We all have our special memories of George, or Dad as I liked to call him. One of my favorites is the “Cow Pie Dance” Dad used to do with my sister Jean and me at our Grandma & Grandpa's farm. I expect no explanation is necessary.

We'd like to invite you to share your special memories and photos.

Send your memories to Julia and we’ll post them here, or express your condolences directly to Nancy, Peter, Julia, Jean or David, or mail them to Nancy Brakhage, 7852 S Hill Creek Road, Columbia, MO 65203.

September 30, 2010, Suzanne Dawkins & Carl Ragland
To the Brakhage Family,

First, let us say that we are sorry about the loss of your husband and dad, George K. Brakhage. From your memorial web site it sounds as if he were a very interesting and clearly much-beloved person. It also sounds as if he lived a very rich and full life.

We never knew Mr. Brakhage, but we are decoy collectors and are always interested in fine bird carvings. This past Friday the auction house of Frank & Frank, Inc. held a decoy auction in Tuckerton, NJ. We had the catalog in advance of the auction and one of the pieces pictured on Turkey Decoythe cover was a wonderful folk art turkey hen. It was mis-labeled as the work of "G.K. Bradchage". The mis-labeling was no doubt the result of a flowing and somewhat smudged signature on the tail of the turkey. We were so taken with this piece that we attended the auction (a rare event for us) and were the winning bidders.

When we got home, we did some research on the Internet hoping to find out more about the carver. Eventually we discovered that the carving was your husband's/dad's work. Your wonderful memorial website even seems to confirm this with a family photo of the actual turkey!

We wanted you and your family to know that this marvelous carving now has a new home in which it will be admired and enjoyed every day.

Suzanne Dawkins & Carl Ragland, Columbia, MD
September 21, 2009, Dick Pospahala
Nancy Brakhage and Family: My deepest condolences to you on George’s passing. George was a valued colleague, mentor, and hunting partner. I spent many enjoyable days with him, whether it was at work or enjoying recreational activities. No matter what we were doing, work or play, he always demonstrated a high level of commitment and capability. He was a professional of the highest caliber, but always had time to interject humor.

I first met George at Mississippi Flyway meetings, where he was revered as a guru of MVP geese. After he moved to the position as Assistant Chief of the newly formed Office of Migratory Bird Management, we became friends and co-workers. George was my boss, but you would never have known it. He and John Rogers were great colleagues as we worked our way through many of the complex and politically difficult migratory bird issues and legal challenges of the late l970’s and early 1980’s. If you could pass muster and the editorial reviews from these two, you really felt you had accomplished something. Most gratifying in our relationship, however, were the days in the marsh, either hunting or conducting “spy blinds” for several years on Maryland’s eastern shore. George was extremely competent at both. I can remember one day when we were leaving the marsh at Deal Island. A small squadron of Widgeon came by and George lifted his gun and fired twice. I hollered at him and said “Wow, George, you got two.” With that, he worked the slide on his 870 as he said, “Would you believe three?”, as another bird fell from the sky.

Leaving the east coast for Alaska, the last, social stop our family made was a luncheon engagement with you and George, a fitting end to a 16-year assignment to the Washington, D.C. area. Later, George ventured to Alaska for a successful caribou hunt – our last hunt together. Perhaps the most memorable event of my career was the evening of May 7, 2004, in Anchorage at my retirement party. At 6:00 p.m. sharp, George entered the dining room with a big smile on his face and a hand-carved curlew decoy in his hand. What a wonderful surprise!! I must confess that it brought tears to my eyes. The following day, George, John Rogers and Bob Blohm joined us at our house to commiserate about the past, our friendships, and to share a few drinks. Somehow, I think we all sensed that this would be our last gathering. Sadly, it was. I will always cherish that one, last opportunity. It was a great tribute to him that he went to the effort to come all that way for the event.

It wouldn’t be fitting to end without a few stories. There are too many to tell, but a few deserve mention for various reasons.

Soon after George joined the Migratory Bird Office, we traveled together to a Mississippi Flyway meeting in Minneapolis. These events were often filled with evening gatherings, sometimes accompanied by various libations. On the last night after one of these, George and I returned to our room for some well-deserved sleep. As expected, the wake-up call came sometime after we went to bed. George rolled over and said, “You’ve been good about getting up first all week, I’ll go ahead and shower so you can get some more rest.” He came out fully dressed. As he strapped on his watch, he realized that it was only 2:30 a.m. Once again, our Canadian friends were up to no good! As he rolled over after returning to his bed, he said, “I should have known something was wrong. The first thing I do every morning when I get up is to take a constitutional (not his word), but this morning I didn’t have to.” Finally, our next wake-up call came. Since George had already showered, I got up, got dressed and headed for the restaurant. As I left, I told George that I would meet him there. I walked out the door into a pitch-black night. It was 4:30 a.m. Those damn Canadians had nailed us twice in one night!! Needless to say, we were the laughing stock for everyone that day.

