National Forest Foundation

Harry Amyotte: Turning Tragedy into Benefit

National Forest Foundation

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I didn’t know Harry Amyotte. But that hasn’t stopped me from thinking about him and his family in recent days. Mr. Amyotte died on August 25, 2018, while hiking in the San Juan Mountains in Colorado. An undiagnosed genetic heart condition caused his tragic and early death. But I didn’t need to know Mr. Amyotte to be inspired by his life.

Mr. Amyotte lived in Darien, Connecticut, a world away from the stunning peaks of the San Juan Range. He was a dedicated family man, a successful professional, and a devoted champion of the arts and music. His love of art extended to his personal life; his obituary notes that “Harry was a prolific artist who excelled in many forms of photography: street, landscape, portrait, wedding and art.”

So why is the director of communications at a conservation nonprofit eulogizing a benefactor of the arts who he never met? Because Mr. Amyotte was also an outdoors enthusiast, and it was in pursuit of this outdoor passion where he died.

I may have never met Mr. Amyotte, but I have been to the San Juan Mountains. Without sounding disrespectful or glib, I truly believe Mr. Amyotte died in one of most beautiful places in the world – a place he probably wished he might die, when the right day came. Unfortunately for his family, friends, colleagues and community, that day came far too soon. I think his family agrees; Mr. Amyotte’s family is raising funds to improve the trail on which he was hiking.

It is this impulse that inspires me. Of all the ways Mr. Amyotte’s family could memorialize him, they chose to raise funds to improve our public lands and to make them more accessible to all. There is something enduring and powerful in the outdoors. Something that pulls us from where we live to travel great distances, as Mr. Amyotte did, to explore wild places and find in them solace, inspiration and beauty. Mr. Amyotte lived a life immersing himself in these places and he recognized their importance.

The last lines of Mr. Amyotte’s obituary read: “In lieu of flowers, please consider making a contribution to San Juan National Forest Stewardship, where a fund has been established in Harry’s memory for the maintenance and preservation of the Vallecito and Johnson Creek Trails, with the ultimate goal of replacing the bridge over Vallecito Creek which was washed away in 2006. His family believes that Harry would love for this tremendously beautiful place to be more accessible to the world.”

Turning tragedy into benefit is truly one of the most beautiful transformations any family could hope to affect. Mr. Amyotte’s family is doing just that, while honoring a man who positively impacted so many during his life. We are humbled to help Mr. Amyotte’s family honor him in this way.

If you would like to support Harry Amyotte’s memorial fund, please visit https://www.nationalforests.org/give and enter “San Juan NF — Harry Amyotte” in the code field. The Amyotte family’s goal is to raise $100,000 to care for the Vallecito and Johnson Creek Trails in Harry’s name.


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