The daily Astorian. (Astoria, Or.) 1961-current, June 16, 2017, Page 7A, Image 7

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Woman crisscrosses West to fulfi ll a last wish
high desert landscape and wet-
lands when she showed up last
spring. Poe had taken pho-
tographs of bald eagles and
moose on a visit to the south-
east Idaho refuge.
“Our refuge is fairly small.
It would seem to fi t a personal-
ity like Rita’s,” said Wehausen,
refuge manager. “She could
come out here, bird, photo-
graph, and she doesn’t have to
see a lot of other people.”
An unlikely
executor takes a
long road trip
Associated Press
SEATTLE — Nancy Zing-
heim barely knew Rita Poe
when Poe approached her
offi ce at a Washington state
RV park. Poe, a shy registered
nurse, had a request for the RV
park business manager: Could
Zingheim help her with her
Weeks later, the 66-year-
old Poe died of colorectal can-
cer. In her will, she left nearly
$800,000 to a dozen national
wildlife refuges and parks,
mostly in the West. She named
Zingheim the executor.
Zingheim knew little about
Poe, who had moved to the
Evergreen Coho SKP RV Park
in the small town of Chimacum
just fi ve months earlier. She
knew even less about national
wildlife refuges.
That was in 2015. This
year, Zingheim embarked on
a 4,000-mile road trip to learn
more about the woman who
lived in an Airstream trailer
with her dog and cat — and the
wild places that captivated her.
“I wanted to see what they
were,” said Zingheim, 62. “I
decided that I wasn’t going to
suddenly write checks to places
at face value. I wanted to do my
due diligence and fi nd out what
they needed.”
Wildlife refuges
Over nine days, she drove
Poe’s Ford pickup truck in a
loop of the West. She visited
six national wildlife refuges in
California, Idaho, Oregon and
Washington state — part of a
vast network of reserves across
the United States where wild
lands are protected for wildlife.
President Theodore Roos-
evelt established the fi rst ref-
uge in 1903 at Florida’s Peli-
can Island. The U.S. Fish and
Wildlife Service manages more
than 560 such refuges. From
wetlands in Florida to tropical
forests in Hawaii, the lands are
set aside for migratory birds,
Writing the checks
AP Photo/Elaine Thompson
Nancy Zingheim smiles as she sits in a truck given to her in Chimacum, Wash., earlier this month. Zingheim barely
knew Rita Poe when Poe approached her office at the RV park in Washington state, asking for help with her will. Zing-
heim, the executor of Poe’s estate, went on a 4,000-mile road trip to learn more about the woman who lived in a 27-foot
Airstream trailer with her dog and cat, and the wild places that captivated her.
Left: This 2013 photo shows Rita Poe’s dog Iggy
and cat Sunshine, her traveling companions.
Right: When Poe died of cancer, she left nearly
$800,000 to a dozen national wildlife refuges and
parks, mostly in the American West. She also put
a woman she barely knew, Nancy Zingheim, in
charge of carrying out her wishes.
Rita Poe
State of California DMV
Zingheim also fulfi lled one of Poe’s wishes: She scattered
the nature lover’s ashes in a wooded area surrounded by
Washington’s snow-capped Olympic Mountains.
alligators, bears and countless
other creatures. There’s at least
one in each state, and a major-
ity are open to the public for
At each stop, Zingheim
asked around: Do you know
Rita? No one did. One per-
son recalled Poe’s 27-foot Air-
stream trailer but little else.
“To this day, I don’t think
any of us knew a lot about her,”
Zingheim said.
Zingheim also took a tour of
each refuge. She asked refuge
managers what they needed
and wanted. And she tried to
imagine how Poe connected to
these places.
“The reserves, they’re quiet
places. I could see Rita there,”
she said.
Poe’s life
In time, bits of Poe emerged.
Poe grew up in Southern Cali-
fornia, worked as a nurse at a
suburban Los Angeles hospital
and spent time in Texas.