This one isn’t funny, but is about who George really was. During our Maryland Eastern Shore forays, we had Sundays to wander around, as hunting was not allowed. One day, we saw a fellow pulling his boat out of a tidal gut near the road. In typical “George talk,” he said, “I think we’ll just see what this guy is up to.” It turns out that he was a local waterman named Charlie who hunted there. He was retrieving his decoy stool because he wasn’t going to hunt for a while. We helped him load his boat. His truck was loaded with decoys, some of which he had carved. As you can imagine, a conversation about decoys broke out. Charlie said that he had many more in his sheds just down the road, and offered to show them to us. We followed him home to have a look. We were astonished at the number – somewhere in the hundreds!! He mentioned that he had some old ones in the attic that he would bring down for us to see. You can imagine the gleam in George’s eyes. George asked how much he wanted, and Charlie said he would have to think about it. Several weeks later, while driving along, George said, “Well, today’s the day that we go visit Charlie.” We pulled into his yard and Charlie came running out the door. He said, “I didn’t really mean it.” He had already contacted George and told him that wanted several hundreds of dollars for them. “Well, that’s all right, Charlie. Will you take 40 bucks for them?” “Sure” said Charlie and we loaded them into the truck. As we drove away, I handed George 20 bucks and told him that it was for my half. He said he no idea what I was talking about!! When we arrived at my house, George got all of the decoys out and lined them up on my lawn. He looked carefully and walked over and picked up three of them. “The rest are yours, but if I ever need to borrow them, I’ll let you know.” A few weeks later, I mentioned to him that he had really cheated Charlie. George said,”Not really, I sent him a case of shotgun shells the other day.” In those days, there were still 20 boxes in a case. What a guy!!

Lastly, a short one that’s too good to pass up, and one that my kids have always thought was very funny. Besides being an outstanding conservationist, George was an outstandingly conservative when it came to spending a buck. I never knew him to waste one. His view on conserving toilet paper – “two to wipe, one to dry, and one to polish”!!

Good bye and God bless you my friend.

Dick Pospahala
September 17, 2009, Ron Reynolds
Dave: I was saddened to hear about George's death. Your dad was one of the first influential persons I got acquainted with when I began working for the Migratory Bird Office at Patuxent (when George was "Downtown"). He was a mentor to me and was important in shaping my early career. I also had much respect for his knowledge about wildfowling, decoys, and other hunting paraphernalia. He may even have ended up with a Madison Mitchell or two from one of my trips to Mitchell's shop.

George led a full life with many accomplishments that you and your siblings can be proud of. I have a story I'd like to share. In about 1977 or 78 the FWS was sued by a anti-hunting organization over shooting hours for waterfowl. The issue was the 1/2 hour before sunrise opening and the claim that non-game birds were being illegally harvested during this "low light" period. In a court proceedings, a Federal Judge ruled that the FWS did not have sufficient evidence to support the claim that the twilight period was not an issue. Therefore the FWS was directed to collect evidence about migratory bird harvest during this time.

We set up a "spy blind" study in Maryland and Virginia and virtually everyone in the Migratory Bird Office was needed to participate in order to get the needed data. Along with us youngsters, this included John Rogers, Dick Pospahala, Mort Smith, and George. We cooperated with the state of Maryland to put field crews together and I was given the lead to coordinate the FWS participation. Our method was to pair a FWS person with a state person and set up a simulated hunting situation near enough to other hunting parties so that we could observe what they harvested during different periods of the hunt. Of course we only used hunts that began during the period 1/2 hr before sunrise to sunrise.

There was a young petite female from the state that I had worked with one weekend and she turned out to be a good field hand with a pleasant disposition. The following weekend I matched George with this gal (I wish I could remember her name) and sent out the assignments on Monday prior. About mid-morning George called me (he was upset) and asked me what did I think I was doing pairing him up with this girl. I explained that due to the persons available that coming weekend this was the best match I could make. George quizzed me about her canoeing capabilities, physical strength, stamina, bird ID skills, etc. I assured him that she was fully capable, and could tow her own load.

