Our Founder

We Remember Ed Towle (1929 — 2006)

We still remember and lament the passing of our founder and past president (1972-1998), Dr. Edward Towle, in September 2006. Ed was a mentor and inspiration to his colleagues and friends throughout the Caribbean; he was possessed of a creative and engaging mind and an unparalleled enthusiasm for his work. Without Ed, Island Resources Foundation would not be. Without Ed, the emergence of a conservation ethic in the Caribbean in the 1960s and 1970s would have been less intellectually rigorous, less open and expansive in its outreach, and less sustainable during a time when the region had other priorities. And without his infectious smile and that twinkle in his eye, it would have been less fun!

In the late 1960s, shortly after his arrival in the Caribbean, Ed Towle quickly emerged as one of a handful of custodians for a new regional consciousness about the man-environment relationship in an insular setting. He was at the forefront of a generation of environmental leaders in the region who first confronted the complexities of modern development, as issues of resource scarcity, growth limits and long-term sustainability came to the forefront and as new institutions—including Island Resources Foundation—were established.

Following his death, Dr. Towle’s widow, Judith, established a memorial fund to honor her husband, the Edward L. Towle Fund for Sustainable Islands. Click here for additional information on this Fund.

On December 2, 2006 , Ed’s family, friends and colleagues gathered for a Memorial Celebration at the H. Lavity Stoutt Community College in the British Virgin Islands . Following the Memorial, some of Ed’s ashes were buried on Sandy Cay in the British Virgin Islands , indeed a fitting and appropriate landscape for this man who loved islands. The Order of Service at the Memorial, along with the tributes delivered at this celebration of Ed’s life can be found at:  http://www.irf.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/Order-of-Service-ELT-Memorial-with-Tributes.pdf

Included herein are two additional tributes to Dr. Towle—a formal obituary from The Washington Post, which provides an overview of his life and contributions, and the “Remembrance” below from his wife, Judith, which acknowledges the awesome challenges Ed confronted at the end of his life.

Remembrance from Judith Towle

Ed Towle entered my life when I was 21 years old, and therefore my remembrances of this man—who was to be my husband, my partner, my inspiration— are infinite. Yet, if I was to focus on only one cluster of memories to honor him, I would choose my memories of our last years—the most difficult and yet the most remarkable of our time together.

As most who will read this already know, Ed faced incredible medical challenges during the final years of his life. Ed’s journey through almost a decade of doctors, hospitals, surgeries, medications, experiments, specialists, procedures, therapy, pain, and loss would have been daunting for most—but particularly so for someone with Ed’s zest for life, passion for work and enthusiasm for just about everything. Beginning with diabetes and the onset of a relatively rare autoimmune disease in the late 1990s, continuing to kidney failure and the eventual amputation of both legs and confinement to a wheelchair, Ed endured tremendous change and loss.

But endure he did with a spirit, a perseverance, a strength that helped those of us around him to be equally confident. There is only one word to describe the Ed Towle of the last five years—courageous. And perhaps no one defined courage better than Ernest Hemingway when he wrote of it as “grace under pressure”. This is how I will remember Ed, who from his wheelchair—impaired by disease, medication, and endless handicaps— continued to be the most extraordinary human being.

We often visited the Franklin Roosevelt Memorial in Washington , D.C. , an American President with whom Ed quite naturally felt a new affinity. What I remember best are the words of Eleanor Roosevelt inscribed on a granite wall behind a statue of her husband in his wheelchair. These words are embedded in my heart for they so remind me of the husband I knew at the end of his good and full life:

Franklin ’s illness gave him strength and courage he had not had before. 
He had to think out the fundamentals of living and learn the greatest of all lessons — 
Infinite patience and never-ending persistence.