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Passenger: Richard Guadagno

Sunday, October 28, 2001

While a youngster in New Jersey, Richard Guadagno became enchanted by growing things.

Richard Guadagno
dot.gifManager, Humboldt Bay National Wildlife Refuge, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 38, Eureka, Calif.
Parents, Jerry and Beatrice; sister, Lori
He was headed home after celebrating his grandmother's 100th birthday

Latching onto two older men who gardened in his neighborhood, Gaudagno learned how to nurture plants, to coax life from seeds, until one summer, he grew 23 varieties of lettuce in his family's yard.

It was vintage Rich Guadagno, who grew up to become a Renaissance man fascinated by everything, daunted by nothing and supremely capable.

Guadagno's far-ranging interests stretched from cooking to music, gardening to geology, astronomy to photography. And always, pulsing beneath it all, was his love of nature and his urge to protect it.

A longtime employee of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Guadagno had most recently managed the Humboldt Bay National Wildlife Refuge in Eureka, Calif., his sixth refuge posting during a 17-year career with the federal government.

After graduating from Rutgers University's Cook College in 1984, Guadagno first worked for environmental consultants who represented utilities and land developers. He quickly discovered that he felt more at home as their opponent.

Guadagno took his duties seriously, once chiding his mother, Beatrice, not to pick wildflowers as they strolled along a trail in Oregon.

Another time, he mortified his older sister, Lori, during a trip to Mount Rainier by whipping out his badge and citing a hiker whose dog was running free and chasing marmots. People on the trail applauded.

Trained to deal with trouble, the compact Guadagno -- 5 feet 8 inches and muscular -- carried a gun while working, in case he stumbled upon a drug lab in some remote bog.

Guadagno took classical guitar lessons, and then, not content with just playing the instrument, he learned how to build one.

He also created glassware, collected fossils, sanded rocks, did taxidermy, made furniture -- and always, there was a garden. In Oregon, he tended 60 tomato plants.

When he moved to California, he found a place to call home: It was just he and his beloved German Shepherd, Raven, in an A-frame on an acre with a view of the Pacific, orchids in the kitchen, hummingbirds all around and 150 trees that he had planted by hand.

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