Eventually, George got around to the real issue. He asked, "what if I have to take a leak?" I responded that he just had to walk off a ways from the blind, get behind some tulies and everything would be fine. His next question was "well, what if she has to take a leak"? I answered "that was her problem". George responded that he guessed I was right. Anyway, when George figured I was not going to let him wiggle out of this deal he reluctantly agreed to the assignment. After the weekend was over I called George on Monday and asked him how things went. His reply. "She was soft mouthed and heeled well". Now, anyone who knows George, and anything about retrievers, will understand that this is the highest compliment that could be given. George said she was a good hand and he would be happy to work with her again. We eventually satisfied the court and shooting hours remain today at that magical twilight period that duck hunters so revere. I have not had contact with George for several years and regret the thought of not being able to run into him sometime. I always valued his calm wisdom.

Ron Reynolds
Supervisor, Habitat and Population Evaluation Team
Office of Conservation Science, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Bismarck, ND
September 17, 2009, Gildo Tori
Dear Brakhage Family,
My thoughts and prayers have been with you all as you grieve the passing of your husband and father. In talking with Dave, it sounds like there has also been some laughter and celebration as you recall a man not only special to your family, but also special to the larger Waterfowl Family across North America.

I remember meeting George at a Mississippi Flyway Council Meeting in Missouri; in fact I think it was the 40th anniversary of the MFC. As a relatively young biologist I was quite in awe of meeting George Brakhage and many other founding fathers of waterfowl conservation that were there. But it was evident that George was a warm and welcoming person, and we had a good conversation regarding his diversified career in waterfowl management. I remember he was quite a story teller as well. But most of what I know about George I know through his son, David. The real legacy of a man is not only his accomplishments during his career, but what he builds in his children and family. Dave Brakhage is a passionate committed man to his wife, family and profession – and a true testament to the love and care lavished by both George and Nancy Brakhage. I hope it’s a comfort to know that George will live eternally through the love and care he gave to his family and the waterfowl conservation world. May God bless you all, and may you experience His peace during this time.

Gildo Tori, Ducks Unlimited
September 16, 2009, Rollin Sparrowe
I knew George as a fellow professional in the Fish and Wildlife Service starting in the mid 1970s, and developed a relationship that lasted a long time. In 1969 I had gone to Missouri at the Cooperative Wildlife Research Unit just after he left for his Federal career, and heard stories of George and we had some contact. Tom Baskett, mentor and friend to both of us served as an intermediary. When I arrived in Washington, D.C. in 1976 George welcomed me as one of the “Missouri Mafia” at the FWS. We had professional contact and shared Missouri news for years until I had a big career step engineered for me – in 1985 I was assigned to replace John Rogers as Chief of Migratory Bird Management. The times were interesting – ducks were approaching the lowest numbers on record, breeding habitat was in trouble and more serious discussion was starting with Canada about writing a North American Waterfowl Management Plan. George was ready to retire but stayed on for some months to help the greenhorn – that’s me – learn how to navigate the perilous world of waterfowl management. George gave me sage, conservative advice about what we were facing, where the unique Office of Migratory Bird Management fit into the FWS, how it worked with the states, and mostly what we were facing with waterfowl populations, harvest management, and the possibility of developing landscape plans for waterfowl habitat. George was a “standup guy” and truly told things as they were, which sometimes was not what folks wanted to hear, but often needed to.

After his retirement George and I kept up for years on what was happening in professional ranks, how he saw what we were doing in management for ducks, and life in general. One of our frequent topics was how things seemed to be changing professionally and how the world we had known for ducks and other wildlife was changing. I valued these talks a lot and enjoyed getting to know him better intellectually than before. It was not all serious, we shared many a laugh. George and our mutual friend Tom Baskett offered me needed advice and counsel, and pure friendship at times in my career that I will not forget. My wife Bettina got to work with son David on wetlands conservation through NAWCA and David passed on news of George as time went by. We will miss our friends like George who offered ideas and support as we tried to continue work they had started.

This website and stories are a wonderful tribute to George, and reflect strongly on our profession. Now that I am farther along in life and see those changes we discussed and even feared coming to pass, I am even more convinced wildlife management and conservation will miss these people who got us where we are today. His Biography should be read by current professionals to understand the kind of experience that lead the profession in the past. Bettina and I send our condolences and will hold fond memories of George.

