OSAGE BEACH, Mo.— Long-time local conservationist and avid outdoorsman Bill Wehrle of Chillicothe has been honored with the George Clark Missouri National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF) chapter’s George C. Clark Award.
OSAGE BEACH, Mo.— Long-time local conservationist and avid outdoorsman Bill Wehrle of Chillicothe has been honored with the George Clark Missouri National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF) chapter’s George C. Clark Award. The presentation was made at the state chapter’s annual awards program at the Tan Tar A Resort at the Lake of the Ozarks on Saturday, Jan. 6, 2018, according to Mike Allen, regional NWTF director. Wehrle was selected from a group of nominees selected by NWTF staff, the regional director disclosed. “I was surprised, grateful, and thrilled to have been selected for the award, which is one of the two highest awards the state chapter bestows on an individual for supporting and assisting the NWTF in Missouri over a long period of time,” the Chillicothe resident says of his selection. The George C. Clark award is presented annually to one individual in the state who exhibits the passion Clark, himself a former Chillicothean who died in 1991, had for the NWTF, the wild turkey, and conservation in Missouri. He was instrumental in forming the North Central Missouri Chapter in Chillicothe, the longest running chapter in the state. Clark also served on the federation’s Missouri state board and its national board of directors, Allen relates. Wehrle, retired for many years from his career with the U.S. Social Security Administration – a career which brought him to Chillicothe in the first place in the 1970s, was a member of the chartering committee for the North Central Missouri local chapter in 1977. He has served on the local chapter’s banquet committee since its first banquet in 1978 – the first NWTF banquet west of the Mississippi River, a total of 41 years. Wehrle, the Constitution-Tribune’s outdoor sports editor since the late 1990s, served as local turkey federation chapter president from 1980-82 (with Clark as treasurer). In a reversal of roles, when Clark was elected state chapter president, Wehrle was elected state treasurer, “inheriting a checkbook with a negative balance,” Wehrle recollected during his acceptance remarks. “Under George’s leadership and with his excellent ideas and planning, we saw that bank balance become a positive five figures during his tenure.” Wehrle worked with the award’s namesake for 14 years and was often referred to as “George’s driver” as they travelled thousands of miles to expand local chapter involvement throughout Missouri, Wehrle reflected, adding he wore the title with pride. “He was determined to expand the NWTF to as many locations in Missouri as he could. At that time, there were only 3 or 4 chapters in the state, but his initial goal was to increase that to 20 or more, a tough goal in those early days but he achieved it. He bought a brand new Buick one year, and a year later had 70,000 mostly wild turkey federation miles on it. He didn’t live long enough to see the much larger number of chapters and members that we here in Missouri now enjoy, but I wish he could have. Wehrle was named to Missouri’s NWTF state board in 1981 and remained a member until 2000. He was its “Button Man” from 1984-2001, instigating the fund-raising program. “It was designed to raised much-needed money for the Missouri State WTF,” he recalls. “It started when I received approval to use the national logo on a lapel button and sell them to other turkey chapters across the U.S. “This was successful and I followed by getting permission from nationally-acclaimed wildlife artists to use one of their prints as the picture on the button. I ran this program from home from 1985 through 2001, when the National WTF decided they’d like to take it over themselves. “The program achieved its goal in providing needed financial support for Missouri State WTF projects. (The national office) only operated the button program for a few more years and then ended it.” Wehrle said he concentrated his remarks in accepting the honor on helping share his first-hand experiences with Clark, since many – perhaps most – of those on hand had never met the honor’s and state chapter’s namesake. He shared a personal recollection to highlight Clark’s dedication to the wild turkey cause. “On a bluff overlooking the main body of beautiful Indian Creek Lake in northwest Livingston County,” he described, “sits a concrete bench inscribed “In Memory of George C. Clark, Missouri Wild Turkey Pioneer,” designed and placed there by the local North Central Missouri Turkey Federation Chapter. “During a conservation commissioner’s dedication speech at that lake several years ago, a wild turkey gobbled from near the bench’s location and I wasn’t the only one in the crowd with tears in my eyes.” Wehrle, whose personal outdoors activities were curtailed some this fall by back surgery from which he reports his recovery has gone well, was accompanied to the awards ceremony by wife Pat.