Roscoe and Evelyn Churchill

the granmother and grandfather of the anti-metallic sulfide mining movement Evelyn and Roscoe Churchill

 

Roscoe Churchill passed away after 90 years of a full life. He and his wife Evelyn stood strong against the mining companies who intended to mine metallic sulfide ores in Wisconsin (a type of ore that always creates acid mine drainage, which is like adding battery acid to our waters of the state). Over the years they had thousands of people who loved them and followed their lead.

They were like two huge oak trees that sent thousands of acorns scattering to the earth. Those "acorns" have now taken root and the largest, longest lasting, and most sincere "grassroots" environmental movement continues to this day and will long into the future generations. They were truly the "grandparents of the anti-metallic sulfide mining movement in Wisconsin", and now their followers have spread to other states.

Someday, due to Roscoe and Evelyn's loving diligence mining companies will have to do what they hate to do.....clean up their mess and listen to the local communities.

 We will be continuing to gather photos and stories of these two wonderful people who worked so hard to protect the earth for the future generations. A book about their activism is coming out this spring of 2007

Roscoe Lee Churchill passed from this life on Friday, February 9, 2007.  A loving father, devoted husband and inspired educator, Roscoe retained a clear mind and strong commitment to preserving and protecting the earth until the age of 90.

Funeral services will be at 11:00 a.m. Friday, February 16, 2007 at the First Church of Christ, located at 701 Menasha Avenue, Ladysmith.  Pastor Donn Schroeder and Pastor Ramon Hunt will officiate.  Visitation will be at the Nash-Jackan Funeral Home in Ladysmith, Thursday, February 15, 2007 from 4:00 to 7:30 p.m., with a 10:00 a.m. visitation on Friday prior to the funeral service.  In addition, a “Fond Farwell” memorial will be held at the Stefan Pavilion at the Grant Town Shops (South of Ladysmith on Hwy. 27), beginning at 2:00 p.m. (following the burial).  There will be songs in celebration of Roscoe’s life, sharing of memories, dedications by Native American Tribal Members and a special Eagle Feather Ceremony.

Roscoe is survived by his brother Edwin (Milwaukee), his five children – Arlene Sellereite (Seattle),  Edwin (Augusta, Maine), George (Conrath), Susan (Madison), and Hazel Ann Jerry (Ladysmith), ten grand children, seven great-grand children, his virtual son Kwabena Amoh (Minneapolis), and his special friends, Laura and Greg Furtman (Webster).  Roscoe was preceded in death by his beloved wife Evelyn and his grandson, Zachary.

Roscoe was born on June 28, 1916 to George and Arminda Churchill, the 10th of 11 children.  He grew up on the farm, and learned early to work hard, and to love nature.  He thrived on splitting wood, riding and driving horses, and eating berry pies.  His proudest moment was when, as a young man, he was able to purchase a Model A Ford for his parents, with money he earned cutting and selling wood.  He completed County Normal (teachers’ training) in 1937 at the age of 21.  In the same year he got his first teaching position and married Evelyn Dorothy Haase, the love of his life.  He and Evelyn were happily married for nearly 59 years. Roscoe was a member and elder of the First Church of Christ in Ladysmith, and also, in later life, a member of the Congregational Church in Conrath.  He was a member of the Masonic Lodge.

Roscoe’s most profound moment of fulfillment was when he was able to buy back the family farm south of Ladysmith, which was pioneered by his parents in 1900, and lost during the Depression.  With his family, he enjoyed operating the farm while pursuing his career as an educator.  He raised beef and dairy cattle, took great pleasure in working with his horses, often driving his favorite mare, April, in local parades.  Roscoe enjoyed listening to and singing music from the Big Band era, liked to play the harmonica, and took pleasure in playing the ukulele to waken his kids before chores in the morning.

Other favorite activities included making maple syrup and playing cribbage with his friend Bob Bricco, writing poetry and refining his skill at darning socks.

During his teaching career, which spanned over thirty years, Roscoe continued his education, and was the first in his family to obtain a Masters Degree.  He took great pride and pleasure in nurturing an appreciation of nature in his students.  Through the “Trees for Tomorrow” program, he introduced many youngsters to the wonder of Wisconsin’s forests and woodlands, and to the importance of caring for our natural world.

In partnership with Evelyn, Roscoe worked tirelessly to protect Wisconsin’s environment.  They drafted and promoted important legislation to protect Wisconsin’s waters, including the Flambeau River, from the impacts of mining.  Further, Roscoe and Evelyn provided guidance, support and inspiration to countless others across the state and nation who shared their desire to preserve the environment.  Roscoe and Evelyn received numerous awards and recognition for their dedicated service and environmental leadership.

Roscoe loved spending time outdoors, planting crops, caring for his animals, and occasionally hunting for deer.  At age 86, he bagged a prize buck, which he mounted on his living room wall.  Thirty-five years ago Roscoe and his family planted thousands of pine, spruce and balsam trees on the “back forty” of the farm.  Today those trees stand tall, providing habitat to deer, bear, owls and other wildlife - a living legacy to a man who lived his life according to his ideals. Roscoe will be long remembered – a leader, visionary and inspiration to us all.

Those who wish to express sympathy may consider a donation to:

  •  Northwest Wisconsin Homecare, Inc. (Hospice)
    1001 W. Main Street
    P.O. Box 67
    Cameron, WI 54822
     
  • The Roscoe and Evelyn Churchill Memorial Environmental Scholarship Fund, Wells Fargo Bank, 100 Miner Ave E., Ladysmith, WI 54848.

