In Loving Memory of Chuck Schaffer (1956 - 2021)

Recently, the turtle conservation community lost another of its most passionate contributors and beloved friends. On Thursday, July 1, 2021, Chuck Schaffer passed away peacefully at his home in Jacksonville, Florida—his family by his side. The news of Chuck’s passing was hard-hitting as he was a treasured and integral member of our collective turtle conservation family. Chuck was the ultimate “turtle nerd,” and we loved him. His lively spirit, jovial and outgoing personality, love of nature, and commitment to family and friends will be deeply missed by all who knew him. Chuck is survived by his wife Miren, sons Max and Rick, daughter Lauren, and his cherished black Labrador Retriever, Silk.

Chuck Schaffer (front center) and Peter Paul van Dijk (back center) attend the 1st Australian freshwater turtle symposium in Brisbane 2009.

From Peter Paul van Dijk:

“We live in times that are unprecedented in living memory. A pandemic is sweeping the planet, and our family and friends get sick, and some do not get better. We become almost numb to the loss of lives around us. And yet, being told of the passing of Chuck Schaffer is a deep shock.

I can't recall how long I've known Chuck; maybe two decades? It does not matter. What matters is that we've lost a devoted, dedicated, energetic fellow turtle maniac. Chuck and I first got talking about the great chelonian love of his life, Manouria emys, because I had worked in emys habitat, and he wanted to better understand what and how the animals experience and thrive in their environment. From there on, we realized a shared love of antiquarian books about turtles, to the point that we found ourselves outbidding each other on a book on eBay. We discussed the joys and pitfalls of library building, and swapped rare books and shelf-hungry journal sets. We share a love of turtle-themed beverage bottles, and presented each other Terrapin Brewery bottles.

It's incredible, offensive, horrible to realize that we can't ever again sit in the back of the hospitality suite at the annual turtle conference and swap stories, opinions, and dreams. Be well, Chuck, I hope you are among herds of mountain tortoises.”

Chuck Schaffer was a close friend of the Pritchard's, seen here with Sibille, Peter, and Tomas Diagne at their home in 2019.

From Sibille Pritchard:

“To say that Chuck Schaffer was a friend would be an understatement. Peter [Pritchard] was to Chuck turtle deity, and as such, for years, Chuck sought Peter’s knowledge on everything turtle. For as long as I can remember, Chuck visited the Chelonian Research Institute several times a year, and in the past few years, almost weekly.

His encyclopedic knowledge on every meeting he attended, every country he visited, and every turtle person he knew was astounding. I think the iPhone was invented for Chuck. He used it as his personal library and photo album, bringing up pictures of people as they were mentioned in conversation. But, most of all, Chuck adored turtles and was not only interested in the science but more importantly of their conservation.

Chuck passed this passion onto his son Rick. I remember when Rick was asked to do a science project on his heroes. He did a poster presentation on Peter which not only brought him first place, but a coveted spot on the wall in Peter’s office after proudly presenting it to his turtle hero.

"It was Chuck’s dream to go to the Galapagos with Peter and fortunately he was able to do that some years ago." - Sibille Pritchard

So, it was indeed very sad when I received the news of Chuck’s passing. It was also more poignant because it was just a year after Peter’s passing. I was aware of Chuck’s illness and spoke with him frequently - but always hopeful that he would survive.

Peter recognized Chuck’s authenticity and appreciated it, so he trusted him to review his Rafetus manuscript, and Chuck was thrilled at the opportunity. Chuck often told me how proud he was of that work.

The Pritchard family and CRI remember very fondly Chuck’s humanism and friendship and we shall miss him.”

Chuff Schaffer was a beloved member of the turtle conservation community, regularly attending and orchestrating events and symposiums. He will be greatly missed.