James Reddoch has worked for Health Management Resources (HMR) for 30 years. Though he is a resident of Medford, Massachusetts, he and his wife Katherine spend as much time in Albany Township as they can. Reddoch has a younger brother and sister, both of whom live in Mississippi as do his parents. His many nieces and nephews are starting their own families. 

James Reddock and his dog Kirby enjoy a little time next to the fire at their house in Albany. photo by Pamela Chodosh

My family is from northeastern Mississippi. I grew up in river bottoms and pine forests. I am a true flatlander. The town my family thinks of as home is a tiny little place of no more than 800 people called Shuqualak. We have a rambling antebellum farmhouse where my ancestors on my mother’s side have been for generations.
My grandmother, who lost her husband at a young age, lived in the farmhouse with my great aunt. They were both college-level school teachers. This great aunt kept National Geographics probably from as far back as the mid-30s. The farmhouse had this walk-in closet with floor-to-ceiling shelves full of National Geographics. She also had the indexes. I could pick a topic and then pull every article that referenced it. That became my research library. That fired up my imagination for places that were way more exotic than the river bottoms and farms and woods of Mississippi.
My mom grew up on a working farm and then became a school teacher. She loved any kind of animal. Two of her uncles, her uncles’ kids, and their kids were all veterinarians. They would bring my mother animals. We had a revolving door for orphaned baby skunks, squirrels, and goats. We hunted and fished, and we were always outside. That’s just the way I grew up.
I learned about birds from an uncle of mine. Birds became my passion. I loved being able to figure out what I was seeing, though to be honest, if dinosaurs had roamed the earth, I would have been excited about them, too. Of course, those were hard to find.
I was as nerdy as they come. I would wag the field guides I got for presents around all over the place. I am sure my friends secretly rolled their eyes.
After high school, I went to a small private school just outside of Jackson called Mississippi College and got a degree in Psychology. I was interested in working with kids and did community education with pediatric patients and their families. I started to go to graduate school part-time and got a Master’s in Counseling and Psychology.
In 1989, I relocated to Tennessee. I was interested in hiking and backpacking. Mississippi is not known for that, so it was a real treat to be in the Smokies and the Southern Appalachians.
I worked for a company called Health Management Resources (HMR) which provided medically supervised obesity/weight-loss treatment programs. I worked at a hospital that used HMR’s clinical model. That’s how I met Larry Stifler, who was the president and founder of the company.
I ended up being a behavioral health educator at one of HMR’s demonstration site training centers. My counseling and psych background paid off.
One year later, I had an opportunity to move either to Marin, California or Boston. I moved to Boston at the beginning of 1990. It was one of the few smart career choices I made.
A couple of years after moving to New England, I was asked to go to Marin County for a few months. Marin is the birthplace of mountain biking, which was my passion at the time. There was a new employee at the company who was an events planner for national trainings. One of her first assignments was shipping my mountain bike out to Marin County.
That was Katherine. We met when I got back. We palled around and then married in 1999. We are both still at HMR. We have lived happily ever after.
I became part of the senior leadership team. That’s when I got to know Larry Stifler and his wife Mary McFadden really well. I spent Christmas at their house on Hutchinson Pond one year and came often after that. In 2008, Katherine and I bought our place in Albany. We’ve just started our 11th winter here. We love hiking, snowshoeing, and cross country skiing. There is nothing more relaxing than looking at our view.
I like nothing better than to nerd out on birds. Working with the Mahoosuc Land Trust has allowed me to scratch that itch. We have a fledgling birding program, which I started a little more than a year ago. we’ve done bird walks, owl prowls and a field trip to Fryeburg to see the sandhill cranes. I write blurbs for the Land Trust website about the birds we’ve seen and a small column in the Bethel Citizen. I am not a trained ornithologist, but I’ve learned a lot. I’ve also met a lot of great people.
Birding here has been interesting. I have been keeping records for most of the ten years I’ve been here. I’ve gotten to know the ebb and flow, who’s here and what time of year and seen some of the changes. I like keeping lists. I also like the idea of citizen science. Cornell does a cool website called ebird. It’s an all-volunteer citizen database. It’s a nice way for bird nerds like me to share observations, which scientists can then use. It’s a way to give back.
Conservation and environmental issues have always been important to me. You can’t read articles year after year, the latest being from National Audubon Society that we have seen a 30% drop in North American bird populations since the 70s, and not be concerned.
It’s hard to imagine the natural resources going away, especially when you are in the middle of the natural beauty we have in Western Maine, but we know how to do conservation. Sandhill cranes are now nesting in Fryeburg. Peregrine falcons and bald eagles were extinct in the East. Now bald eagles are pretty darn common. There are nesting sites on Square Dock. That did not happen by accident. I like to remind people this is not hopeless.

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