Ray and Beverly Cram in Alaska.

When we lose someone we love, someone we’ve known our entire lives, it can feel like a gaping hole is left behind. While no person or tribute can ever really replace what has been lost, as humans we have a strong instinct to help our loved one live on in some way.

“After Dad died, people wanted to make donations to something that would live on in his name—something he believed in and loved,” remembered Cathy Cram, daughter of Harold Ramon “Ray” Cram, Jr.

So in December of 2016, Cathy along with her mom Beverly and siblings Ramon, Susan, and Caroline, established the Harold Ramon Cram, Jr. Bluebird Restoration Fund as a way of honoring his memory. Ray had a strong passion for conservation throughout his life. He and Beverly owned a hobby farm for many years, committing themselves to habitat restoration, and instilling a love of the natural world in their children. An avid hunter and fisherman, Ray immersed himself in the natural world and had a keen appreciation for how important nature was to our wellbeing. And he had a particular passion for bluebirds.

I pity the people that never stop to smell the roses, or marvel at God’s gift of beauty, and wonder. I treasure the moments each day watching the sun go down and the evening birds and critters. When my time comes it should be with celebration of a great life lived in the very best of times, with the very best of people.” —Harold Ramon Cram, Jr.

“Dad was always talking about how to take care of bluebirds,” Cathy, remembered. “He would set up bluebird boxes all over, and get involved in bird counts and habitat restoration projects.”

So it seemed like a natural fit to this family of do-it-yourself conservationists that Ray’s legacy should support the Bluebird Restoration Association of Wisconsin—a nonprofit that provides the public with the information and tools they need in order to help bluebirds as well as other cavity-nesting birds.

The family chose to establish a spend-down fund, which differs from an endowed fund in that the entire principle is available for distribution. Spend-down fund creators also have lots of autonomy in deciding how and when to make disbursements—large annual gifts or smaller, more frequent gifts that slowly “spend down” the fund’s balance over time.

The first disbursement from the Harold Ramon Cram, Jr. Bluebird Restoration Fund was sent to the Bluebird Restoration Association of Wisconsin this past March, and the Crams are already thinking of the next one. They plan on promoting the fund and hope to continue to build it over time.

For a man so selflessly devoted to the environment and its creatures, we can’t imagine a more fitting way of honoring his life and work. If you’d like to make a donation to the Harold Ramon Cram, Jr. Bluebird Restoration Fund, you can do so online at WisConservation.org/donate or by mailing a check to the Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin.

Reprinted from Bridges summer 2017.