Remembering Richard Guadagno, a Devoted Steward of Nature

Remembering Richard Guadagno, a Devoted Steward of Nature

Richard J. Guadagno. Courtesy U.S. Department of Justice.

Richard J. Guadagno wanted to dedicate his life to protecting the environment. Growing up in Ewing, New Jersey, Guadagno loved animals and the outdoors, and he was a keen gardener.

His godmother, Katharine Rossi, recalled his enthusiasm for nature in a 9/11 Memorial Museum Call to Remember recording:

As a young boy, Richard loved every little thing that nature provided: birds, butterflies, flowers, plants, frogs,” Rossi said. “Richard was a person of many talents and interests, an extensive rock collector, taxidermy, astronomy, botany, a large collection of unusual and exotic plants.”

Guadagno’s sister, Lori, never doubted that he’d find his way into earth science and conservation work as a career. “All he wanted to do was catch frogs, collect butterflies, watch things grow, plant seeds, hang out with people that could teach him,” she recalled in a Flight 93 National Memorial oral history interview.

As other teenagers in their New Jersey hometown begrudgingly took on part-time jobs at malls and grocery stores, Guadagno found employment in local parks and recreation areas. Lori remembers his single-minded diligence when it came to his work in nature. “He was so focused and so driven from the time when he was so young,” Lori said.

After Guadagno graduated from Rutgers University with a degree in biology, he went on to manage wildlife refuges in New Jersey, Oregon and Delaware, before settling into a manager role in California’s Humboldt Bay National Wildlife Refuge with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, where he worked to make sanctuaries for migratory birds.

Lori remembers his unwavering humility about his work. “There wasn’t bravado, there wasn’t ego,” she said. “He believed that the environment needed caretakers, badly. And he was destined to be one of them.”

Along with his German Shepherd, Raven, Guadagno lived in an A-frame house with a view of the Pacific, orchids in the kitchen, hummingbirds on the property and 150 trees that he had planted on his acre of land by hand. He was a veritable Renaissance man, with interests spanning from cooking to music, gardening to taxidermy, astronomy to photography. 

On September 11, Guadagno boarded Flight 93 to return home after celebrating his grandmother’s 100th birthday in New Jersey. He is remembered by his friends, family and colleagues as a caring and capable listener, as devoted to the people in his life as the flora and fauna he sought to protect. 

In his godmother’s estimation, he hoped that the people he cared for got as much pleasure from nature as he did in his life. “He’d want us to be left with these things: clean air, clean water, open spaces and love for his friends, family, and life in general.”

By 9/11 Memorial Staff