William Deterer

[ Age 73 ] The former hunter developed a passion for helping wildlife and devoted himself to animal-rescue efforts.

December 30, 2007|By Ruma Kumar | Ruma Kumar,Sun reporter

William Wayne Deterer, a once-avid hunter who turned into a wildlife advocate and co-founded a bird and animal rescue center with his wife, died of congestive heart failure Wednesday at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center in Baltimore. The Hampstead resident was 73.

Known as Wayne to his family and friends, Mr. Deterer was born in Baltimore and grew up in Highlandtown as one of three children of German immigrant parents. He graduated from Patterson Park High School.

Mr. Deterer joined the Army after he graduated and was stationed in Aschaffenburg, Germany, until he left the service. When he returned to Baltimore in 1961, he settled in Dundalk and began working for Esskay Meats, a large meatpacking plant in South Baltimore. He worked for more than three decades in the smokehouse, until the plant closed in 1992. He went on to do maintenance work at the Towson Equitable Building until 1999, when a heart attack left him too weak to work.

He met his wife, Gerda Reuss, in 1963 when they were neighbors in Dundalk. He was then an avid outdoorsman who enjoyed fishing and hunting geese, deer and ducks. But over their two-decade friendship, which culminated in marriage in 1984, Ms. Reuss' passion for helping save animals began to rub off on Mr. Deterer and he gradually moved away from hunting.

When they married, he stopped hunting and in his spare time helped her run a bird rehabilitation center out of their modest bungalow in Dundalk. At its height, their home housed about 80 species of birds - from hummingbirds to red-tailed hawks. The couple healed injured birds for free, caring for them until they could be released into the wild or given away as pets. Animal rescue work soon became Mr. Deterer's hobby, and his paychecks from the Esskay plant helped keep the effort going as it grew through word-of-mouth among veterinarians and animal lovers.

"He made the unfortunate decision of hooking up with me, and he completely gave up hunting and realized that animals had a right to live," said Mrs. Deterer.

Mr. Deterer was instrumental in getting volunteers to help with wildlife rehabilitation work, and he would spend hours teaching them about animal behavior, diet and anatomy, his wife said. Through his advocacy, Mr. Deterer helped draw more than 50 volunteers to the organization. In 1990, the Deterers co-founded Wild Bird Rescue. In 1994, they renamed their organization Wildlife Rescue Inc. and broadened their work to help other animals, including foxes, raccoons, fawns and rabbits.

"He loved working with the bunnies," his wife said. "It really hurt him to see people buy them around Easter and then get rid of them."

By 2000, the Dundalk home was getting too small to continue their work. In 2004, several local families who had been helped by the Deterers raised money and donated 17 acres in Hampstead to the couple, said Enid Feinberg, vice president of Wildlife Rescue Inc. and a longtime supporter and friend.

"We just really wanted to do something for them; they had done so much for so many people," Ms. Feinberg said.

With more space, the couple had enough room to help thousands of injured animals. They began averaging about 3,500 animals a year, Mrs. Deterer said. As it grew, the Deterers' organization got calls for help from various state and local groups like the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, the Maryland Zoo in Baltimore and the National Aquarium, Ms. Feinberg said.

Along with the Deterers, volunteers began providing free educational programs for local schools, volunteer opportunities for high school students, wildlife rehabilitation classes and nature holiday programs for disadvantaged youth in partnership with the Carrie Murray Nature Center in Baltimore.

Services are today at noon at Peaceful Alternatives Funeral Home & Cremation Center, 2325 York Road in Timonium.

In addition to his wife, Mr. Deterer is survived by a sister, Lois Shelton of Kingsville; and a brother, Ed Deterer of Tampa, Fla.

ruma.kumar@baltsun.com

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