I met Alvaro Ugalde in the late 1970’s when I worked for The Nature Conservancy Development Department in Arlington, VA, outside Washington, D.C. I was asked to help writing proposals for TNC’s International Program, which had been tasked with helping Alvaro in fundraising for Corcovado. All of us enjoyed Alvaro’s warmth, enthusiasm, and total commitment to saving the greatest ecosystems in Costa Rica through the creation and designation of parks. Over the next decade I continued to follow his progress in my role as a Board member of World Wildlife Fund –U.S. In addition to his kindness, good humor, and persistent determination, he is truly one of the most inspirational people I have ever known.
My favorite story that Alvaro gleefully recounted was about his sitting on the floor of the Costa Rican President’s office, handing document after document up to the President’s desk to be signed, often while the President multitasked on the phone. I loved Alvaro’s down to earth nature and focus on getting the job done rather than waiting for a more formal, or some might say, more appropriate moment. He was a humble man in the best sense of the word: giving all of his energy to accomplishing his life’s mission: the creation and protection of Cost Rica’s magnificent park system.
When I spoke with him last year to tell him I was at last getting to visit Costa Rica for the first time, he was quick to take me up on my offer to assist as a volunteer for his most recent project Nectandra Gardens and Institute. With his untimely death, our work in April became a memorial to Alvaro, who continues to inspire others even after he is gone.Betsy Jewett