His life passion was oysters–what’s yours?

One of my fondest memories is of neighborhood parties around long tables. We all lived on a two-mile stretch on Route 12, 50 miles from the Canadian border.
Sometimes we had upstate New York’s trademark—sugar-on-snow. This was maple syrup boiled to the hardball stage and poured in thin ribbons on pans of snow, eaten with a fork and served with pickles.
At other times, we had delicious Lewis County limburger cheese, served with soda crackers, mustard, and once again pickles.
One time, we had leeks which we dug from the woods. But that time, the teacher in our one-room schoolhouse requested our parents to restrict future “leek parties” to the weekend.
But I especially remember the oyster suppers. Lots of oysters swimming in big bowls of buttery milk broth, served with small, round oyster crackers. And to this day, I have a special spot in my heart for oysters.
That was why I was so intrigued when the so-called “father of oyster biology” died last month at 87.
Harold Haley Haskin was born in Niagara Falls. When he was three years old, both of his parents died in the ’flu epidemic of 1918.
Fortunately for the oyster industry, a family friend, Frederick J. Haskin, adopted the orphan and moved him to the Delaware Bay area. There, the young Haskin grew up to devote much of his life to studying clams and oysters in the Delaware Bay.
At his death, he was famed internationally because of his research. And one of his colleagues at Rutgers University said, “the father of oyster biology is the way he was thought of by us and others.”
While studying at Rutgers, he got a summer job on the Jersey Shore studying the biology of the oyster drill—a snail that eats oysters—and he was hooked.
He later joined the Rutgers faculty and quickly was named director of oyster culture. He studied clams for Campbell Soup.
But in 1957, there was a massive oyster die-off that changed the future of oystering and altered the direction of Haskin’s research. A parasite—which Haskin later named MSX—decimated the oyster population.
“We’d never seen anything like it anywhere in the world,” said Haskin. But he went on to study how MSX kills, and he used selective breeding to develop oyster strains that are resistant to the parasite.
These resistant strains are used to this day.
In his zeal, Haskin and his wife lobbied to preserve water quality throughout the Delaware River basin. He persuaded the state management agency to start collecting data on oyster populations and convinced oystermen the harvest needed to be restricted.
The Bay oyster industry is still alive today—largely because of his work.
And Dr. Haskin never gave up his passion for oysters. He continued to lobby and train the next generation of oyster researchers until he died at the age of 87.
How about you? What is your life-long passion or your recent passion? What cause do you care about? And are you tempted to give up because of your age?
If you are tempted to give up, why not eat some oysters for dinner tonight and remember “the father of oyster biology.”
Marie Snider is an award-winning health care writer and syndicated columnist. Write her at thisside60@aol.com or visit www.visit-snider.com

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