Those who enjoyed his photos of birds, butterflies, wildflowers and other native plants and animals in printed pages and social media will greatly miss the results of the “daily rounds” of local photographer and conservationist Terry Stanfill.
Stanfill, 67, died Aug. 7 after a battle with pulmonary fibrosis.
Since his retirement from the Flint Creek Power Plant in 2010, Stanfill began each day in his pickup, with his camera and lenses at the ready. He made his rounds to check on the Eagle Watch Nature Trail and look for wildlife in western Benton County and sometimes other favorite locations across the region.
Boxley Valley, near Ponca, and Natural Dam were a couple of favorite spots.
Stanfill loved the outdoors and said he traded hunting with a firearm and took up hunting with a camera. He photographed eagles, owls and other wildlife on Swepco property around Swepco Lake and the plant during his years as a chemist at the plant. His photos were displayed on the walls of the plant’s meeting room. With the coming of the digital age, his photos were shared on a daily basis via Facebook and a Facebook group called Backroads of Arkansas.
In a draft obituary Stanfill wrote for himself and submitted in May, he explains the reason for his photographs: “His love for nature and wildlife inspired him to take up photography. His photos were published locally and regionally. He always hoped to inspire people to look at nature in a more positive and respectful way, believing every creature has a purpose whether we understand it or not.”
Stanfill was instrumental in the creation and management of the Eagle Watch Nature Trail on the west edge of Gentry. He supervised the construction of the site in 1999 and continued to manage the wildlife viewing area after his retirement. He often coordinated activities at the facility for local 4-H groups, schools, scouting groups and for the local branch of the Audubon Society.
Others may know and remember Stanfill for his years coaching Little League, Babe Ruth and American Legion baseball in Siloam Springs. He also was a four-year baseball letterman at Ouachita Baptist University in Arkadelphia.
One thing not everyone may know about Stanfill was his work to preserve native prairies in Northwest Arkansas. He often expressed concern the growth in the region was destroying the last remnants of such prairies and the native grasses and flowers. Though he didn’t always succeed, he assisted in saving some native prairies, and he took the time to transplant many native grasses and wildflowers to Eagle Watch Nature Trail in an effort to preserve them. He often said human greed gets in the way of slowing down and preserving what God has given us.
Stanfill succumbed to pulmonary fibrosis, a disease that also took his father’s life years ago.
Pulmonary fibrosis, according to the Mayo Clinic website, “is a lung disease that occurs when lung tissue becomes damaged and scarred. This thickened, stiff tissue makes it more difficult for your lungs to work properly. As pulmonary fibrosis worsens, you become progressively more short of breath.”
Stanfill continued to make his rounds and take pictures as the disease progressed, but with a portable oxygen unit along with him in his pickup and regular checks of his oxygen levels with an oximeter. His followers became concerned when he posted no new photos Aug. 6 nor Aug. 7.
Terry’s stepdaughter, Stacy Phelps, posted for him on Aug. 7: “It is with great sadness that I let you know that Terry passed away early this morning after a tough battle with pulmonary fibrosis. We would like to take this time to thank all of Terry’s Facebook friends and followers for all of your ‘likes’ and ‘comments’ on his many pictures. He read every one of them. The family asks that you please keep us in your thoughts and prayers at this time and to never take for granted what God has given us through the beauty of nature and the outdoors.”
A day later, the number of likes and condolences for Stanfill had exceeded 2,000. Most expressed their deep appreciation for the photos Stanfill posted and shared.
One comment was directed to Stanfill himself: “Thank you, sir, for all the amazing shots you shared with the world. Rest easy and keep showing us beauty in our lives.”
Stanfill is buried in one of his favorite spots, Walnut Grove Cemetery in Boxley Valley.
In the months before his death, Stanfill was asked if he could pick out some of his favorite photos. Considering the thousands and thousands of photos he took, this had to be a difficult task. Some of Stanfill’s favorites are included with this story.
•Born Oct. 12, 1953 in Fort Smith. Grew up in Mansfield and Greenwood. Lived much of his adult live in Coon Hollow outside Decatur. Stanfill died Aug. 7, 2021.
• Stanfill worked as a chemist at the Flint Creek Power Plant near Gentry from 1977 until he retired in 2010.
• His love of nature inspired Stanfill to take up photography in the 1990s.
Source: Staff report