The NFEC was deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Howard Meinke last night. Former Board member and president of the NFEC, Howard was a strong and passionate individual. He spoke often of his early memories of the North Fork, especially the Peconic Bay, and how it has changed over the years. He was determined to do all he could to help clean our waters, resurrect our finfish and shellfish stocks, and rid the bay of brown and red tides so that others could experience all of the beauty and wonders as he did in his younger days.
In the past few years, Howard would contact the NFEC offices several times a month wanting to know if the Suffolk County Health Dept and the Town of Southold had made any progress, taken any measurable steps to solve the septic system problem and reduce nitrogen levels in our ground and surface waters. He was driven to see progress on this front in his lifetime.
He wrote often to the local papers on issues he cared about. You may not have always agreed with his viewpoint but 1) you couldn’t help but admire his passion, and 2) his letters also generated further thought and discussion, something we have too little of on many issues these days. And it was fitting that in his last letter this past Thursday, Howard spoke out against the proposed Heritage project in Cutchogue, citing grave concerns over water quality and traffic issues. As usual, he was on point and, as usual, his passion and perspective caused mainly people to talk about this project, pro or con.
We lost Paul Stoutenburgh earlier this year. Now we have lost Howard Meinke. We have lost two passionate voices on the North Fork who cared about the environment and our way of life. Who will step up to fill their shoes? Who will speak out loudly and often about what we’re doing wrong and what we need to change? We need those people.
But most of all, we have a lost a good environmentalist, a good activist and a good friend. Our thoughts and prayers go out to Howard’s friends and family. Let’s not forget the lessons he taught us, the experiences he shared and the passion he exhibited about the North Fork.