 

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Roscoe Churchill

Obituary/Press Release

By Al Gedicks

 

Roscoe Churchill, a dearly loved leader of Wisconsin’s environmental movement passed away on February 9, 2007 in his sleep after a long struggle with prostate cancer.      

Roscoe Churchill of Ladysmith, was the grandfather of Wisconsin's grassroots anti-mining movement. For more than 30 years, this retired school principal, part-time farmer, former Republican, and Rusk County supervisor, along with his late wife Evelyn, were the heart and soul of the efforts to stop some of the largest mining companies in the world, including Kennecott, Noranda, Exxon, Rio Algom and BHP Billiton from destroying the land and clean waters of communities from Ladysmith to the Mole Lake Chippewa Reservation near Crandon, and from La Crosse County  to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.

            In the early 1970s the Kennecott Copper Company tried to develop a copper mine in Ladysmith and Roscoe became concerned that the mine could endanger local groundwater and disrupt the dairy farming economy of Rusk County. During their retirement years, he and Evelyn traveled across the U.S. and Canada, visiting active and abandoned mines and educating themselves about every aspect of mining.

Evelyn specialized in Wisconsin's mining laws and regulations while Roscoe did most of the public speaking and debates with mining company officials and representatives of the Wisconsin DNR. He and Evelyn were among the founders of the Rusk County Citizens Action Group, formed in the mid 1970s to oppose Kennecott's proposed open pit copper mine on the banks of the Flambeau River.

Local opposition stopped the mine in 1976 but the company tried again in 1988 and after running roughshod over township opposition and covering up the presence of endangered species in the Flambeau River, received permits to mine in 1991. The long and sordid history of Kennecott's interference with local democracy and the courageous resistance by grassroots citizens is recounted in the forthcoming book by Roscoe Churchill and his friend Laura Furtman, called The Buzzards Have Landed: The Real Story of the Flambeau Mine.

            Their discussions around the kitchen table with friends and neighbors led to the drafting and successful passage of the 1998 Wisconsin Mining Moratorium Law,  known as the Churchill Moratorium Law within the environmental community, in honor of Roscoe and Evelyn's key role in drafting the original legislation.

This law set a strict performance standard for mining permits which required mining companies to demonstrate successful mining and post-mining without polluting surrounding surface and groundwaters. No mining company has been able to meet this standard and Wisconsin soon earned a reputation within the international mining industry as the least attractive place to mine.

            Roscoe's untiring opposition to ecologically destructive mining had nothing to do with "Not in my backyard" sentiment. He traveled across the state to assist the Indian, environmental and sportfishing alliance that formed to oppose Exxon's proposed Crandon mine at the headwaters of the Wolf River. He was an effective public speaker and organizer with the Wolf Watershed Educational Project, one of the principal groups that stopped Exxon, Rio Algom and BHP Billiton from constructing the ill-conceived Crandon mine.

 Roscoe spoke before town and county boards all over western Wisconsin in 1997-98 when Kennecott wanted to explore for copper in La Crosse, Jackson, Trempealeau, Clark,  and Eau Claire counties. All five counties voted to ban mining on public lands.Roscoe and Evelyn's dedication to preserving sustainable economies in Wisconsin received special recognition by several Wisconsin tribes, including the Menominee, the Mole Lake Chippewa, the Forest County Potawatomi, the Lac Courte Oreilles Chippewa and the Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission.

            Roscoe's knowledge, experience, eloquence and fearlessness in the face of irresponsible corporate and bureaucratic power won the admiration and respect of an entire generation of environmental activists.

The Churchill farm became a mecca for young people interested in learning from the elders of the Wisconsin anti-mining movement. Even when the ravages of prostate cancer was slowing him down, he continued to give his time, energy and expertise to newly formed citizen groups opposed to Kennecott's proposed metallic sulfide mine in the Yellow Dog Plains of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.

"We can't quit fighting, and we're not going to!" As long as there was breath in his lungs he used his voice to speak uncomfortable truths to power and to inspire hope and confidence in the grassroots.

Roscoe and Evelyn's legacy is one of the strongest grassroots environmental movements in the history of Wisconsin.

Funeral services will be at 11:00 a.m. Friday, February 16, 2007 at the First Church of Christ, located at 701 Menasha Avenue, Ladysmith.  Pastor Donn Schroeder and Pastor Ramon Hunt will officiate.  Visitation will be at the Nash-Jackan Funeral Home in Ladysmith, 120 Fritz Ave E, Thursday, February 15, 2007 from 4:00 to 7:30 p.m., with a 10:00 a.m. visitation on Friday prior to the funeral service.

  In addition, a “Fond Farwell” memorial will be held at the Stefan Pavilion at the Grant Town Shops (South of Ladysmith on Hwy. 27), beginning at 2:00 p.m. (following the burial).  There will be songs in celebration of Roscoe’s life, sharing of memories, dedications by Native American Tribal Members and a special Eagle Feather Ceremony to honor Roscoe and Evelyn’s dedication to protecting the earth.

For more information call Sandy Lyon 715 766 2725 Friends have already called and ask "what can I do to help?" and we told them, "bring pies" lots of pies....Roscoe loved pies. (they may be dropped off at the Pavilion before, during or after the funeral.) Thank you.

To help carry on the legacy of these two fine stewards of the environment, memorials may be directed to: Roscoe and Evelyn Churchill Memorial Environmental Scholarship Fund, Wells Fargo Bank, 100 Miner Ave E., Ladysmith, WI 54848.

Roscoe Churchill being honored at Earth Day at the Lac Courte Oreilles Chippewa Reservation

Roscoe Churchill being honored at Earth Day at the Lac Courte Oreilles Chippewa Reservation