The local nature loving community is mourning the loss of Bill Brink, aka The Mayor of Broad Ripple, who suffered a heart attack and passed away Nov. 15, 2011, at age 63.
Bill was a founder of the Indiana Native Plant and Wildflower Society, traveling through knee-deep snow to attend the first organizational meeting in February 1993. To get the group started, he donated seed money. At one time or another he was a board member of the Amos W. Butler Audubon Society and Friends of Holliday Park.
Bill credited his mother, Alice Brink, for nurturing his love of nature. Our first meeting was by phone when Bill scolded my inexperience in gardening. In a column, I’d espoused the attributes of several honeysuckle species that were considered invasive in Indiana.
He told me about INPAWS and invited me to his Broad Ripple family home where he’d planted a prairie in the backyard. My first bird walk was with Bill to Holliday Park about this time of year, 20 years ago. He helped me identify the song of a golden crowned kinglet, notes I still recognize today.
He owned The Great Outdoors lawn care company, an aptly named venture for someone who loved nature almost as much as life itself. He raised, trained and handled award-winning English Pointers and earned quite the reputation as a wildlife photographer.
“His lifelong study of the outdoors and conservation made him a walking encyclopedia of the natural world and its important personalities and celebrities,” said Carl Pryor, a lifelong friend.
Bill, decked out in his Western hat, boots, vest and belt, was a familiar figure at the Perk Up, a Broad Ripple coffee shop where he regaled patrons with Indiana lore and more. Bill’s nature photo were exhibited at Perk Up and at Eagle Creek Park, where he started the practice of displaying photography and other art at the Nature Center. It was there he told me that hummingbirds tend to visit plants that are in the sun when the nectar is rich. He was so proud of the cleanup of weeds and invasive species and planting of native plants there.
It was standing room only at the memorial service and celebration of Bill’s life Nov. 20, 2011 at the Riviera Club. Lots of stories, photos, songs and shared memories amongst the tears. Several people wore cowboy hats to honor their friend.
“Bill was a true gentleman cowboy,” said C. “Frog” Russell. “He didn’t swear around women and rarely around men. I personally have never heard him speak ill of anyone and he would give you the shirt off of his back. I was proud to call him my friend.”
So was I.