A man of nature

Marvin Silber leaves natural legacy behind

To say Marvin Silber had a passion for nature would be a vast understatement. In many ways, it was his life’s pursuit to preserve the environment and its creatures in any way he could. When not fighting to save the pond in Stephen Gregg County Park, he was lobbying the City of Bayonne to develop and maintain a butterfly garden.
Silber passed away on Oct. 30 at 81 years of age.
He loved to capture nature on film. His photos appeared in the booklet “Wild Birds in the Parks of Hudson County,” which was written by Patricia Hilliard, and his photos gave a good account of the range of birds that could be found in the local environment.
Silber displayed and published his pictures for years, and has given lectures at the library about birds in the area. A semi-retired window display person, he frequently visited nature areas throughout the state on his way to and from jobs. Over the years, he amassed more than 100,000 slides and an estimated 20,000 prints in his collection.

“I started to wonder how many other kinds of birds there were in the park.” – Marvin Silber
He also conducted studies of local bird populations – including birds in Stephen Gregg Park – and he collected information on the number of species that can be found at the former Military Ocean Terminal site. Some of the birds he saw at the MOTBY included the green heron, blue heron, black belly plover, yellow legs, great egret, cormorant, and an immature black crown heron – which is on the endangered species list in New Jersey. During an interview conducted in 2005, he recalled seeing a great egret in Stephen Gregg Park when he first started. He knew nothing about birds then, but had taken pictures while overseas.
“I started to wonder how many other kinds of birds there were in the park,” he said.
Over the next 10 years, he took pictures of, or counted, more than 100 species. He also became involved with other preservation efforts in Hudson County, including at Liberty State Park, where he counted as many as 100 species.
In conjunction with Hudson County Community College, Silber took trips to eagle habitats near Suffern, N.Y., several times a year.
Silber, who was born in Ohio, had spent most of the last 40 years living in Bayonne. He said he learned to appreciate nature as a Boy Scout.
In the early 1950s, he enlisted in the U.S. Army and served in the Army Air Corps in Korea, and recalled during one interview some aspects of nature there.
“While I took photos, I was too busy to really appreciate it at the time,” he said.
Most recently, he successfully lobbied the city to establish a butterfly and humming bird garden in Rutkowski Park, a park he adopted and was a frequent visitor to, rolling along its paths in his electric wheelchair.
His pictures were also installed on the bird identification panels on the Rutkowski Park walkway.
“This was something of which he was very proud,” said Hilliard.
Rhoda, his wife of 51 years, called him one of the most sincere men she ever knew when it came to nature.
“He was very dedicated to his family and to nature – which is something he really believed in,” she said, hoping that the city will maintain the butterfly garden that he established last year.
Silber is survived by his wife, and his children Sara and Stephen Thompson, and Bruce and Elissa Silber. He also has three grandchildren – Ira, Jacob, and Stevie.

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