Three Generations of Ducks Unlimited Support

In 1872, John Marsellus started the Marsellus Casket Company along the Erie Canal in Syracuse, New York. For 131 years it was a business known across the country for quality, fine craftsmanship, and commitment to its employees and community.

A commitment to conservation started with John’s son, John C. Marsellus, who had a passion for waterfowling and the evolving science of game bird management. John C. Marsellus was one of a small group that brought Ducks Unlimited into being, and his son, John F. Marsellus, became a State and National Trustee for DU. The family’s support has been consistent ever since.

Their commitment continues today. John D. Marsellus’s relationship with DU began in 1939, on the day he was born. On that day, his grandfather, John C. Marsellus, made a phone call to Ducks Unlimited, then headquartered in New York City, to let them know that a contribution of five dollars was on the way for a five-year DU membership for his new grandson. For eight decades, this special connection has continued.

“The Marsellus family’s support and encouragement of partnerships with Audubon and local agencies has led to amazing accomplishments,” says Sarah Fleming, Ducks Unlimited’s Director of Conservation Programs for the northeast United States. “The Montezuma conservation partners are a vibrant community of organizations and volunteers who support wetland management and understand the role it plays for water quality and wildlife resources.” Programs include hunting and gun safety for youth as well as education programs and an informative interactive kiosk explaining the wonder of bird migration to thousands of people each year at the refuge visitors center.

Today, a strong association with the State University of New York and its College of Environmental Science and Forestry, the country’ oldest and most distinguished institution to focus on the study of the environment, receives a lot of attention from the Marsellus family. Continuing to produce Bachelor and Master of Science graduates in the wildlife sciences to enhance the conservation movement is the goal. “We are fortunate to have such solid supporters,” says DU Director of Development Ron Zega, Jr. “The Marsellus family’s recent commitment to underwrite a named scholarship as part of DU’s National Scholarship Program at the university level continues their 81 years of consistent loyalty to the organization and the community.”

The Marsellus family plays an important role in developing on-the-ground partnerships for projects and programs centered around a crown jewel of New York wetlands--Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge. Partnerships with the Audubon Society, US Fish and Wildlife Service, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, and others have led to extensive and ongoing restoration of marginal farmlands into functioning wetland complexes. These projects, along with the successful distribution of biological control programs developed by Cornell University, have eradicated over 90 percent of the invasive plant species that were choking the refuge. Together, these efforts have returned these critical wetlands to top quality functioning systems hosting tens of thousands of migrating waterfowl, raptors, passerines, and shorebirds annually.

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