A Few Words About Stiles

Open the ≡ menu to get a collection of memories about Stiles Thomas and to an obituary written by his daughter.

Life-long Allendale resident Stiles Thomas (1923-2023) had an indelible impact on this nature preserve, this community and beyond.

Stiles began his efforts to save local farmland for a nature preserve in 1956 and, with his wife Lillian at his side, finally succeeded a quarter-century later. In 1981 with the help of Mayor Edward FitzPatrick, Green Acres and the borough of Allendale, Stiles created the Celery Farm Natural Area and increased its size to its present-day 107 acres.

Stiles Thomas with binoculars
Stiles Thomas 1923-2023

The Celery Farm is believed to be the first municipally owned wetlands in the nation. Stiles was the first marsh warden, and he shaped the preserve into what it is today with the help of hundreds of volunteers over the years.

Stiles lived most of his life in Allendale. He attended the Brookside School in Allendale and Ramsey High School, in Ramsey.

Stiles was a U.S. Army Sergeant in World War II and served in Europe. After the war, he opened the Stiles Thomas Insurance Agency in Allendale.

In the late 1950s he started the Mount Peter Hawk Watch in Warwick, N.Y. — the first and longest-running all-volunteer hawk watch in the nation. He also started the Hook Mountain Hawk Watch in Rockland County,

Stiles also put up Eastern Bluebird nesting boxes and Barn Owl nesting boxes all over northern New Jersey and received national coverage, including Reader's Digest and Audubon Magazine. He was a pioneer in both efforts.

Stiles served as president of the Fyke Nature Association and treasurer of the N.J. Audubon Society and was honored as New Jersey Audubon's Conservationist of the Year.

But perhaps Stiles' greatest strength was to connect with people and help them to love nature and appreciate the environment. One local example is how he nurtured an appreciation for Red-shouldered Hawks — an endangered raptor that calls Allendale home.

Whether organizing Christmas Bird Counts or leading trips to the Central American nation of Belize to introduce hundreds of people to tropical birds, Stiles always led the way.