Memorials

Memorials are a special way to honor the special bond that many of our members have shared with their Springers and with ESRA. Families often encourage gifts to ESRA in their loved one's memory. The family will be notified of each contribution as marked on the donation form.

Laurie Schirger

December 3, 1965 – November 14, 2023

The Rainbow Bridge has called…

Volunteer, foster home, transporter, coordinator, board member, and friend Laurie Schirger of Colorado crossed the Rainbow Bridge to meet her beloved friends on November 14, 2023.

Since becoming an ESRA member in 2003, Laurie led with her heart to the benefit of any Springer. Her home and lap were filled with the needy, crazy, tired, sick, and unwanted.

Laurie never asked volunteers to do what she wasn't willing to do herself.

ESRA’s volunteers were a gift to Laurie as she quietly supported their contributions while encouraging and supporting them in their growth. Her calm demeanor helped with the anxiety they often felt.

To thank them, she provided the leadership for the ESRA Colorado picnics before COVID that included up to 60 volunteers from 3 different states and close to 80 Springers.

Midnight transport runs weren't uncommon for Laurie and her husband, Jim. They participated in the 2009 Missouri breeder rescue. At times, Laurie found herself in precarious situations that led to laughs later, including a transport that brought six pups to Colorado in a converted horse trailer. They met at a dark Bass Pro Shop parking lot using car headlights to light the way for the pups as they came down the ramp to meet their eager foster families—but then were joined by the store security detail, which suspected a nefarious scheme!

Laurie is most remembered for her one-on-one connection with the dogs. It was her loving ways that left others in awe. She just “got” the dogs in her life. She found the essence of each dog and helped them reach their potential. It was an art.

Laurie’s death was sudden, unexpected, and way too early in her life. Read Laurie's full obituary here.

She is missed, but her Rainbow Bridge dogs are now back in her loving arms. May we all follow in her lead and keep her rescue heart alive. As Laurie often said, “The dogs come first."

You may make a gift to ESRA in Laurie Schirger's memory using our
online donation form.

Martii (Marlene) Wallahan (Counters)

May 30, 1932 – February 18, 2023

Martii (Marlene) Wallahan (Counters) died at home on February 18, 2023, at age 90. She was the daughter of Alfred Curtis and Eleanor Wallahan, and she was born and raised in Rapid City, South Dakota. Martii graduated from Rapid City High School and received an A.A. from South Dakota State University in Brookings. She was married to William Clegg from 1950 to1972. She married the love of her life, Dick Counters, in 1974 and again in 1989.

She would tell you she didn’t accomplish much, but in her own immortal words, “That’s BS.” She raised three accomplished, creative, hardworking and loving children. Martii supported her family, running her own business from 1984 to 1998. In retirement, she served as a volunteer and state coordinator for English Springer Rescue America and Springer Spaniel Rescue, Inc. She rescued hundreds of springers and “failed fostering” too many times to count. Although Martii had owned springers since 1947, the canine love of her life was Sir Tater, her last failed foster. For thirteen years, he never left her side until he went to the Rainbow Bridge in May 2022.

Martii was classy, sassy, and tough. Her cardiologist called her “feisty.” Shenanigans with her best friend, Jeanette, from garden clubs to art shows, are legendary. She loved her friends from Rapid City and fellow secretarial service owner Annie. Martii quit smoking cold turkey the day her husband, Dick, had heart surgery. When her cardiologist told her at age 88 that sugar was evil, the “woman with two stomachs – one for food and one for desserts” gave up chocolate.

As a secretarial service owner and resume writer, Martii never refused work. She started using computers when 8-inch floppy disks were a thing, and a 20-megabyte hard drive was HUGE. If she didn’t know how to do it, she’d figure it out. This was a skill she passed onto all her children. Martii loved cruising, shopping, scrapbooking, and sewing. She hosted countless holidays and family gatherings, but she loved Christmas the most. A flocked Christmas tree and the 100+ miniature Christmas houses were her favorites. Martii’s music preferences ranged from Bon Jovi to Barry Manilow. Friends of her kids were known to wake her and her husband up for a heart-to-heart in the middle of the night.

Martii is survived by her children Al (Linda Gambell) Clegg of Ontario, Canada; Debi Clegg and Lisa Counters of Phoenix; her grandsons Kevin Clegg and Aiden Clegg; honorary daughters Pamela Lindly and Mary Jean Zinniel; honorary granddaughters Lexi Zinniel and Samantha Zinniel; as well as her beloved Springer Spaniels Olive, Sassii, and Winston. She is also survived by her sister-in-law Mary Jane Wallahan, niece Kimberly Wallahan, and nephew Jim Barber of Branson, MO.

You may make a gift to ESRA in Martii Wallahan's memory using our
online donation form.

Babbette Lea Alexander

December 2, 1945 – September 14, 2022

English Springer Rescue America has lost a beloved, longtime member of our organization, (Babbette) Lea Alexander of Burbank, California.

