Shared from the 9/17/2016 San Antonio Express eEdition


Lende, who ‘plowed his heart into’ Boerne haven, dies at 78

Photos by William Luther / San Antonio Express-News

ABOVE: Anne Rogers of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department walks up Cibolo Creek. She says the Cibolo Preserve is “a real gem.”


LEFT: San Antonio River Authority's Chris Vaughn (left) and Austin Davis participate in a fish community assessment in the creek.

William Luther / San Antonio Express-News

Donna Taylor stands on rock where Cibolo Creek has cut a deep path. “It’s forever. As long as we can preserve this place, we’ll do it,” says Taylor, research scientist and board member.


Henry Willard “Bill” Lende Jr. created and endowed the 644-acre Cibolo Preserve in 2008.

BOERNE — Drops of water from a cliff-top spring fell from the leaves of clinging ferns and plopped into Cibolo Creek. The water flowed around ancient cypress trees and tumbled into a deep limestone canyon pocked with ancient fossils on its way to the Edwards Aquifer and the San Antonio River.

Looking at these natural scenes, it’s easy to forget that less than a mile away in every direction are neighborhoods, pawnshops, strip malls and gas stations. In this place, Hill Country flora and fauna live undisturbed, thanks to the foresight of a man named Henry Willard “Bill” Lende Jr.

Lende died Sept. 9 following a sudden stroke. He was 78.

Described by many as a “gentleman’s gentleman,” Lende evolved from engineer to philanthropist and land steward, without shedding the earlier roles. His friends describe a brilliant and inquisitive mind, balanced by warmth and a genuine curiosity about the many people he met.

His fascination with the natural world led to perhaps the most tangible part of his legacy: the 644-acre preserve that looks like an island of Hill Country landscape in a rising sea of new development around Boerne.

“He was very protective of it,” said Candace Andrews, his “soul mate” of 25 years. As the San Antonio area’s population exploded, Lende worked hard to keep his property as a haven for plants and animals.

It also serves as a longterm study area for scientists from the University of Texas at San Antonio, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and the San Antonio River Authority.

Lende, who had no children, created and endowed the Cibolo Preserve in 2008. He set it up as a charitable foundation governed by a board that will manage it as a sanctuary and natural habitat laboratory.

“There’s no end goal,” said Donna Taylor, a research scientist and board member. “It’s continuity. It’s forever. As long as we can preserve this place, we’ll do it.”

Keeping trespassers out is a major part of this goal, and Lende installed high fences, razor wire and cameras to keep the preserve safe. The neighboring Cibolo Nature Center and Farm does have hiking trails open to the public.

On Wednesday, a crew of biologists was knee-deep in Cibolo Creek, pulling out minnows by the net-full. For years, they have been regularly monitoring creek flow, fish and bottom-dwelling insects and other animal species known as benthic macroinvertebrates.

Anne Rogers recalled her first time working on the property after Lende asked the TCEQ, where Rogers worked, to do a full biological study.

“Oh my gosh, it was just spectacular,” said Rogers, now a TPWD program manager. “To have a creek this size that has the impacts going on around the Boerne area, which is growing so much, to see this still staying in such great condition … it’s a real gem.”

Lende showed his appreciation for the scientists with a big helping of paella, Rogers said.

The scientists complimented Lende on his foresight. When Boerne’s wastewater treatment plant, which discharges treated water to Cibolo Creek, was about to expand, Lende secured a commitment to make sure a minimum amount of water would always be sent down the creek, said JW. Pieper, a longtime friend and board member.

When Lende discovered great blue heron nests high in a sycamore tree near the fern bank, he insisted they start regularly observing them and taking notes, Pieper said. Lende had a blind built across a meadow from the nests, which have been regularly observed since 2004. They are the only known great blue heron nests in Kendall County and may be the longest continually monitored nests of this bird in Texas, Pieper and Taylor said.

Other long-term studies involve waterfowl, winter prairie birds and plant communities, Taylor said. Lende recently gave her the go-ahead to begin flying a drone over the property to take high-resolution photos.

Lende’s mark on the property is everywhere — from the metal sculptures of praying mantises, birds and other animals scattered whimsically along the ranch roads to the cache of perfectly straight walking sticks propped against a bush near the canyon. Lende wanted visitors to tread safely, Pieper said.

Born in Pittsburgh in 1937, Lende and his family moved to Garland in 1947. He spent two years at the Texas Military Institute in San Antonio, then received a mechanical engineering degree from the University of Texas at Austin.

In college, he had already proven himself as an entrepreneur, said Pieper, who attended UT with him in the 1950s. In his sophomore year, Lende started an independent orientation business for incoming freshman, showing them around the campus and filling in the gaps left by UT’s orientation, Pieper said.

Lende went on to invent an after-market air conditioning unit, known as the HEATRANSFER, to use in the Volkswagen Beetle. He secured his U.S. patent in 1971 and manufactured them in San Antonio.

His business success helped him begin to focus on his passions. With his brother, Robert, and sister-in-law, Elizabeth, he established the Lende Foundation and donated to a variety of causes.

The foundation often provided seed money other organizations could use to leverage more funding, Robert Lende said. Their donations helped make possible a UTSA archaeological dig in the tomb of a Mayan noble in Guatemala and another in Peru that provided valuable information about the Moche culture, he said.

A huge fan of science and engineering, Bill Lende collected notes, photos and letters from many of the great minds of the 19th and 20th centuries: Thomas Edison, Alexander Graham Bell, the Wright brothers. He compiled his research into a series of historical pamphlets circulated among the like-minded. A full set of them now belongs to the Smithsonian Institution, Andrews said.

Lende bought the first parcel of land in Boerne in 1981. For a time, he grew Brazos blackberries, maintained a vineyard and raised Axis deer on the property. Pieper remembers Lende hosting cookouts and serving Axis venison from a chuck wagon.

“He was a working rancher, farmer — he really plowed his heart into it,” Andrews said. “Over the years, I saw him evolve into a steward of nature and he became more and more protective of this precious property.”

Andrews met Lende nearly 29 years ago while attending a talk at Trinity University. He made quite an impression on her.

“What a gentleman he was, escorting me to my car, opening my door for me,” she said.

At their home in San Antonio, Andrews pointed out a wall of photos, evidence of a life fully lived. Lende was a member of the Explorers Club of New York, as well as the Royal Institution and Royal Geographical Society, both based in London, she said. They traveled all over the world together.

At least once a week, they visited the property, staying in a restored ranch foreman’s home. In Lende’s office, a whole bookcase is filled with binders from scientists working on his property. He kept a calendar with meticulous notes ranging from rainfall totals to turkey sightings, Andrews said.

“He found a reason practically every day to go to the ranch,” she said. “It was his very favorite place to be.”

In the corner, next to a chair with a folded long-sleeved shirt, are a pair of green rubber boots, looking like their owner had just come in from a long walk along Cibolo Creek. Twitter: @bgibbs

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