St. Louis lost two memorable citizens this week -- groundbreakers in very different ways. Environmentalist Leo Drey and journalist Martin Duggan were known for the causes they championed. They will be remembered as well for their character and caring.
Duggan, 93, earned his reputation as a curmudgeonly conservative when he was editorial page editor for the St. Louis Globe-Democrat. The Globe folded, but Duggan’s public role blossomed. He was a founder and host of Donnybrook, Nine Network’s longrunning weekly gathering of local pundits. He also appeared on several other broadcast outlets and was active with local charities.
More than just espousing the conservative beliefs many St. Louisans share, Duggan embodied them. While Duggan’s conservative political philosophy had a hard edge, the man himself was warm and enthusiastic – sometimes in surprising ways. The St. Louis Beacon was founded by ex-pats from his old newspaper rival, the Post-Dispatch, yet he complimented and encouraged the work. Perhaps having made the leap from print to broadcast, he appreciated the potential of a new medium and the importance of second acts. He was a traditionalist with an eye to the future.
Drey, 98, was as reticent as Duggan was extroverted. Drey liked nothing better than the solitude of the forest, yet his actions had great public impact.
In the early 20th century, clear cutting devastated large swaths of the Ozarks, leaving the hills and streams a muddy mess and the local economy in shambles. Quietly over decades, Drey bought up and restored the forest, eventually becoming the largest individual landholder in Missouri. His selective harvesting plan worked – as a business and an environmental strategy.
Most of the holdings have been spun off in ways that will protect them for future generations. With his wife Kay, Drey not only regenerated the forest, but also helped generate the environmental movement in the state. The impact of the Dreys’ work extends even further, to civil rights and social justice issues.
Both Leo Drey and Martin Duggan might be surprised to find themselves mentioned in the same sentence. Yet the coincidence of their deaths invites reflection on what made both their lives consequential.
Each man in his own way led a life of purpose, principle and deep community commitment. Each life left a legacy that will continue to influence St. Louisans for years to come. Each legacy reminds us that the true measure of a person reveals itself over time. Especially in our era of instant celebrity, that’s worth remembering.