Gerald Moore, a Petaluma environmentalist who dedicated his later life to preserving native species along the city’s southern wetlands and fighting an asphalt plant across the river from his beloved Shollenberger Park, died on Dec. 30 from cancer. He was 77.
A founding member of the Petaluma Wetlands Alliance, Moore spent many hours each week walking the trails at Alman Marsh, Shollenberger and Ellis Creek, almost always with his wife, Mary Edith Moore. A biologist, Moore helped gather 3,500 signatures in the effort to preserve the wetlands around the Ellis Creek Wastewater Treatment plant, according to Bob Dyer, a Petaluma Wetlands Alliance board member.
“Gerald was kind of a clinician,” Dyer said. “He was a self taught expert in wetlands. He planted hundreds of small trees. His primary passion was to restore the environment to its native state.”
Born in Ohio in 1939, Moore earned a Ph.D. in biology from the University of Cincinnati, and worked as a biochemist with the Army doing medical research. His pioneering work led to the discovery of additives for better preserving blood. While working in Kentucky with the Army, Moore met Mary Edith, who was also a biochemist.
In 1974, Gerald and Mary Edith, were transferred to the Presidio in San Francisco. The two were married in 1977 and moved to Petaluma because they could afford to buy a home there.
The couple began volunteering at Shollenberger when it became a park in 1996. Later, they helped lead a successful campaign to have the city include a wetlands component in the new water recycling facility at Ellis Creek. During that campaign, Moore wrote about his vision for the wetland site.
“A totally natural, habitat-focused plan will ensure a quality site for wildlife use and acceptance, which, in turn, will enhance the site as a wetlands education center, a place of joy, personal rejuvenation and natural beauty for our citizens, as well as create a tourist mecca for both birders and nature lovers,” he wrote.
Later, Moore became active in the effort to oppose a planned asphalt plant that the Dutra Group sought to build across the Petaluma River from the preserved wetlands. Moore worked closely with the Petaluma River Council and other activists, according to David Keller, founder of the Petaluma River Council.
“Gerald and Mary Edith were very important supporters and participants in the constant battle to keep Dutra from building an asphalt plant,” Keller said. “Gerald was dedicated to valuing and preserving the birds and habitat that he loved.”
The Moores established docent training workshops held yearly at Shollenberger beginning in 2003. Through the program, many docents have been trained to monitor and study bird activity at Shollenberger Park and Ellis Creek. The studies were often sent to local and national scientific organizations.
In his later life, Moore suffered from dementia. He went missing in May, prompting a citywide search, which led to his discovery a day later in a wooded area near Frates and Adobe roads. Disoriented, he was taken to a hospital for evaluation.
Janice Cader-Thompson, a former Petaluma city councilwoman, began assisting the Moore family after the incident, helping drive Gerald to hospital visits and checking up on them. When she was on the council, she worked with the Moores to preserve the wetlands.
She said that Gerald and Mary Edith were inseparable, and worked well as a team.