Herbert Philo Read,
93, who spent the greater part of his life working to preserve the Indiana
Dunes, passed away peacefully at his home on December 22, 2019. He was born
in Chicago, Illinois on June 22, 1926, the only child of Philo and Irene
Read. As a boy Herbert visited the Indiana Dunes with his family nearly
every weekend. He knew and photographed the Indiana Dunes in their
undisturbed grandeur, before many of those Dunes were lost to intensive
industrial and commercial development. It became his life’s work to preserve
for future generations what remained of that precious natural treasure.
Herbert enlisted in
the U.S. Navy during World War II and served on the cruiser USS Albany.
After the war he bought and flew an army surplus Stearman biplane.
In 1952 Herbert
married Charlotte Johnson, who shared his love for the Dunes. So began their
life partnership as passionate and committed protectors of the natural
environment. In 1959 Herbert and Charlotte bought a home close to the
Indiana Dunes State Park, and brought up their five children amid the Dunes.
Charlotte were founding members of the Porter County Chapter of the Izaak
Walton League of America, and Herbert served as its first president. They
were longtime active members of the Save the Dunes Council. They gathered
citizen petitions and testified before Congress in a successful effort to
establish the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore in 1966 and subsequently to
expand and safeguard the park. On March 12, 2019 Herbert and Charlotte were
honored with a standing ovation during a ceremony at the Indiana State
Capitol marking the park’s becoming officially the Indiana Dunes National
Park. Herbert was also active in creating a Porter County park system and
later served as a member of the county planning commission.
Herbert was by
profession an architect. Projects he worked on included water treatment
plants in Wisconsin and Minnesota, Elston High School in Michigan City,
Chicago’s Midway Airport, scattered-site public housing in Chicago, and a
museum honoring the Tuskegee Airmen at Marquette Park in Gary. He also
designed many private homes in and near the Indiana Dunes, including the
Read Dune House in Tremont, originally built for his parents, who were also
active in the effort to preserve the Dunes.
In 2011 the Read
Dunes House was placed on the National Register of Historic Places for its
association with the efforts of citizen conservation groups to preserve the
Indiana Dunes and create an Indiana Dunes National Park. The design of the
home emerged from the Read family’s long relationship with dunes
preservation efforts, Herbert’s insistence on harmony with the landscape,
and a desire for a community space for friends and citizen volunteers.
Herbert Read’s own
contribution to the Dunes effort included his skill at making and reading
maps, his familiarity with every inch of the Dunes country, his mastery of
technical detail, his understanding of legislative process, his enormous
energy, and his persistence in the face of opposition from industry and, at
that time, much of the state’s political leadership. Herbert pioneered
techniques to challenge studies and analysis by government agencies and
corporate interests. As one historian has noted, “Today such challenges are
routine and fundamental to public land-use battles everywhere.”
Charlotte fostered a lifelong love of the outdoors in their children John,
Jim, David, Suzy, and Bill. Family outings included Dune hikes in all
seasons and all weather, campfires and cookouts, and tobogganing down
precipitous Dune slopes. Besides his passion for the Dunes, Herbert loved
photography; antique cars (he owned several classic Studebakers); flying in
vintage B-17 bombers; and riding, chasing and filming steam locomotives,
often taking his children along on the steam trips.
passionately loved his family. He took great joy in their visits,
accomplishments, photographs, and stories.
He was preceded in
death by his beloved son William Philo Read in 2018, and his beloved life
partner Charlotte on May 2, 2019. He is survived by sons John (and
Sherrill), Jim (and Pia), David (and Karen), and daughter Suzy Hodge (and
Brian); by his grandchildren Jacquelyne, Jonathon, Samantha, Allison, David,
James, Jordana, Jessica, and Jennifer, and great-grandchildren Blake,
Hunter, Katelyn, Krystal, Peyton, Jaxon, Ella, Colton, Cooper, and Dawson;
and by his faithful cat Fatso.
The Read family
thanks Julie McMeans, Suzie Gustafson, and Michael Ellerman for helping
Herbert live his final months at home in dignity, friendship, and
A Celebration of
Life service will be announced at a later date.