Rollin D. Sparrowe
Certified Wildlife Biologist
September 16, 2009, Mark C. Schupp
I met George some time in the late 70s or early 80s when I started working on the Columbia DU committee. It didn’t matter if we were pushing to sell the last 25 tickets or selecting items from the art package for live and silent auctions—George was either the first to volunteer for a job or was always willing to offer his insight and experience. Invariably after a meeting our conversations would stray toward decoy carving, techniques or tips he was always willing to hear me out and offer any advice I sought. His avocet decoy is without a doubt one of the favorites in my collection. I was fortunate enough to be able to spend several days in the marsh with George and to a late 20s/early 30s duck hunter who thought he knew almost everything there was, George was always able to pull a few tricks out of his hat. “You know if you moved those decoys in about 10 yards those birds will finish a little closer”. We’d argue a little more and eventually I’d go move the decoys and sure enough the next bunch was “right”. Every once in a while I’d run into George at the “Pass” with Bob. I’d always invite them to join me, but their comments were always the same. "Thanks, but running all over the marsh isn’t for us, we’re headed to south 5—Dale called and the divers are in and we thought we’d try a few." When I drew poorly I found myself on the borrow ditch of south 5 and knew exactly why George enjoyed it so much. It’s an honor to have worked, hunted, and laughed with George, but most of all to call George a friend.

Mark C. Schupp
September 15, 2009, Ken & Betty Rose Babcock
Nancy, David and all the Brakhages. Please accept Betty Rose and my sympathy as you deal with the loss of George. I became acquainted with George in 1967, as a brand new waterfowl biologist in Mississippi. I had an interest in establishing a flock of resident giant Canada geese and his was the name I was given as the “expert”. He responded to my request promptly and with more information than I could have ever hoped for. Later that year I met him in person at my very first Mississippi Flyway Council meeting. He reached out to me as a fledgling biologist and made me feel welcome in so many ways. Over the years, I had more than one occasion to work directly with George and he never failed to acknowledge any milestone that came along in my career. When the list of waterfowl management pioneers is developed, George will certainly be included in many categories. His contributions were many and will be a lasting legacy to his life and career. My life was enriched because I knew George. Many people share the burden of your loss and maybe knowing that will lighten the load. God bless The Brakhage Clan as you gather to celebrate George’s life and embark on the future with loving memories!!

Ken and Betty Rose Babcock
September 15, 2009, Johnny Belz
A true gentleman, a class act, a friend.

I’m not really sure when I first met George, but it must have been in the late seventies when I served as State Chairman in Missouri. I remember how impressed I was with this kind gentleman and his always words on encouragement. I was so excited when he accepted the position of Regional Director in Missouri, I knew things would be in good hands and I was correct. He led the volunteers in Missouri by example, always a partner with words of wisdom.

As I sit in my office writing this note, over my shoulder are two plaques with my name on them that are there because of George Brakhage, I know that they were his doing and they mean a lot to me. The world is a much better place because of the character of George Brakhage, whether it refers to family, work, or friends, when he touched someone or something they or it improved.

I am proud to have worked with George Brakhage; he was a true gentleman, a class act, and a friend!

Johnny Belz
Senior Director of Development, Ducks Unlimited Inc.
September 14, 2009, Clarkson B. Rollins
To George,
Without you it wouldn't have been possible. Growing up with you and northern Mo DU dinners was a staple in my life in the '70s and early '80s, when the torch passed to Glenn D. and the young bucks of Columbia moved it forward and you and I had more than a few conversations. Some heated and some tempered, some with Jim Goodrich's input and many with Glenn D.'s comments and leadership and Dick Baskets' refereeing, but in the end your leadership and teaching led us to a National prominence and awards that are then and still are now won buy a team of people that just wanted to do good for the ducks.

So many Thanks George, you will be missed.
Clarkson B. Rollins
September 14, 2009, Tim Reger
Don't know where to start, George was such a great man. I met George when he became our R.D. for our chapter here in Chillicothe, Missouri. The guys on the committee really liked George, he always told us Chillicothe was his favorite Chapter. It was a honor to know, work with him for the ducks and be his friend. He made a trip with me and four other hunters in Chillicothe to Canada in the fall of 1993 to hunt waterfowl, lots of great memories from that hunt. In 1990 I attended my first D.U. National Convention with George, he let me room with him at little cost, I met many people at that convention and learned how important Ducks Unlimited is to our great sport of waterfowling. Also made several road trips with George to D.U. meetings around the midwest, meeting people and learning about waterfowl conservation. George was a mentor to me and lots of D.U. volunteers here in Missouri. George may be gone but he will never be forgotten and his footprints will help waterfowl for many, many years to come. George will always hold a special place in my heart!

Tim Reger, Volunteer, Grand River Chapter Ducks Unlimited.

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