Donald Ferguson Mears of San Diego, California, died at home on March 15 at the age of 79. Mr. Mears, formerly of Cataumet, had been a volunteer with the Bourne Conservation Trust while he was a resident here.
He was born in Salem, the son of Eleanor W.F. and Harry F. Mears, and was raised in Salem and at Conomo Point in Essex.
Mr. Mears was brought up in a family that embraced nature and he participated in fishing, clamming, hiking and hunting at the family duck camp in his formative years and remained an avid outdoorsman throughout adulthood.
He joined the US Air Force and was a parachute rigger, then transferred to the US Coast Guard as an ADCS/Aviation Machinist Mate Senior Chief. He flew in HH-52A and HH-3F Sikorsky helicopters, and the HU-16 Grumman Albatross Seaplane.
While stationed in Bermuda, he met the woman who would become his wife, Mary Allen Craig. They shared 52 years of marriage, during which they traveled the world and explored nature together, until her death in April 2017.
With his wife he volunteered with Meals on Wheels in Bourne, delivering meals to seniors, and helped to plant bulbs throughout town as part of a community beautification project.
But perhaps his most valuable service to the town was contributing his skills and passion for nature to the Bourne Conservation Trust. Mr. Mears was mentioned in several articles published in 2003 in the Enterprise in which he was praised for his efforts and that one project “marked a new era in cooperation between the town and the trust in caring for open space in Bourne.”
That winter, the Bourne Open Space Committee and the conservation trust, with the support of the board of selectmen, opened to the public more than a quarter of a mile of new trails on the former DiModico property owned by the town.
The trail system crisscrosses the 9.12-acre former DiModica property between Shore Road and Monks Park in Monument Beach, which the town purchased in 2002 for $950,000. The land abuts the 22-acre Little Bay Conservation Area, held by the Bourne Conservation Trust.
In February, Mr. Mears and Richard Boyden of Mashpee—the volunteer trail-cutting team for the Bourne Conservation Trust responsible for flagging and cutting the bulk of the trust’s miles of walking trails—and several open space committee members flagged trails on the property, walking through deep snow to pick out the best paths for walking and views.
Then, on March 29, Mr. Mears and two others cleared the trails using tools such as Mr. Mears’s tractor-drawn brush cutter. They also cleared overhanging brambles and limbs. The work took more than four hours. The team later installed 12 signs on the trails to guide walkers.
The cost for the whole project, thanks to the volunteers, was less than $100.
That summer, the trail-cutting team joined forces with the Greenbelt pathway of parks in Buzzards Bay project planners and AmeriCorps members to tend to the neglected open space along Main Street by the Cape Cod Canal.
Calling the progress “awesome,” project manager Kerri-Ann Tirrell credited Mr. Mears and Mr. Boyden for the successful day of making trails linking Main Street to the canal.
“We got the whole trail cut, thanks to Donald Mears and his tractor. He was great. He laid most of the trail, and AmeriCorps did a lot of the cleaning up after. We even started clearing for a picnic grove,” Ms. Tirrell said.
Mr. Mears also was an accomplished craftsman, builder and model ship maker.
He leaves his son, David Mears of San Diego; his daughter, Valerie Heather of Portland, Oregon; three grandchildren; and extended family.
In addition to his wife, he was predeceased by his parents and his brother, Harry Loring Mears.
A memorial service will be held at a later date with the time and place to be announced.