The Cache Valley environmental community has been sharing stories this week about Reinhard Jockel, a legendary and beloved local naturalist who died Dec. 7 at the age of 80.
Among other things, Jockel is remembered for his unusual lifestyle, choosing to travel by bicycle instead of a car and living for years in a tiny apartment cluttered with old books and plants above The Sportsman in downtown Logan.
On the many outings he went on with the Bridgerland Audubon Society and Cache Hikers, the gray-bearded Jockel resembled a gnome, often making his way up trails and through wilderness with a walking stick. His thick German accent added to the mystique.
But Jockel’s real claim to local fame was an almost unmatched knowledge of the local outdoors, especially birds, trees and wildflowers.
“He was really an extraordinary botanist and kept beautiful detailed records of when flowers would bloom here in our mountains and valley,” said long-time friend Jack Greene, a well-known local nature lover in his own right. “He was kind of like my wild brother, or brother in the wild I should say. His excitement was contagious.”
Describing Jockel’s apartment, Greene said, “It was like walking into an antiquated library. As soon as you stuck your nose through the door it reeked of old books and plants. You had to fight your way through the jungle that he created in that small space, but he was always very welcoming.”
Jockel was born in Germany during World War II and came to the United States after the war. He attended Utah State University, then transferred to the University of California Berkley to study botany, but Cache Valley’s natural beauty and close proximity to the mountains lured him back.
Jockel spent time in the outdoors with the late Allen Stokes, the noted USU wildlife management professor for whom the Stokes Nature Center in Logan Canyon is named.
His life here was very simple. He never worked in a regular job that anyone can remember but did a lot of landscaping and gardening work for friends for nominal fees.
“I think he probably lived on a few thousand dollars a year,” Greene said. “He was the epitome of a sustainable lifestyle. I mean his carbon footprint was probably similar to someone in Somalia or Ethiopia, the way he lived.”
Greene went on social media to post digital artifacts and collect reminiscences of Jockel from other members of the local environmental community.
The thread, dubbed “Reinhard Reflections,” features emails from a decade ago when Jockel suffered a stroke and had to vacate his apartment above The Sportsman. With the help of his many friends, he was able to relocate in an apartment near the Logan River Golf Course, but he eventually was forced to move into a nursing facility.
Former Logan Mayor Russ Fjeldsted, who owns the historic hotel building that houses The Sportsman, got to know Jockel well in the German immigrant’s nearly three decades in the northwest corner apartment there.
“He was a very likable kind of a guy, a very clean, decent person,” Fjeldsted said. “He loved to share his knowledge about nature with people. He probably knew every canyon and every river and stream that flowed out of the neighboring mountains.”
Fellow Audubon member Lyle Bingham, who for years went on Sunday bird-watching outings with Jockel, said he remembers his friend spending nearly every evening on the second-floor landing of The Sportsman building, sitting in a lawn chair and watching the sunset.
Bingham and friend Jim Cane joked on the social media thread about Jockel’s common choice of sustenance on hikes: a thermos full of coffee and a supply of Pecan Sandies.
“Do you suppose that Pecan Sandies would be appropriate for the graveside service?” Cane asked Bingham. “I don’t go to many funerals at all, but it is certainly the way I remember Reinhard, generously passing around Pecan Sandies while he quaffed some coffee from his big thermos.”
A graveside service for Reinhard Jockel is scheduled for 2 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 30, at the Logan City Cemetery.