Historic Fairport Fish Hatchery dedicates Gary McDonald Memorial, announces 2nd annual Fish Fry – Voice Of Muscatine

Over 30 friends and family members of the late Gary McDonald gathered at the Historic Fairport Fish Hatchery on Friday to dedicate a memorial plaque to McDonald and his legacy for kids and the outdoors. (Submitted)

Over 30 friends and family members gathered Friday morning with Friends of Fairport Fish Hatchery to dedicate a memorial to the late Gary McDonald and his legacy for the outdoors.

“Gary had the patience of a saint as he taught all the kids how to fish,” said sister Lori (McDonald) Hopkins. “We all loved him and miss him dearly.” 

The memorial plaque is installed near the main entrance between the large Trail Map and the future Educational Pavilion. Gary McDonald was born in Fairport in 1950 and was a long-time resident of Fairport and Muscatine. In 1960, Gary’s parents bought the Director’s Cottage at the hatchery and moved it to Fairport later that year. Gary grew up in that home and his mother lived there until her she died at age 92 in 2023.  Gary was an avid fisherman and enjoyed teaching and sharing his passion with children and others. 

Family friend, Geordi Canada, and his new friend, Gravel the toad, honored Gary McDonald’s love for kids and the outdoors.

Friends and family who gathered for the dedication event enjoyed sharing stories and memories of Gary McDonald and expressed sincere gratitude to Friends of Fairport Fish Hatchery for honoring his legacy in this way.

Additionally, the Friends will host its 2nd Annual Catfish Fry Fundraiser on Friday, June 14 from 5-8 pm at the Pearl City Station (the red brick building) in Riverside Park in Downtown Muscatine. 

Money raised from this fundraiser will go toward completion of the Educational Pavilion at the Historic Fairport Fish Hatchery. Friends of Fairport Fish Hatchery (FFFH) expects to proceed with construction later this summer once the design plans have been approved by the DNR. Total construction costs of the pavilion are expected to be about $90,000. FFFH has raised over $85,000 through grants, public and private donations, and in-kind services. The fish fry fundraiser will bring the group close to the final amount needed to complete the project.

The Educational Pavilion will pay tribute to the history of the Fairport Federal Biological Station. Bricks and stones from the Pumphouse will be used in its construction. The concrete foundation for the pavilion was completed in 2023, but fundraising continues for the completion of the project. Bricks and stones from the historic Pumphouse built in 1910 but demolished in 2021 will be used in the construction of the Educational Pavilion.  The design of the educational pavilion will reflect the architectural style and materials of the original Pumphouse.

Friends of Fairport Fish Hatchery (FFFH) was established in November 2020 as a 501(c)(3) organization
to share the stories of the Historic Fairport Biological Station. The goals of FFFH are to preserve historic resources at the Fairport Fish Hatchery, support its historical and scientific research, and educate students and the public about conservation efforts (both past and present) to protect mussels and fish from impacts due to pollution, siltation, and overfishing. 

The Friends leadership team includes Sandy Stevens, Paul Carroll, Lynn Pruitt, and Jim Elias. Since its inception, FFFH has partnered closely with the Iowa DNR staff (Andy Fowler, Melanie Harkness, Adam Thiese, Randy Schultz) to expand capacity for public outreach and education.

Lori (McDonald) Hopkins, center, celebrated her brother Gary McDonald with friends and family at the Historic Fairport Fish Hatchery on Friday. Lori, Gary, and their five other siblings grew up in their Fairport home that had been the Director’s Cottage when the Fairport Biological Station was constructed in 1910. The McDonald’s parents purchased the cottage in 1960 for $600 and moved it from the hatchery site into the town of Fairport that same year.

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