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Busbani leaves legacy

Escanaba woman key figure for Wildlife Unlimited cause

February 24, 2012
By Tim Kobasic , For The Daily Press

ESCANABA - Delta County lost a pillar in conservation last week. She was very special in many ways but you should know of one that has impacted our quality of life outdoors for three decades.

Kathy (Gagnier) Busbani, 67, passed away Feb. 14, 2012.

She was first married in 1963 to Gary "Bear" Gagnier. Bear was a police officer and his nickname epitomized his persona. He was a very gentle man at heart and had a love for conservation.

Article Photos

Kathy (Gagnier) Busbani

Together they joined a band of people who wanted to help assure the opportunity to enjoy the great outdoors was made available for everyone. That band of people formed the organization known as Wildlife Unlimited of Delta County.

Bear passed away in 1989. Kathy continued her life and devotion to her family, working to support while maintaining her household and raising her three children.

1998 marked the year Kathy would celebrate the rest of her life in the company and love of her new husband, Al "Buzz" Busbani. He too was a career law enforcement officer and part of the foundation that built the institution of Wildlife Unlimited that remains today.

Buzz had four children and together their combined family of children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren enjoyed the times they had together at their home along the Escanaba River in Cornell.

Kathy was a realist. She could face any adversity, and she had many times in her life. There was little that would rile her unless you didn't give your all when you were involved in some project she was also working on.

That, as Paul Harvey would say, "is the rest of the story".

I've known Kathy for 23 years. Our first true meeting was a presentation I helped do, a memorial to her husband Bear, on behalf of a newly formed UP Whitetails Association of Delta County.

We wanted to acknowledge his work not only as an officer of Wildlife Unlimited, but as a peace officer who had often expressed his concern about kids following the right path in their lives.

I knew this first hand as I had a few encounters with the Bear as a youngster.

UP Whitetails donated items that were to be used in helping hunter safety education as the program rolled out in the area. Kathy elegantly accepted the gift in his honor.

Later, I would get to work with Buzz and Kathy annually as Wildlife Unlimited held their annual banquet. The duo made a difference in helping the annual fundraiser go off without a hitch. My duties have been to co-emcee with Terry Jardis.

When 500 people show up at the door of the banquet hall, they don't care how many hours the committee has put in to make sure all the prizes are identified or even how they were procured from sponsors.

They want to get in the door, socialize with all the other members, have dinner and maybe win a prize. A lot of dollars change hands and the committee has to account for every dime.

There is a program that starts with registration. After a social hour, patrons are seated as we salute the flag of our country and those veterans who are able to attend. That leaves a specific amount of time to dedicate scholarships, honor individuals while barking deadlines to raffles and award hundreds of prizes.

No one wants to be there too long and it was Kathy who made sure schedules were met.

Each year that I've emceed, Kathy would produce a book that consisted of an enlarged version of the printed program. The book contained special notes and considerations.

She even posted how she wanted the ticket numbers announced. Kathy didn't want any confusion as to whether Terry or I call a winner by number 450 or 415.

One dilemma I had to deal with was when crowd noise raised to a level that some could not hear the announcement. The decision to call for quiet wasn't made by my recognition, it was Kathy who always sat immediately right of the podium and determined that adjustments had to be made.

Timing meant a lot to her as well.

It was important to keep a smooth flow from registration (no long and stagnant lines), to wrapping everything up so folks could get home and have a good night's sleep, even though she and other committee members wouldn't.

It was so important that ever since I've been announcing for the club, the last part of her annual pep-talk was to remind me that if I lagged, she would reach over and tug on my pants leg.

She also warned me that if I didn't respond to her signal in a timely manner, she'd pull my pants down around my ankles.

As a dedicated mother, family provider and long time volunteer set on a mission of accomplishment no matter what the endeavor, I knew enough to take her seriously. Her ability to intimidate was respected enough that I'd always synched my belt one notch tighter just before going on stage.

Kathy's integral logistics work has helped enable Wildlife Unlimited of Delta County to be so successful that they exceeded an unprecedented one million dollars of fund raising and investment in conservation projects in time for their 30th nnniversary last September.

She'll be a tough act to follow. Whoever is willing to take on the challenge of doing the job as good as Kathleen Mae (Gagnier) Busbani should first have her integrity and work ethic.

The rest should fall into place as I'm sure she planned for the day she would no longer be taking her turn at the helm, and has a book prepared with accompanying notes to assure continued success.

Without the likes of a Kathy (Gagnier) Busbani, I seriously doubt we'd have seen the continued success of Wildlife Unlimited, and now you know why.

Tim Kobasic is the outdoors editor for KMB Broadcasting and host/producer for Tails & Trails Outdoor Radio, aired on six radio stations over three networks, Charter Communications cable and the Internet on Saturday mornings.



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