CHELSEA — In 1982 — 200 years after the Continental Congress chose a bald eagle to grace the country’s Great Seal — then-President Ronald Reagan declared June 20 National Bald Eagle Day.
But the day may not have existed without late conservationist and longtime Chelsea resident Rick Carrier, his partner Lynn Ramsey said.
Carrier, who passed away in December at the age of 91, helped spearhead efforts to bring national recognition to the bald eagle.
“Since he passed away, and since he was such an eagle lover, I thought, ‘We have to do something in memory of Rick,’” Ramsey told DNAinfo New York. “He had… a great desire to bring the endangered eagle to the public.”
Carrier’s interest in the bird dated back to 1974, when he was learning how to hang glide in Colorado, Ramsey recalled. As he soared through the air with his teacher, he spotted an eagle flying next to him and heard it chirp.
“It got me right in the heart,” Carrier told the New York Times of the experience.
Carrier's conservation efforts took off from there, and on June 20, 1976, he organized the first-ever Bald Eagle Day commemoration at St. Paul’s Chapel in the Financial District.
Six years later, Carrier’s “U.S.A. Bald Eagle Command” organization and other conservationists lobbying for a national day for the eagle — which was on the federal list of endangered species until 2007 — secured President Reagan’s endorsement.
The 35th anniversary celebration at St. Peter’s Church will give the public a chance to learn more about present-day conservation efforts. Attendees will also be able to sing American folk classics with musicians from the NYC Friends of Clearwater and the cabaret group Those Girls.
“There have been so many dark things happening in the last six months or so,” Ramsey explained. “I wanted to do something that would be uplifting… to just bring everybody together to sing and think about how we can have happier lives, and how we can help each other, and be more positive."
Carrier — who lived with Ramsey on West 22nd Street for about four decades — reportedly wore many hats throughout his life, including World War II hero, artist, writer, filmmaker and songwriter.
For the six years before the bald eagle earned its day of recognition, the conservationist was “devoted” to the bird, Ramsey recalled.
“To do what Rick has done, you’ve got to be a little mad, I think, but he was really determined,” she said. “There wasn’t anything he couldn’t do.”