A few years back Peter Ward asked his good pal Bert Raynes what he wanted to have happen when he left this world.

Raynes, to be expected, was facetious, responding with a request for 76 trombones and a golden chariot, among other extravagances. But then he laid out his real wishes in writing.

“I would settle for something like a potluck at the National Museum of Wildlife Art where people have fun, talk about the present and the future, and talk about the good, not the bad,” Raynes wrote to Ward in July 2018.

The 96-year-old birder and longtime News&Guide columnist died on New Year’s Day this year. That was near the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, so friends decided to put off the celebration that Raynes desired until a time when it was safer and more realistic.

Unfortunately, COVID-19 upended those plans, roaring back this time due to the more contagious delta variant.

Bert Raynes

Bert Raynes, 1990

“It became clear that we were talking about 200 to 300 people,” Ward told the News&Guide. “We ultimately decided that because of COVID we couldn’t have that many people crowded together.”

Plan B is what everyone’s gotten used to: Going remote and airing the ceremony over YouTube.

“Going virtual actually has some benefits,” Ward said. “There are many more people who can be involved.”

Ward has compiled a repository of all things Bert Raynes online, at Raynes.info. There, friends, family and those who just want to know about the guy can access links to 719 of his columns, read remembrances, and scroll through photos of his life. They can also watch several films, including a 2015 Wyoming Media Lab short about Raynes, in which he describes how he acquired his love of nature.

“Meg Raynes,” he said, referring to his late wife. “I was a city kid. She had rural roots. She taught me everything.”

Raynes.info is also where friends can go to contribute their own Raynes remembrances that they’d like to have shared during the ceremony.

The online Raynes celebration starts at 4 p.m. Sunday with a slideshow of photos from his life. The main program starts at 4:30 p.m. To watch, go to Raynes.info and click on the “Celebration on YouTube” link. For those who can’t attend, a recording will be posted at Raynes.info.

Contact Mike Koshmrl at 732-7067 or env@jhnewsandguide.com.

Mike has reported on the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem's wildlife, wildlands and the agencies that manage them since 2012. A native Minnesotan, he arrived in the West to study environmental journalism at the University of Colorado.

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