Dr. John J. Kirk, of Crandon Lakes and formerly of Sparta, passed away peacefully on September 2, 2017 surrounded by his loving family. He was 87 years old.

John was born on May 17, 1930 in Boston, Massachusetts. He was the son of Walter and Mary Kirk. John grew up in Medford, MA. He attended Boston College High. While in high school he signed up for the National Guard.

After graduating from high school, John attended Boston College for one year before his National Guard unit was activated in 1950. He served stateside for two years training the troops, before receiving an honorable discharge in 1952. John returned to school, attending and graduating from Boston University with a Bachelor of Science in Education.

John then continued his education receiving a PhD. in Environmental Studies from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.

John started his professional career in the late 1950’s as a member of the faculty at the University of Michigan. His next position was Supervisor of Camping Services for the State of Michigan, where he administered the licensing and inspection program for 1,000 children’s summer camps in the state and established year round camps to rehabilitate socially maladjusted boys, ages thirteen to eighteen.

In 1963, John became Director of the New Jersey School of Conservation (SOC). He was instrumental in building the SOC into the third largest environmental field center in the world and in establishing Camp Wapalanne, a model ecology summer camp program as well as a myriad of environmental education programs for people of all age groups and professional backgrounds.

During his 37 years as Director, the SOC’s residency program serviced more than 300,000 students, teachers, masters and doctoral candidates, faculty and visiting professionals from every walk of life through the nearly 40,000 workshops and Environmental Education programs offered at SOC. An additional 5,000 young people were exposed to John’s philosophies and concepts of EE by attending one of four summer camps – two that he established – Camp Wapalanne and a Junior Fly Fishing Camp which introduced young anglers to nature studies through fly fishing. The other two camps incorporated environmental themes into their programs – A. Harry Moore, a summer camp sponsored by Jersey City state college of the mentally and physically challenged youth and a Music Camp, sponsored by Montclair University, where students wrote and performed a symphony to the earth at the conclusion of the camp.

John also lent his wisdom and expertise to numerous professional organizations and civic groups, including the American Nature Study Society, the American Camping Association, the National Council of Outdoor Education, the Garden Clubs of New Jersey, United Nations Interfaith Partnership for the Environment, the New Jersey Commission on Environment Education, the Sussex County Community College Board of Trustees and the Sparta Township Environmental Commission. Over the years, he has received honors and recognition from virtually all of these organizations. His scholarly articles were published in 25 countries and translated into nine different languages.

His work internationally drew recognition from the United Nations and in 1978, he was invited by the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) to participate in developing an international plan for EE. John became a member of the North American Committee of the Belgrade Charter and helped introduce the Charter, which laid the foundation for the field of environmental education to countries around the world.

In the 1980’s, John, a devote Catholic conceived yet another approach to spread the environmental message. He approached leaders of UNEP with the idea of establishing what would become the Interfaith Partnership for the Environment (IPE), a group that would help establish relationships between religious leaders and UNEP. The IPE provided the necessary link between religion and the earth and with UNEPs agenda for environmental protection. More than 60,000 leaders worldwide have participated in this program and shared the “green gospel” with their followers. In New Jersey Greenfaith was established as an outgrowth of this effort. And in 2006, Greenfaith honored John for his efforts on behalf of religion and the environment at their first annual awards dinner. John retired in 2001, but continued to consult with colleagues and students in EE.

John is survived by his wife of 15 years, Joanne Sieben of Crandon Lakes, his daughter Kerry Kirk Pflugh and her husband Edward and their two children, Erich and Zachary of Washington, NJ; son, Paul G. Kirk and his wife, Eleanor and their daughter, Emilee of Paoli, Pa.; daughter, Deborah Kirk Zupito, and her sons, Jared and Justin of Malvern, Pa., and son, John P. Kirk, his three children, daughter, Kelsey, son, John Patrick, daughter, Avery and his wife, Ty of Philadephia, Pa. John is predeceased by his wife of 43 years, Joann Springer Kirk of Sparta. Friends and family are invited Thursday 5~9 pm to Goble Funeral Home 22 Main Street Sparta, NJ 07871. A Friday 10 am Mass of the Resurrection will be celebrated at Our Lady of the Lake Church, Sparta, followed by interment at Sparta Cemetery. Memorial contributions in Dr. Kirk’s name may be sent to Alzheimer’s New Jersey 400 Morris Avenue Suite 251 Denville, NJ 07834-1365.