for over 20 years. In 1991 when Alison was 10, the Rodecker family adopted one of our adoptable whales, Olympia. Olympia is a large female who has had 7 calves that we know of and is grandmother 9 times over and a great-grandmother 4 times over! However, this is probably not the actual size of Olympia’s family tree because we are only able to track Olympia’s descendants through her daughters because DNA samples are required for paternity. Also Olympia was a grown female when we first sighted her so she could have had more calves prior to when we first documented her.
As Alison grew up, her love for marine life never faded. She graduated from Somerville High School and attended the University of Rhode Island to study Marine Sciences. Although Alison loved all whales and marine life, her favorites were always the orcas. After graduating high school, Alison worked at Sea World in San Antonio, Texas where she soon learned she did not enjoy seeing these animals in captivity. Instead, Jack and Alison traveled to Vancouver Island to see orcas in their natural environment. Sadly, in November of 2005, Alison passed away from a sudden illness.
In the aftermath, Jack decided that he was going to carry on his daughter’s passion to conserve her favorite animals. Jack and the Rodecker family began the Perth Amboy High School Scholarship fund which awards the Alison Michele Rodecker scholarship to one graduating senior of Perth Amboy High School who is continuing on to major in environmental studies in college. This scholarship was first awarded in 2006 and has continued to award one student every spring.
Alison’s legacy has also been continued through the efforts of seven elementary schools in Perth Amboy, where Jack serves as the superintendent. The students have been hard at work bringing awareness of the problems facing whales such marine debris and the decreasing health of our oceans through choir concerts, writing letters to legislators, and holding fundraisers to benefit the Save the Whales organization and the Alison M. Rodecker Memorial Scholarship Foundation. Many of the schools also have a week dedicated to learning about marine life through which many of the students have fallen in love with whales just as Alison did at their age.
Because of Jack, over $60,000 has been raised to benefit the conservation of the creatures that were so close to his daughter’s heart. It was such an honor to be on board a whale watch with Jack and I have no doubt that Alison is very proud of the impact her father is continuing to make.