I first met Jerry Zeidler while on assignment for the Williamsport Sun-Gazette. At the time, he was a  Pennsylvania Wildlife Conservation officer and I visited his office for background on an article. We chatted and became friends, not only because of his helpful advice, but because he was a fellow writer and an award-winning professional photographer.

Jerry ZeidlerAs a recent transplant to Pennsylvania, having moved from Florida in February of 1996, I was grateful to meet Jerry and become his friend. His passion for his beloved “Penns’ Woods” infected me, and I was able to view my new home without prejudice. I came to appreciate the changing seasons (yes, even the winters), the beautiful woodlands and the fascinating wildlife.

Jerry contributed “Images of Nature” to the newspaper’s Outdoor Section, and we would catch up on his work when he dropped off slides and detailed captions. His weekly feature was similar to the Ranger Rick series by the National Wildlife Federation.

Jerry’s photography combined decades of wildlife experience and art with authority. He once told me he would wait hours for the perfect photo, sitting silent and still until the animals viewed him as part of the landscape. He was an avid outdoorsman and conservationist, and encouraged me to learn more about the fragile ecosystem.

I now live along the West Branch of the Susquehanna and enjoy a breathtaking view of the river and the birds that call it home. When I watch the family of eagles that hunt here, I often think of Jerry and the Peregrine Falcon project that he served. He introduced me to my first “bird of prey” and I’ve become an avid fan of all raptors.

For awhile, we toyed with the “Outdoor Omnibus,” a venture where we recycled and offered his “Images of Nature” as a syndicated newspaper series. He also sold his artwork as matted and framed prints.

Visitors to the Muncy Heritage Park and Nature Trail will also see some of his images on the park’s interpretive panels. Jerry was kind in allowing Muncy Historical Society’s use of images to inform and educate park visitors about the myriad wildlife and flora.

Jerry passed away June 20, 2014, at the age of 75, while fishing on Lake Chillisquaque, at Montour Preserve. While sudden and unexpected, we who mourn his passing can take comfort that Jerry was in his element, communing with nature and his God, as he drew his final breath.

Born Dec. 9, 1938, in Philadelphia, he was the son of the late Alfred L. and Mildred Lutz Zeidler. He was a veteran of the U.S. Navy, and served as an officer with the Philadelphia Police Department before starting a 30-year career with the Pennsylvania Game Commission. He enjoyed fishing, hunting, trapping and shooting. He was recognized by the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission in 2010 as having caught the largest bluegill in the state that year.

His credentials, however, do not reveal the depth of the man’s caring. He also served the local Audubon Society, the Shutterbugs Photography club, the Rose Valley/Mill Creek Watershed Association, the Peregrine Falcon Restoration Program, Trout Unlimited, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, Pennsylvania Envirothon, Monarch Watch, the Bluebird Society of Pennsylvania, Northcentral Pennsylvania Conservancy, Conservation Officers of Pennsylvania Association and Pennsylvania Outdoor Writers Association.

He was a volunteer organizer for the Annual Cane Pole Fishing Derby at Rose Valley Lake, an instructor for Pennsylvania Hunter Safety classes, and chaperone at the Boy Scouts of America summer camp in Clearfield County. He coached soccer in AYSO youth recreational league and at the former Bishop Neumann High School.

He was married to MaryAnn E. Parsons Zeidler for 57 years, and is also survived his daughters: Geralyn Huey, of Oak Island, N.C., Donna Howey, of Cogan Station, and Stacie Lakatos, of Williamsport; and his son, Gerard Zeidler Jr., of Bloomsburg.  Jerry was “Papa Z” to 13 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. Jerry’s sister, Linda Zeidler, resides in Zanesville, Ohio.