MINNEAPOLIS -- When Ed Crozier was a boy, Jasper was a diminutive burg of 880 residents tucked away in southwest Minnesota. Today, with a population of 610, Jasper is still small, and in many ways remains how Crozier, now 83, remembers it long ago.
"I was born not far from Jasper, at home, in the small town of Russell, to parents who were as poor as church mice," Crozier, of Burnsville, recalled the other day. "We moved to Jasper when my dad got a job there working at a lumberyard."
This was in the late 1930s, and the Croziers lived on Jasper's main street. Across from their house was the Chevy dealer, and its owner took a liking to young Ed and his nascent interest in hunting.
"It was the Chevy dealer who gave me my first real gun, a double-barrel 12 gauge," Crozier said. "I was about 15 years old, and the same man also gave me my first dog, an Irish setter puppy I named Red."
Thus began for Crozier a decades-long love affair with birds, bird hunting and wild places, highlights of which he has recently chronicled in a booklet he self-published titled, "70 years of hunting with dogs & friends."
Crozier couldn't know it at the time, but the gifts from the Chevy dealer ultimately would guide his education and job choices, and lead him to states as far-flung as Alaska, Florida and Hawaii in efforts to establish wildlife refuges for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
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"My dad didn't hunt, but my great-great grandfather, Thaddeus Tschepen, was a gamekeeper and forester for Count Nostitz of the Austro-Hungarian Empire," Crozier said. "I guess I followed in his footsteps."
Crozier, who along with his wife, Caryl, is a genealogy buff, has a photo of his great-great granddad brandishing a double-barrel game gun, with a sleeping Labrador-looking dog at his feet.
This is evidence, Crozier figures, that in addition to his fascination with bird hunting, he inherited his love of sporting dogs from Thaddeus Tschepen.
Finishing high school, Crozier learned by happenstance that South Dakota State offered a degree in wildlife management. He signed up and graduated there in 1956, having buttressed his resume with summer jobs that included fire tower lookout, wildlife refuge intern and boundary waters canoe guide.