I felt tired and anxious as the world passed by the windshield at 65 miles per hour. I checked my watch–Saturday, May 10th, 9:00AM. As my wife drove, I closed my eyes and reflected on the events that had lead to this very day.
I remembered the morning last October when I opened my E-mail and found long time friend and caver Bill Oldacre had passed away. Bill was legendary for the work he had done for Warren Cave. As shadows of passing trees danced before closed eyelids, I could see images of Bill spending long hours chipping away at the Cashew Squeeze, writing numerous letters attempting to save the cave, I envisioned the night when the local sheriff was stopped in an attempt to dynamite the entrance shut, then driving all night with Jerry Jonson and Al Krause to attend a National Speleological (NSS) board meeting to arrange donation, and management of the Warren Preserve. I remembered attending Bills memorial in early November and hearing so many amazing stories of accomplishments. Many of us felt that we really didn’t even know him.
It seemed only fitting when it was suggested that we do something special for Bill and his family at the FSS meeting following Bill’s memorial.
So Cavers Would Remember: Jon Singley spearheaded the making of a bronze plaque while Mike Gordon, Kitty Markley, Jerry Johnson, Buford Pruitt, John Harris, and Steve Nemith spent long hours; locating, digging-up, cleaning, moving, and cementing in place a 1,500 pound bolder at the preserve. John, Mike, and Buford ground down and attached the memorial plaque to the boulder.
So Cavers Could Rest: Steve and Bernice Nemith had a picnic table engraved as a memorial and delivered it to the preserve.
So Cavers Would Not Go Hungry: Kitty Markley planted a citrus tree in honor of Bill loving to snack after a good cave trip.
The work still wasn’t finished. Erik Amsbury coordinated repairing the horrible road that could only be accessed with a 4×4. With the help of Dave Lizdas and others–brush was cleared, so thousands of pounds of gravel could be shipped and dumped on site. It was funny that the dump truck driver told us that he had been to that very cave years ago with Tom Petty.
All those hours of planning and hard work had lead up to this very day: Saturday, May 10th, 9:00AM. As the car slowed and pulled into the Warren Preserve access road I relaxed as I saw smiles of friends on the newly transformed property. Even though rain was in the forecast there was hardly a cloud in the sky, temperatures were mid 70’s with a gentle breeze caressing the trees high above. The sink was green and lush, yet the trails was dry and free of mosquitoes (almost). This seemed to be the perfect day.
As the crowd gathered, we talked of the 170 year history of Warren Cave, the accomplishments of Bill and the early members of the FSS. We listened to recollections from Jerry Johnson, Al Krause, Jon Singley, and Bill Birdsall. Bill Oldacre’s wife Shirlee unveiled the beautiful plaque as their daughter Maria, granddaughters, friends, and acquaintances looked on. Vince Phelps worked magic on the smoker making pulled pork of legend. Bernice coordinated the food table as only Bernice can do. There were handshakes, hugs, stories, laughter, and good times shared by many. Bill would have loved the family like atmosphere at his beloved preserve.
If you have ever wondered–what is life? Life is about memories. Throughout history memories have been passed down from old to young through song, stories, tails, and photographs. On Saturday, May 10th, 2014, memories were shared and made honoring Bill Oldacre and the wonderful day at the NSS owned Warren Cave Preserve. This day will be remembered by all that attended.
Story and photo’s by Philip Walker