A Personal Tribute to Liz Wilson

We lost Liz Wilson, my cherished friend, on April 13th. I should have written this days ago, but I alternate between tears and yelling at Liz for being so quiet.  She and I had some kind of dialog, almost every day.  Even if it was via email, I could hear her voice. Those of you that have heard Liz speak know what I mean.  Her voice was unique, strong, honest, and she had a gift for satire which could disarm you if you didn’t know her well.

Liz 12.04
(Liz Lecturing at a Phoenix Landing Event, December 2004)

Over the years I’ve met many people who had their views shaped by a simple truth spoken in raw honesty by Liz.  Since she was dedicated to the life of the parrot, she was not patient with those who thought a situation was all about them, or that they did something right and the parrot did it wrong.  That’s a good thing, parrots need this kind of advocate, someone who doesn’t dance around the edges of the hard issues.  Parrots often pay the price for our stupidities, and Liz was bound and determined to help people get ahead of those.  For the parrot’s sake.

Liz was ahead of her time, she was a pioneer.  As the market for parrots as pets was really taking off, she along with a few others tried to make a difference for the many birds now in homes.  Liz dedicated her life to understanding what it means to be a parrot in captivity.  Caring well for parrots was no easy task then, it’s no easy task now.  Did she always get it right?  Of course not, do you?  We are all learners.  We are all teachers.  However, Liz put her whole heart and soul into it, always seeking to learn something new and to do a better job.  She tried damn hard to make sure the rest of us made an effort too.  To those of you who left Liz’s side when something newer came along, yours is the greater loss.

I never stopped learning from Liz and her breadth of hands-on experience.  How many of us can say we lived with the same parrot for over 40 years?  Most people give up after a few short years, sometimes after only weeks or months.  At Phoenix Landing, we rehome adopted parrots again and again; mostly because people – good people – can’t find the time, money or interest to stick it out longer.   Sam, Liz’s blue and gold macaw, is over 60 now.  There’s no doubt they had some ups and downs in their relationship, and faced the usual challenges of compatibility between two species, human and parrot.  I hope some of us will be lucky enough to live up to this legacy with our parrots, what a remarkable accomplishment by Liz.  I cannot imagine how Sam is feeling now, she probably has the same empty hole in her heart that I do.

Liz Whispering to Sam
(Liz Whispering to Sam
Photo Courtesy of Morgan Henderson, April 2013)

Lastly, up until her final days, Liz was a treasure to Phoenix Landing.  Joining our Board of Directors in 2004 as our Education Vice President, she was a steady and invaluable advisor.   She knew how to cut to the heart of difficult issues or decisions, she was my constant sounding board for ideas or problems, and most of all she was an unwavering friend.  No matter how contentious a discussion or challenging a situation, I KNEW we were the best of friends and that our relationship was never at stake.  Everyone should be so lucky to have such a genuine friend.

Liz and Wendy 2008
(Liz and Wendy Huntbatch from the World Parrot Refuge
Board Meeting 2008)

Liz, I really don’t know yet what we are going to do without you, you will be forever missed.   But I promise you, we will always put the birds first, and we will do our best to promote education in your honor and good name.   Love always to you and all the parrots now by your side.

Liz and Ann 2003
(Liz and Ann, March 20o3)