Robert Eric (Rick) Newberry, age 67, of Ellsworth, Michigan passed away at his home on July 21, 2019. He was a kind and loving man and an inspirational environmentalist, adventurer and social worker. He left a substantial impact on the organizations and people he served during his long career. He became the Executive Director of the West Michigan Environmental Action Council (WMEAC) in 1987, leading the effort to ban carcinogenic pesticides, passing a statewide policy to eliminate combined storm water/sewer overflows, establishing WMEAC as the leading advocate to protect Lake Michigan’s remaining sand dunes, and beginning an innovative citizen-led Adopt-A-Stream program to protect major tributaries from erosion and sedimentation.
Rick was an avid adventurer, spending many summer vacations canoeing and exploring Arctic rivers and lakes. He inherited his love of the outdoors from his grandfather, who was particularly attracted to the pristine Alaskan wilderness, taking Rick and his brother Bill by float plane to several remote locations in Alaska for trout and salmon fishing. At a young age he and his younger brother Bill hiked the Appalachian Trail for 6 weeks. Through the 1980’s he became one of the first of a vanguard of urban pioneers moving into abandoned central neighborhoods to restore and live in historic houses. His social work began later in life when he returned to school and earned a Master of Social Work, helping those suffering from substance abuse, PTSD and other trauma as a family counselor in the Grand Rapids area. In 2002, he was hired as the community counselor for the remote village of Atlin, in NW British Columbia, Canada, becoming an integral part of the close-knit community through his work with the diverse population, including the native Tlingit community, which grew into a much cherished relationship. Rick’s love of music led him to help create and become the Producer for the Atlin Arts and Music Festival, now in its 16th year, bringing in musicians from across Canada and the U.S. In 2015, he returned with his wife to Michigan so they could be closer to family. He is survived by his wife and partner Lynn Jancek and his stepchildren Brian Markley (Karen Offereins), of San Francisco, CA, and Jeff (Kelly) Markley, of Montague, MI, his brother Bill (Lisa) Newberry and his sister Linda Newberry of Traverse City, MI, and two grandchildren, Miles and Leo Markley. Preceding him in death were his parents, Charles and Joan Newberry, and his brother Tom Newberry. While we grieve his passing, we celebrate his vision, his compassion and his humor. A Memorial Service to honor his life and work will be held at J.P Hoffmaster State Park at 3:00 pm on September 8, 2019. All are welcome. The family has requested that in lieu of flowers, memorials may be made by contributing to his grandfather’s conservation foundation. Make contributions out to the C.R. Evenson Foundation, C/O William A. Stough (trustee), PO Box 1684, Grand Rapids, MI 49501.
Please sign his online guestbook at www.mortensenfuneralhomes.com
Arrangements have been handled by the Ellsworth Chapel of Mortensen Funeral Homes.