Lea was a dependable ESRA volunteer who checked local shelters, evaluated dogs taken into our program, helped screen potential adopters, took part in dog transports, and participated in whatever other outreach was needed to find the perfect Forever Home for each of our beautiful dogs.

She was also an enthusiastic participant in our local and regional ESRA events, helping with setups and teardowns, bringing delicious goodies to potlucks, and being an all-around helper and organizational pro. Lea was indispensable at the annual Santa Claus photo shoot at the local PetSmart, greeting the customers and keeping members of the crew on task, efficient, and happy.

Throughout the years, Lea held many leadership roles within the organization. She was the pioneer responsible for ESRA’s use of Zoom for its national board meetings. This was about a decade ago, before most people had ever heard of the platform. She was also a founding team member of the Social Media committee. Technology always interested her, and she saw its useful applications as well as potential problems. Lea was ESRA secretary for a time in 2016, and she led the initial effort to modernize ESRA’s bylaws.

Lea was, in all she did, a helper. In addition to her work with dogs, she was active in a horse rescue and rehabilitation organization. She was also a longtime practitioner and teacher of Reiki and other energy healing practices, a skilled animal communicator, and an ordained minister who officiated weddings and memorial services. Her work, and her entire life, touched so many animals and people in caring and positive ways.

Lea is survived by her sister, Beverly McElravy, several nieces, nephews, grandnieces, and grandnephews, along with many loving friends, students, and fellow ESRA volunteers.

You may make a gift to ESRA in Lea Alexander's memory using our
online donation form.

Marie Devaney Conyers

February 9, 1951 – December 21, 2021

ESRA shares, with great sadness, the passing of a wonderful woman and friend, Marie Devaney Conyers of Magnolia, Texas.

Marie had been a long-time member of ESRA and one of its original volunteers. Sharing friendships with Jan Flagg, Judy Manley and others who were instrumental in the development of English Springer Rescue America, Inc., Marie volunteered much of her time and dedication to the Springer breed for close to 20 years, until she was afflicted with a terminal illness the last couple of years of her life.

Having fostered many English Springer Spaniels for ESRA and Australian Shephards for another rescue, Marie developed a passion for training dogs, and made it her mission to learn as much as possible about professional dog training. She studied the profession for many years and opened her own business, The Fundamental Dog, in 2007. Through the years, she had assisted hundreds of clients and friends with the knowledge she had gained as a trainer, and was always willing to share helpful tips and advice to better enhance the lives of the canines her associates came to love. Marie’s vision is still ever-present in the continuation of her business today.

We extend our deepest sympathy to her loving family, including husband J.C. Conyers, daughters Stephanie Morrison and V.C. Devaney, several siblings, and countless rescue friends and associates in the canine training community. Marie’s passing has left a huge hole in the hearts of those who knew and loved her, and we are honored to share this tribute to her life.

At the family’s request, donations in Marie’s memory may be made to English Springer Rescue America, Inc.

You may make a gift to ESRA in Marie Devaney Conyer's memory using our
online donation form.

William J. (Bill) Sterling

December 19, 1943 – October 24, 2021

The rescue community mourns the loss of a dear friend and rescue volunteer, Bill Sterling. Bill leaves behind his wife, Elizabeth (Gay) Sterling, daughter Tina, step-daughter Summer (and her husband, Brad), and granddaughter Everly along with Bill’s extended family.

Originally from Silver Spring, Maryland, Bill served as a police officer there in the motorcycle division. He had met Gay in high school as a young teen, and they reconnected many years later. They were wed in 1988. Eventually, the couple set off on their adventure together out West, where they took up residence in San Jacinto, California, living there for almost 20 years.

Bill and Gay have been pillars of the rescue community in their Southern California home for over 16 years. They have fostered 136 dogs, including two sets of puppies (three in each litter) and eight sets of bonded pairs. Oh, how they loved fostering! They continued to do this vital work until just a few years ago, when Bill’s health started to decline. Through the years, Bill also conducted hundreds of adoption interviews, and he loved talking to the people who were interested in adopting his and Gay’s fosters. He wanted nothing but the best for each of these dogs, and he felt that by participating in the interview process, he would really get to know the applicants. He could then make the best match possible for “his” pups. Bill stayed in touch with many of his adopters over the years, checking to make sure that all was well with the dogs and their families. He was also an effective fundraiser for ESRA, bringing in many generous donations which helped to secure the welfare of generations of dogs.

We extend our deepest sympathy to Bill’s loving wife and his entire family. We also share our sincere gratitude for all that Bill and Gay have done to help ESRA and so many dogs in need. Without a doubt, they have not only touched the lives of their fosters but also the lives of all the families that they have selected along the way to provide loving, caring homes for all of these special Springers.

You may make a gift to ESRA in Bill Sterling's memory using our
online donation form.