Terry Poe said he last saw
his sister in 2007. After their
parents died, leaving them
money, he said, she bought a
trailer and traveled around the
Western U.S. to various refuges
and national parks.
“She enjoyed nature and
being out in nature,” he said
in a telephone interview from
Southern California.
Rita Poe owned several
high-end cameras. She was a
birder. On her computer, Zing-
heim found stunning photo-
graphs of birds, bears, ocelots
and bobcats. There were trips
to New Mexico, Arizona and
Zingheim said that in the
process of carrying out Poe’s
wishes, she felt she’d been
granted her own bequest. And
she’s grateful for it.
“I saw things that I would
never have seen,” Zingheim
said. “I didn’t know a national
wildlife reserve even existed. I
don’t think a lot of people out
there know about them. They
should. They’re wonderful
Brian Wehausen gave Zing-
heim a tour of the Camas
National Wildlife Refuge’s
Back on Washington’s
Olympic Peninsula after her
trip, Zingheim sat down last
month and wrote checks. They
included money to support
Camas, the Merced National
Wildlife Refuge in California,
Little Pend Oreille National
Wildlife Refuge in Washing-
ton, Malheur National Wild-
life Refuge in Oregon and Bear
River Migratory Bird Refuge
in Utah.
She also sent money to Yel-
lowstone National Park, two
state parks and a Texas birding
“There’s a spiritual con-
nection that people feel about
these places. They have a lot
of meaning to a lot of peo-
ple,” Tracy Casselman, project
leader for the wildlife refuge
complex that includes Camas.
Casselman said Poe’s gift
will ensure more people enjoy
such places.
With each check, Zing-
heim wrote a letter directing
how some money should be
used. “I think she would have
agreed with me, I really do,”
said Zingheim, who has since
adopted Poe’s dog, Iggy.
Steve Gillard, the Washing-
ton attorney who handled Poe’s
will, said it’s unusual for people
to name someone they barely
know to distribute their estate.
“But it’s very unusual for a
person like Nancy to take on
that responsibility. She’s a very
good human being.”
Zingheim also fulfi lled
one of Poe’s wishes: She scat-
tered the nature lover’s ashes
in a wooded area surrounded
by Washington’s snow-capped
Olympic Mountains.
She added: “Every time I
drive by, I say ‘Hi, Rita.’”
Military ship that sank century
ago won’t be pulled from sea
Associated Press
U.S. Coast Guard ship that
fi rst set out to sea during the
Spanish-American War and
sank off the coast of South-
ern California 100 years ago
won’t be moved anytime soon.
Strong currents and an
abundance of sediment would
make moving the delicate ves-
sel too diffi cult, offi cials said
this week in detailing the dis-
covery of the San Francis-
co-based cutter McCulloch.
They also paid tribute to its
crews, including two mem-
bers who died in the line of
Researchers focused on the
area of the shipwreck 3 miles
northwest of Point Concep-
tion, California, after noticing
a fl urry of fi sh. Sunken ships
offer a great place for fi sh to
remains, including a 15-inch
torpedo tube molded into the
bow stem and the top of a pro-
peller blade, are draped with
white anemones 300 feet
below the surface, offi cials
said. Fish swim lazily past
a 6-pound gun mounted in a
platform at the starboard bow.
The ship sank on June 13,
1917, after colliding with
a civilian steamship. The
National Oceanic and Atmo-
spheric Administration and
the Coast Guard discovered
the wreck last fall during a
routine survey.
The McCulloch began
its career as part of Commo-
dore George Dewey’s Asi-
atic Squadron in the Battle of
Manila Bay during the Span-
ish-American War.
Cutters based in San Fran-
cisco in the late 1800s and
early 1900s represented
American interests throughout
the Pacifi c. They also played
important roles in the devel-
opment of the Western U.S.
A fish swims past a circular skylight collapsed inside the
officer’s quarters in the stern of the shipwreck cutter Mc-
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