Edith DeEtte Huffman
1922 – 2012
Following her retirement as an occupational therapist DeEtte Huffman took it upon herself to follow her passion and start and organization to protect the Arkansas River. She had been a member of the Kansas Chapter of Sierra Club for many years and turned to that organization for support in her endeavor to establish a group dedicated to the river. She was awarded a grant of $500 by the Chapter in 1997 and with that modest amount of seed money and some like-minded people, she founded the Arkansas River Coalition.
To quote from a tribute to DeEtte by Kay Drennen in the ARC Newsletter:
“The vision for the Arkansas River Coalition has been that it would be an umbrella organization for all groups and individuals concerned with the varied issues and problems that arise for a river and its watershed, especially one that is as large as that of the Arkansas River. DeEtte labored hard at bringing together a diverse group of people and organizations with a stake in the river. She personally traveled the entire length of the river meeting with citizens and agencies, sharing the river’s history, its importance to the nation’s commerce and defense, its value for recreation, the threats it is experiencing, and exhorting everyone that can and should be involved on behalf of one of this region’s great natural resources.”
DeEtte was the driving force in writing the Coalition’s articles of incorporation, its mission statement and goals, and its bylaws as well as drawing up the application for its 501 (c) (3) status. She and others wrote several grants that were awarded to further the efforts of the organization, among which was the establishment of the River Guardians, teams of individuals dedicated to monitoring the health of the river and various of its tributaries. She was the editor of the Arkansas River Coalition Newsletter from its inception in 1997 to the time of her death. She served as President, Vice-President, ARC Ambassador and Executive Director and well as a member of various committees over the 14-year history of the organization. In 2012 she was posthumously given the Margaret and Paul Miller Local Environmental Stewardship Award at the 2012 Regional Energy, Historic Preservation and Sustainability Conference and Fair in Wichita.
A quote from David M. Bolling that she included in the ARC Newsletter some years ago epitomizes DeEtte’s dedication to the Arkansas River: “Choosing to save a river is more often an act of passion than of careful calculation, You make the choice because the river has touched your life in an intimate and irreversible way, because you are unable to accept its loss.” [This was also included in Kay Drennen’s tribute to DeEtte in the March-April 2012 issue of the Arkansas River Coalition Newsletter.]