It is not something a media steeped in print wants to admit, but sometimes, it really feels as if there are no words; or at least, that even the best chosen words cannot adequately convey a loss.
Such is the case with the latest area native gone too soon: Dr. Douglas Ayers, who succumbed to leukemia Tuesday at the age of 56.
In this case, the most meaningful, compelling and revealing words simply convey his remarkable time with us.
Born on a farm near Noxen, Ayers grew up in Wilkes-Barre, graduating from Coughlin High School and King’s College. He went on to work in the hallowed halls of places like Penn and Harvard.
Yet Dr. Ayers, veterinarian with biomedical research in his background and a pedigree that could have opened many prestigious doors, declined a post-doctorate position at Harvard so he could return home and, well, be a vet to area animals.
But he didn’t stop. Ayers may have been soft-spoken and often in the background, but he stood out all the same.
He opened the Plains Animal Hospital, where many a pet has been spared and nurtured back to health.
He helped form the North Branch Land Trust, which to date has helped preserve more than 18,000 acres in eight counties. You enjoy the fresh air scent of a mixed-wood forest? Thank Doug Ayers.
He co-founded the coalition of multiple conservation groups working to preserve several hundred thousand square miles surrounding state game lands. You relish the “sylvan” part of Pennsylvania, the green of summer and palette of autumn? Thank Doug Ayers.
He co-founded Republicans for Environmental Protection Pennsylvania Chapter, proving he was a conservative who believed in conservation, not exploitation.
And he was the driving visionary responsible for The Lands at Hillside Farms, 412 acres of history, a beacon of sustainability, and a heck of a fine stop for a look at llamas and a lick of ice cream.
There is also Doug Ayers in his own words, as recounted in his obituary. “Don’t ask anybody to do for you what you can do for yourself.” “All of the passengers in the boat should be required to help row.” “Instill in oneself and others a spirit of giving back.”
And a take on the idea of character that says volumes about his own: “This is something that one is not born with, but rather is revealed via having been sculpted by life’s vicissitudes.”
Doug Ayers spoke with actions, not words, which may be why words seem so inadequate. His legacy will be one of profound silence echoing through the lives of area residents for generations.
The life of Dr. Douglas Ayers will be felt in the purring of kittens and nuzzling of puppies saved in his hospital. It will be inhaled in the air cleansed by the acres of forest he saved. It will be whispered by the rustling leaves of trees that got a chance to stand for lifetimes.
“Doug is an icon of conservation, education and goodwill,” fellow land preservationist Rick Koval said. “If he had more time, he would’ve saved the world.”
He may not have saved the world, but he saved precious parts of ours.