We dedicate our film to the memory of two heroes, Mary Lou Simms and Betty Butler.
Mary Lou Simms was a talented writer and extraordinary lady with a huge heart. She tragically passed away. We were looking forward to filming Mary Lou and had many a conversation with her in her quest for Canada Geese. Here is the obituary by one of our supporters, Van Scott.
Posted Wednesday, July 22, 2020 7:19 pm
Mary Lou Simms passed away July 19, 2020 after a brief illness. Her career in journalism spanned more than 50 years. She was recognized for her writing talent while working for the St. Petersburg Jr. College in the early 1960s and left school when offered a full-time job at the St. Petersburg Times (now the Tampa Bay Times) as a reporter. She went on to have a long career, first as a reporter and then for more than 30 years as a features and lifestyle editor for newspapers all over the U.S.
After retiring from the newspaper business, she became a wildlife advocate, working as an investigative journalist, exposing the wrongdoings of local communities in their mishandling of local wildlife, particularly its resident Canada goose populations. She had a rare ability to meld compassion for a misunderstood species with hard-hitting facts relating to their mistreatment and mismanagement, writing incisive exposes that opened the eyes of the general public. She received a grant from The Fund for Investigative Journalism in Washington, D.C., under which she did a two-year investigation of the USDA's Wildlife Services involving its controversial method of rounding up & gassing resident goose populations across the United States. She published numerous articles on Huffington Post, as well as in other literary venues. She also worked in the local community teaching tolerance and compassion for the native wildlife, particularly Canada Geese.
Simms is slated to receive a posthumous award (The Goose Savior Award) from In Defense of Animals located in San Rafael, California. She will also be honored in a film dedication for “Let Them Eat Geese,” an upcoming documentary by Tyler Chase.
She raised pedigree cats which were her pride and joy. She had a daughter, Holly, who died in 2017. She is survived by her son, Sean Simms, and four grandchildren. At the time of her death, she was working on a book of short stories: "Almost Human: The Hidden Lives of Geese.”
Betty Butler passed away on April 29, 2023. She was one of the first people we interviewed for Let Them Eat Geese and she imparted to us many documents and research material to help with this film. We visited her in her Jersey home and witnessed her beautiful compassion with swans that she protected in a small cove. The National Goose Protection Coalition issued its first ever Goose Savior Award to Butler in 2022 for her heroic efforts to save swans. In her memory, the coalition has renamed the award the Betty Butler Goose Savior Award and will continue to award it to waterfowl warriors like her.
“Betty Butler dedicated her life to rescuing and advocating for geese and swans in her community and beyond, and we mourn her loss,” said Lisa Levinson, Campaigns Director for In Defense of Animals. “Betty was the perfect example of a Goose Savior who goes above and beyond the call of duty to save waterfowl. She has been instrumental in saving animals both in and out of the public eye. In her memory, In Defense of Animals’ National Goose Protection will present future water bird defenders with the ‘Betty Butler Goose Savior Award.’” Butler was a founding member of the National Goose Protection Coalition, which formed in 2019 to help concerned citizens stop goose cruelty in their communities. The coalition provides resources, education, and advocacy tools for people who want to help geese via nonlethal means of resolving human-geese conflicts such as habitat modification and planting riparian buffers. The coalition aims to stop brutal and cruel goose killings or “roundups” via permits obtained from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, often conducted by its own Wildlife Services.
Butler’s waterfowl advocacy was highlighted in her obituary. In February of 1998, she organized and held a multi-state day-long conference at the Ocean Place Hilton in Long Branch, N.J., for municipal, county, and state level individuals, and various groups interested in humane treatment of resident and migratory Canada geese and other waterfowl. More than 350 advocates attended and launched 25 years of personal commitment to the cause. Butler distributed relevant information needed to further humane treatment and knowledge of Canada geese.
Butler also rehabilitated and released Canada geese and mute swans. In one of many rescues, she raised and later released three orphaned Canada geese. Their successful release required meticulous attention to details while respecting their need to be wild. She also helped to save famed New Jersey swan, Alfie, from a death sentence and secured him a place at Popcorn Park, as reported by The New York Times.