We are sad to announce the passing of Albert James Hendricks of Ennis, Montana. Al died at age 73 on July 16, 2023.
Al passed away peacefully in his beloved Montana after losing his courageous battle with cancer. He was surrounded by family and friends who loved him dearly.
"Al" was born to Chester and Marguerite Hendricks on August 3, 1949.
Al followed in his Father's footsteps and attended the University of Wyoming. Al graduated with degrees in Geology and Geography in 1971 and was the only University of Wyoming student to graduate with those two degrees.
Al's first assignment with the National Park Service began in June, 1970, at Mammoth Cave National Park, where he led cave tours and worked briefly as a fire control aid, staffing one of the park's fire towers.
In March, 1972, Al became the first ranger assigned to the remote Maze District of Canyonlands National Park when Bates Wilson was superintendent. In what he considered a nearly perfect assignment for a young ranger, Al was handed a map, a canteen and the keys to a 4x4 pickup truck, and told by Chuck Budge, the park's chief ranger, to "go learn the district."
Other early career jobs followed, with a "split-position" assignment at St. Croix National Scenic Riverway and Delaware Water Gap National Recreational Area. In late 1973, after six months in each park, the St. Croix superintendent was able to have the position changed to year-round on the riverway, where Al continued to serve as the South District Ranger.
While completing Law Enforcement Class 14 at the CFLETC in Washington, D.C. in 1974, Al was offered the Old Faithful naturalist position in Yellowstone National Park. Brief, busy summers were paired with dramatic winters in the Upper Geyser Basin. What better daily commute than the mile cross-country ski to the Old Faithful Visitor Center, past steaming hot springs and geysers in a thermal area filled with wildlife?
Al's management career began in May 1976, when he accepted the area manager position at Jewel Cave National Monument. He was fortunate to be there when Herb and Jan Conn were still actively exploring and mapping into the unknown. His first cave surveying trip with Herb and Jan successfully mapped cave mile 55. Today, over 200 miles of Jewel Cave have been mapped.
Moving from one remarkable cave to another, Al began his first superintendent assignment in 1981, when Western Regional Director Howard Chapman offered him that position at Lehman Caves National Monument in Nevada. He was there at a very fortuitous time, as the movement to establish Great Basin National Park was just picking up steam.
Al worked closely with then Congressman Harry Reid, and NPS Legislative Affairs Office staff in identifying resource values that should be included in the park (bristlecone pine groves, additional caves, Native American cultural sites, alpine lakes, striking glacial geology, and more), developing boundary recommendations and serving as the NPS on-site representative, leading to park establishment in 1986. Al continued to serve as Great Basin's first superintendent until 1995, leading the general management plan process and organizing the park infrastructure.
From early 1995 through late 1998, Al served as the superintendent of Crater Lake National Park. While there, he saw the completion of the Crater Lake Lodge restoration and, perhaps just as significantly, he oversaw the nomination and listing of the Rim Village National Historic District. He also completed a critical visitor services plan that identified realistic development needs, leading to a reduction in the facility footprint at Rim Village.
In November 1998, Al began his final job as superintendent of Capitol Reef National Park. By necessity, he became an expert on the interpretation of Revised Statute 2477, a Civil War era federal provision providing for state and county right of way ownership across public lands. This occasionally leads to conflict when local governments wish to construct improvements on roads that NPS management plans identify as more primitive. Al cites the current unchanged road status throughout the park, which meets the approved NPS development plan, as one of his major successes at Capitol Reef.
Al retired on September 3, 2012 after 42 years of government service, all with the National Park Service. Al spent the next few years looking for the perfect property and built his dream home in Ennis, Montana in 2015. He loved sharing his Montana paradise with family and friends who often came to visit.
Al was a true "Parkie" that appreciated, respected and protected the world around him. Al walked the earth always looking for a new adventure and friends to share it with.
Al is preceded in death by his parents Chester and Marguerite Hendricks. Al is survived by his son Daniel, his wife Melanie, and three grandsons Ethan, Sam, and Luke Sturlin of Meridian ID. His Brother Charles, his wife Ann, and nephews Mario and Gabe, and niece Melina.
A Celebration of Al's Life will be held at a later date yet to be determined.
In lieu of flowers, donations can be made in Al's name to the Madison Valley Medical Center or the National Park Service