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Glenn Kinser: Letting nature take care of nature

By Staff | Jul 16, 2010

Glenn Kinser Chronicle photo by Michael Theis

In the 1740s, William Green, grandson of Thomas Greene, sold his Charles County, Maryland home, packed up his family and moved west. Green, his wife Dinah and their children settled in Mecklenburg, Virginia, 120 years before the this part of the world became West Virginia and 160 years before Mecklenburg became Shepherds Town.

Thomas Greene was among the earliest settlers of the Maryland colony after Maryland was founded in 1634 as a haven of religious tolerance for English Catholics. He was in the politics of the colony by 1637 and became a prominent leader of moderate Catholics. Greene was appointed to the governorship by the colony’s first governor, Leonard Calvert only hours before Calvert’s death.

History tells of a mini-flight to Mecklenburg from Maryland at that time and the Greens didn’t come alone. The Swearingens , the Shepherds, the Chaplines, the Metcalfs and many other familiar names came west around the same time.

William Green (aka Greene) built a home on Shepherds Grade Road. There his family grew to include eight children, one of whom was a baby girl named Keziah. Keziah grew up in Shepherdstown, got married and moved to Ohio. Four generations later Glenn Kinser was born.

Glenn was born in Canton, Ohio to Katheryn, a homemaker, and Glenn, Sr.

a steelworker. A second son named Robert rounded out a family in which the oldest son had two passions – biology and scouting.

In high school Glenn rose to the rank of Eagle Scout, spent most summers as a camp counselor and excelled in field sports. He treasures his days as a scout. “It was the best training in self-reliance and leadership of my life.”

In the late ’50s, he entered Kent State to major in biology and field sports. Glenn joined Alpha Phi Omega and lettered as a marksman on the rifle team for all four years. Summers were spent at the Ohio Agriculture Experimental Station where he pollinated tomato plants to achieve a tobacco mosaic virus resistant strain. Lesson: If you cross the Rutgers tomato with a Wild Peruvian Andes tomato you get a tobacco mosaic virus resistant strain. But you probably already knew that.

“My interest in biology came out of scouting. Summer camp, learning about the wisdom of the multi-story layer (trees, herbs, shrubs) of nature and how it works.

I learned it’s best to leave nature to nature.”

“I graduated from Kent State in ’62 and jobs in biology were scarce so I did what we did then when we couldn’t get a job, I went back to school.” This statement came with his familiar contagious laugh. He entered Indiana University as a graduate assistant and earned both a masters and a PhD in ecology. Upon graduation in 1967 the employment picture had changed and Glenn went to Rider College in New Jersey to teach ecology and biology. By now he was married with children – Glenn the 3rd. and Kirsten – and in 1971 the Kinser family left New Jersey for the Fahkahatchee Environmental Studies Center, in Naples, Florida.

Two years later a call from the US Department of Interior brought Glenn to Washington and the US Fish & Wildlife Service to study the impact of nuclear power plants on the environment. “That was during the Nixon administration and contrary to what you might think, Nixon was a friend. He had good people in this area and they saw the writing on the wall. They paid attention to environmental studies.”

In ’77 Glenn was assigned to Annapolis and the Chesapeake Bay, where he supervised permit review in Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, DC and West Virginia. Development on the Chesapeake Bay was, and is, of great concern to him. “The runoff from farming is a big culprit. Development is the other. There’s that societal feeling of ‘why should we allow things on the Chesapeake to bring development to a halt?” Here’s one good reason. Not too many years ago 30 million bushels of oysters were harvested from the Bay each year. Today, the number is 200 thousand. Glenn has many such examples. Bottom line, “If we stopped all development today – all of it – the environment would still be going downhill.”

In 1995 the love bug bit again when Glenn Kinser met Lillian Hatcher, a single mom with three children – Holly, Vincent and Joey. The two became a couple and when Glenn moved to Shepherdstown to head up training at NCTC, Lillian followed. Today, happily married, they live in the 1927 six-bedroom bungalow at the corner of W. German and Church. The Kinser home is a natural habitat in the middle of town ruled by a goodwill ambassadorial poodle. Little Max is as friendly as he is gorgeous.

Retirement notwithstanding, Glenn’s days are very full. A while ago, due to a heath condition that curtailed athletics, he took up watercolors and home now boasts more than one hundred very impressive originals. Ducks are his subjects of choice, he paints them and he carves them. Still passionate about the environment there’s also the passion for genealogy and for gardening. As his wife said “He’s never met a plant he didn’t’ like.” As the Kinsers are collectors, home is full of antiques, art, enormous John Garton carvings, photos, books, clocks and a lots of laughter.

Next week, twelve grandchildren will bring their parents to Shepherdstown to celebrate a grandfather’s 70th birthday. Amidst the cake and presents will be stories of more than 200 years ago when a young Shepherdstown girl named Keziah Green got married and moved to Ohio. And how today’s “birthday-boy” lives on the street where his great, great, great, great grandmother played as a child. Who says you can’t go home again?