Eleanor Stopps, Protection Island defender, dies at 92

By Charlie Bermant
Peninsula Daily News

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By Charlie Bermant

Peninsula Daily News

GIG HARBOR — Eleanor Stopps, whose efforts led to the preservation of Protection Island as a wildlife habitat, died Wednesday after a battle with cancer.

Stopps, who was 92, died at 11:08 a.m. surrounded by her family, said Robin Ornelas, a close family friend.

“She was definitely a hero due to her leadership,” said Port Townsend Marine Science Center Executive Director Ann Murphy.

“She stepped forward in a time where women weren't making big public statements, but she knew what she believed in and stood up for it.

“She was a model to us.”

Stopps was responsible for the 1982 establishment of the Protection Island National Wildlife Refuge, the only refuge created during the Reagan administration.

Stopps received a terminal cancer diagnosis in March.

She sold the house on Mats Mats Bay that she had lived in since 1974 and moved to a care facility in Gig Harbor, where she received palliative treatment while also receiving pain treatment at St. Joseph Medical Center in Tacoma.

Stopps had hoped to die at home in view of the water, but that plan was scuttled when her cancer made it impossible to stay at home without treatment, said Ornelas, who served as spokeswoman for Stopps' family.

Stopps was a housewife and mother who testified before both the state Legislature and Congress, and persuaded Congress through tireless letter-writing and lobbying over a decade to grant Protection Island national wildlife refuge status.

The island near the mouth of Discovery Bay in the Strait of Juan de Fuca is home to more than 75 percent of the seabirds that nest in the state, excluding the Pacific coast, and contains one of the last two nesting colonies of tufted puffins in the Puget Sound area.

Last modified: April 25. 2012 6:08PM
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