A Visionary - 27 East


Southampton Press / Opinion / Letters / 1880606

A Visionary

This past week, the South Fork of Long Island, and indeed the entire planet, lost a true visionary, Art Cooley.

Born and bred in Quogue, the son of former Quogue Mayor and Quogue School Principal Harvey Cooley, Art followed in his father’s footsteps, enjoying a multigenerational teaching career at nearby Bellport High School. Those lucky enough to have taken one of his Environmental Science courses have never forgotten his passionate classroom lectures or his frequent field trips, often wading with his students into nearby waterways, including Shinnecock Bay, to get a firsthand look at nature in its natural habitat.

He was senior to me by close to a decade; my early connection with Art centered on our summer days lifeguarding at the Surf Club in Quogue. My family were members and his family owned the club. From him, I learned about the sea and sea creatures, from plankton to whales and everything in between, and on frequent trips to the Quogue Wildlife Refuge I learned the importance of preserving our natural habitat from abuse and overdevelopment.

Of far greater importance, Art warned all of us about our fragile environment long before most realized the dangers that lay just around the corner — and he did something about it. Yes, he did, in spades: Along with a small handful of like-minded visionaries, he created the Environmental Defense Fund, a unique combination of scientists and lawyers working together pro bono to stop polluters in their tracks, beginning with the eradication of DDT and continuing case by case to this very day.

One can only imagine the nightmarish state of our country and, indeed, the world, had not the EDF and other like-minded organizations stepped in some 50 years ago, to call attention to and force positive change.

As I think back in time, I now come to realize that both Art and his father, Harvey Cooley, both played a significant role as mentors in my life, the father preparing me decades earlier for my role as the mayor of Quogue, and Art influencing many of my decisions while in that role.

Thank you, Art. Sadly, you are no longer with us, but, fortunately, the positive impact of your efforts on behalf of our environment will benefit mankind as well as animal and plant life for generations to come.

Rest in peace, my friend.

George Motz