August 5, 1940 – March 11, 2023
After 82 years of disappointing his enemies, Dr. Wayne Franklin Hadley hung up his waders and departed to the happy hunting grounds. Wayne was born in Arkansas City, Kans., on Aug. 5, 1940, and was a proud member, and likely the first natural redhead, of the Osage Nation. He grew up in Ponca City, Okla., where he discovered his lifelong joy of hunting and fishing on the family farm. Among his many memories as a small child in the 1940s is pressing his nose against the window of the local Dr. Pepper bottling plant until someone inside would take pity, throw him a bottle, and tell him to get lost.
Wayne received a bachelor’s and master’s degrees in vertebrate biology and a Doctorate in marine biology from Oklahoma State University. He completed postgraduate fisheries research work in Minnesota then moved to Buffalo, N.Y., in 1970, where he took a position as a biology professor at the University of Buffalo. His influence on his students was such that former graduate students remained in contact with him until the end of his days.
It was in Buffalo that he met his princess, Kathleen Conn, daughter of an Irish immigrant family. Following their dream to live in an outdoor paradise of river trout, bird hunting, big game, and open spaces, Wayne, Kathleen, and their son, Erik moved to Montana in 1979. The following year, their second son, Liam was born in Helena. Wayne spent 23 years working for Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks as a fisheries biologist. He managed the fisheries in Georgetown Lake and advocated for the proper cleanup of the Clark Fork River. Wayne held the line against corporate and governmental entities who were unconcerned about the river’s health.
Upon his retirement, Wayne said, “We are the guardians of an international treasure – the rivers of Montana. As I got older, I came to realize that my highest calling as a biologist was to work for my grandchildren.” He was also particularly proud of his efforts as a Montanan ambassador to the Patagonia region of Argentina, where, in the course of teaching new fisheries management techniques, he developed one of the most meaningful friendships of his life with Alejandro del Valle (and his family), a Patagonian biologist who Wayne considered his “brother of the south.”
Wayne was an avid waterfowl, upland bird, and big game hunter and continually appreciated the wildlife on his ranch in the Deer Lodge Valley. He was a hell of a fly fisherman and was proud to have taught countless Scouts the skills needed to appreciate Montana’s wild places; both of his sons are Eagle Scouts. Wayne taught his boys how to hunt, fish, and camp, how to manage a Montana ranch, and to always keep their knives sharp and have a Leatherman on their belt. He taught them to work hard, to finish what they started, and to keep their word. He also taught them civic responsibility, a responsibility to safeguard the habitats and species of the West, and (more than adequately) taught them both to be smartasses.
Wayne did not suffer fools gladly; he was passionately devoted to the idea of the land, waters, and air being part of the Public Trust, and until his end, fought against policies that devalued our outdoor heritage. He felt that it is precisely the people that respect Western values – the resident hunters, anglers, and hikers – that are most adversely affected by policies that take the “public” out of public lands. He lived by his principles and was dedicated to sharing the Hadley Ranch for hunting and angling, and to protecting it for future generations through conservation easements.
Family was the most important thing in Wayne’s life. He is survived by his best friend, hunting and fishing buddy, and wife of 48 years, Kathleen; two accomplished sons, Erik and Liam, who made him smile (mostly) every day growing up and since; a beautiful, compassionate daughter-in-law, Shasta (though he regretted that she was a lawyer, and never passed up a good lawyer joke in her presence). He was particularly proud of his talented grandsons, Kieran and Declan, both of whom have grown up experiencing the outdoors as fully as possible, and whom he absolutely adored. He never missed an opportunity to counsel them on his favorite Will Rogers quote, “Never miss a good opportunity to shut up.” The irony of that advice from Grandpa did not escape either of them.
In lieu of flowers, Wayne and his family would like you to consider a donation to the Montana Wildlife Federation (https://montanawildlife.org/about-us/membership/).
The best way you could honor Wayne is to help achieve legislative wins and volunteer for campaigns that protect the fish, wildlife, and outdoor heritage of Montana.
The family is planning a Celebration of Life the afternoon of Aug. 5, 2023 at the Beaver Dam Park, Anaconda (https://www.adlc.us/Facilities/Facility/Details/Beaver-Dam-Park-4), where we invite all of his family and friends to raise a pint to this proud Irish and Osage champion and steward of public lands, dedicated public servant, writer and humorist, and, foremost, devoted and loving family man.