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Ducks Unlimited mourns loss of longtime leader Dale Whitesell

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  • Dale Whitesell rallies the troops.
    photo by Ducks Unlimited
  • Movie icon Bing Crosby (right) reviews a script with Dale Whitesell during the shooting of the DU motion picture "The Wetlanders" in 1969.
    photo by Ducks Unlimited
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It is with great sorrow that the Ducks Unlimited family marks the passing of former DU Executive Vice President Dale Whitesell on Sunday, Feb. 12, at the age of 86.

"We are deeply saddened to hear of Dale's passing," said DU CEO Dale Hall. "He was a cornerstone in the foundation of Ducks Unlimited—an essential part of what has brought our organization through 75 successful years. The standard he set for those of us who followed him was one of excellence and focus on conservation. Our thoughts and prayers are with Dale's family in this time of great loss."

Whitesell became DU's third executive vice president in 1965, growing and shaping the organization for 22 years. Under Whitesell's leadership, new regional directors and other staff were hired to oversee and organize the growth of DU's volunteer base across the country. He was ultimately responsible for making DU's banquet event system what it is today, ensuring that every community, no matter how big or small, had a DU staff member close by to assist with recruitment, answer questions and represent the organization.

The year after Whitesell became executive vice president, DU had its first $1 million year. Two years later it broke $2 million. With Whitesell at the helm, DU grew at a rate of 20 percent per year, with regional directors covering every state. By the end of 1985, two years before Whitesell's retirement, DU had nearly 580,000 members—burgeoning from fewer than 30,000 in 1965—and 3,700 committees across the country. Annual income also grew from $700,000 to $50 million, flourishing under Whitesell's steady guidance.

Prior to leading Ducks Unlimited, Whitesell served 14 years with the Ohio Division of Wildlife as game management supervisor, the last two years as chief of wildlife. He maintained a strong desire during his long career with the ODOW to clean up Ohio's many waterways.

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