Read, 90, who spent the greater part of her life in and among her beloved
Indiana Dunes, passed away on Thursday, May 2, 2019.
Charlotte was born
March 27, 1929, the only child of Charles and Tekla Johnson, who were
immigrants from Sweden.
She grew up near
Jackson Park in Chicago, believing that everyone should live near parks. Her
father owned a thriving construction business until the October 1929 stock
market crash, when he lost everything. He died when Charlotte was sixteen
years old. Her mother supported the family by working as a beautician.
Charlotte attended South Shore High School and graduated from the University
of Illinois with a degree in Economics.
She married Herbert
Philo Read in 1952, thus beginning their life partnership as passionate and
committed protectors of the natural environment. She and Herbert were
founding members of the Porter County Chapter of the Izaak Walton League of
America. They were longtime active members of the Save the Dunes Council.
Charlotte and Herbert Read 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.
a natural gift for diplomacy, and a capacity to sense another person’s
character and values and to understand where it was possible to find common
ground. Through the years, she worked with elected officials, corporate
executives, environmentalists, labor and the public as one of Indiana’s
leading environmental voices. U.S. Rep. Pete Visclosky has said: “Her
involvement with numerous committees illustrates her well-rounded interests
in Indiana’s environmental heritage and her commitment to preserve the
quality of the air, water and wildlife for all the citizens of Northwest
Indiana and the nation.”
She became the Save
the Dunes Council’s first employee in 1974, and served as its executive
director until 1992. She was the first executive director of the Shirley
Heinze Environmental Fund, which acquired lands for preservation. She was
active in the Izaak Walton League of America at the local, state, and
national level. She was a founding member of the Hoosier Environmental
Council. She served on numerous boards and task forces, including the Porter
County Park Board, the Indiana Heritage Trust Fund, the Grand Calumet Task
Force, the steering committee for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s
Iron and Steel Initiative, the Isaak Walton League Great Lakes Committee,
and more. During the 1970s she worked as an editor for a scientific
magazine, Oceanography International.
She won numerous
awards, including Indiana’s highest citizen award, the Sagamore of the
Wabash, in 2003; the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Hoosier
Environmental Council in 1990; the Gold Cup Award from the Hoosier Sierra
Club in 1991; as well as industry-sponsored awards. She was named to the
Indiana Conservation Hall of Fame in 2010 and to the Izaak Walton League of
America’s Conservation Hall of Fame in 2014, a coveted national honor for
outstanding environmental work.
Herbert raised their five children at a house on State Park Boundary Road
that later became part of the National Lakeshore. They then moved to a house
Herb designed for his parents. The Read Dunes House in Tremont, 1,000 feet
inside the southern boundary of the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, became
a part of the National Register of Historic Places in 2011.
Her soul shone with
love for her family, for the natural world, and for the men and women whose
lives she touched. Family members remember her as a wonderful cook,
including her trademark Swedish pancakes. She loved hiking in the Dunes,
reading murder mysteries, listening to Puccini operas, and visiting with her
children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.
book Eternal Vigilance quotes Charlotte’s description of her own life
as a preservationist. “You get hooked on the little victories, and
the little defeats, and then pretty soon you find, at least in our case,
that it becomes the central part of your life. There’s no finite point when
you say, ‘It’s over, I can rest.’ Eternal vigilance is the price of
preserving your good idea.”
She was preceded in
death by her son William Philo Read.
She is survived by
Herbert Read, her husband and life partner in Dunes preservation efforts,
and by sons John (and Sherrill), Jim (and Pia), David (and Karen), and
daughter Suzy Hodge (and Brian); by her 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.
A memorial service
will be held 11:30 a.m., Monday, May 6, at St. John's United Church, 225 W.
Lincoln Ave., Chesterton. Reception with family will be 10:30 a.m. and a
luncheon will follow the service. An additional Celebration of Life
gathering will be arranged for a later date.