I just learned today of the passing of a gentle, nature- and squirrel-loving soul. Gregg Bassett, of Elmhurst, Illinois, founded the Squirrel Lovers Club to spread the word and the affection for the furry little guys who live among us:

Mr. Bassett founded the Squirrel Lovers Club in 1995 out of his Elmhurst home. Through it, he offered a catalog of squirrel-related merchandise, resource materials and a newsletter along with sage advice.

At one time the club boasted 2,500 members. Today members are in all 50 states and some foreign countries.

“At the beginning we were going to have regular meetings, but it wasn’t practical because [the club] grew so fast,” said Dottie Kuzmicki, a founding club member. “The club went international.”

From the club’s Web site:

Baldy is where it all began. He was the first squirrel to ever take a nut out of my hand.

It was June 1990. Up to that time, I had never been able to get within ten feet of a squirrel without it running away from me. So I decided to make a conscientious effort to see if I could get a squirrel to come close enough to take a nut out of my hand.

I had my wife, Kathy, buy a bag of walnuts and I proceeded to coax squirrels around my next door neighbor’s bird feeder with a walnut in my hand. For two or three days they just ignored me.

Then one day, I was washing the windows on the front of my house. My neighbor came over, and while we were talking, he suddenly pointed down by our feet and said, “Look at that!”.

I looked down and there, at my feet looking up at me, was a brown fox squirrel with a one inch long bald spot in its tail. I didn’t have any walnuts on me, and after a few seconds he ran back to the bird feeder.

A little later, while I was back to washing windows again, the same squirrel returned and came up on the porch. This time I had walnuts on me. I squatted down and offered him one. He tried to get up the nerve to take it, but couldn’t quite make it. Finally, I rolled it to him, and he took it and left.

After about twenty minutes, he came back again. After a few minutes of jockeying around, he finally took the walnut out of my hand.

This was the start of my very first relationship with a squirrel. We named him Baldy after the bald spot in his tail. He later learned to not only take nuts from my hand, but to even run up my leg and climb all the way up to my chest to get them.

Baldy was the first in a long line of squirrels I’ve befriended over the past six years which ultimately led to the birth of The Squirrel Lover’s Club on August 6, 1995.

Gregg Bassett
The Squirrel Lover’s Club

Mr. Bassett died on Monday at the age of 65, and his funeral was held today. Squirrels could use more friends like him.