Christine Weiss Pfeil, 70, of Rocky River OH ended her battle with cancer at AMES Family Hospice on February 10th, 2023. Born to Betty and Richard Weiss in Fairview OH in '52, Chris spent her youth climbing trees, practicing bird calls ("who-cooks-for-you, who-cooks-for-you-all"), and identifying plants in the wild ravine next to her home. Graduating with honors from the inaugural class of Lake Ridge Academy ('70), she obtained her BA in Biology from Sweet Briar College where she was elected to Phi Beta Kappa ('74), and then completed coursework for her Masters in Environmental Studies at University of Michigan ('77). She and her twin sister, Cathy, spent their junior year abroad at St. Andrews in Scotland where they were both members of the rifle team. In 1980, she wed David Pfeil (deceased '97) at the Rocky River United Methodist Church.
Her early childhood penchant for digging in the dirt fostered a lifelong curiosity about non-human neighbors. With playful and captivating delivery, she shared her sense of wonder through a 40+ year career in environmental education, inviting generations to get to know and value their backyard wildlife, water and weather systems, native history, and the connectedness of our shared ecosystems (Cleveland Metroparks, Cleveland Museum of Natural History, Lake Erie Nature and Science Center). Her dedication to this mission extended outside the classroom to gathering specimens for the CMNH collections, causing quite the gamble as to whether the family freezer would yield ice cream, or frozen finches. When she wasn't dispelling rumors about snake scales being slimy (more similar to a basketball actually), or converting her audience's recoil from the opossum into amazement (they are North America's ONLY marsupial, and mammal with the most teeth - can you guess how many?) she contributed her time and talents through volunteer efforts.
Serving as President of the CMNH Women's Committee, sitting on the Board at Lake Ridge Academy, leading the LRA Parent-Teacher Association, participating in the Rocky River Green Team, and most recently acting as Treasurer for the Cleveland Yachting Club Wet Hens group, her impact on many local institutions and the community at large remains vast. As the lead of Lake Ridge Academy's Auction Committee, she ensured that a single-humped Dromedary camel native to North Africa (not a two-humped Bactrian camel native to Asia) showed up to the Egyptian themed auction. She modeled how small, sustainable actions over time add up to big, valuable outcomes, as evidenced by decades of cannibalizing cereal boxes for the 'Box Tops for Education' fundraising program which, in part, earned her LRA's Alumni Hall of Fame Award. Normal people might join a volunteer beach clean up, or tree planting event, but Chris unflinchingly used her DIY energy to provide a solution for a localized need, and established her own annual nature volunteering opportunity at Elmwood Park. Gathering friends, neighbors, colleagues, and eventually turning it over to Rocky River High School's biology class, Chris developed a yearly Garlic Mustard Pull which successfully eradicated the invasive species that is both inedible to local fauna, and lastingly destructive of the soil's pH.
That's nothing to say of the many shelter dogs she adopted, cats she rehomed from the woods, injured animals she rescued to rehab (including a 40lb snapping turtle), marksmanship awards won, innumerable sailing trophies earned, and deep friendships made throughout her 70 year journey. She was the kind of person who could fix everything (even installing her own hot water heater), habitually bought display-sized boxes of Malley's Chocolate to share, and traveled everywhere with a frisbee, just in case. She fit comfortably into any conversation, and contributed her all to each encounter. As her mother regularly recounts, 'Chris starts conversations with strangers in elevators... who does that?" Whether known as the skipper of Idleweiss, Baron and Ginger's person, or the neighbor who could support any animal rescue mission, Chris's quick wit, encyclopedic knowledge, generosity and capability will be sorely missed. She is survived by her children, Lee (Coreen Weintraub) Pfeil, and Carrie (Adam Taylor) Pfeil of Oakland, CA, her mother Betty Weiss of Westlake, OH, and sisters Cathy Thompson of Winchester, VA, and Wendy (Gilbert) Smith of Durham, NC. She'll be missed by dear nieces, in-laws, and many close cousins once and twice removed.
Chris's legacy can be celebrated through sustainable behavior change: reduce consumption of plastic, recycle, turn off the lights when the room is empty, lower the thermostat overnight during winter, employ organic lawn care companies, eat less, or no meat, plant landscaping that supports native biodiversity, participate in the local Green Team, or find your own small, sustainable action that leads to big outcomes. Memorial donations may be made to the Lake Erie Nature and Science Center. Details of her summer celebration of life will be posted at ChrisPfeil.com. Think of her when the cardinal sings its first song of spring.