Uncle Wiggly (Steve Lonker)
Uncle Wiggly (Steve Lonker) was the Nature guy at SGF from 1968-1970 where he made nature a fun learning experience with homemade root beer and dandelion salad, gold panning, archeological digs for a buried human skull, caring for a menagerie of domesticated and wild animals, and many other activities.
Currently, Uncle Wiggly is a Web Developer/Content Specialist at the National Science Foundation in Arlington, Va. After SGF, he went on to earn a BA in geology from Franklin & Marshall College in 1973, a MS in Geology from University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1975, and a Ph.D. in geochemistry from Harvard University in 1979.
From 1979 to 1981, Wiggly conducted research at the Carnegie Institution of Washington’s Geophysical Laboratory. He spent the next fourteen years working for BHP in Australia, New Zealand, Iceland, South Africa, and Zimbabwe. He explored for rare earth elements and gold and other precious metals in South Australia and the Northern Territory. In New Zealand and Iceland, Wiggly learned about the deposition of gold and silver in geothermal systems and then went on to explore for platinum in the Great Dyke of Zimbabwe.
“After several years in Zimbabwe, I came to the realization that it was time for a career change.” Uncle Wiggly returned to the USA in December 1994. “Learning to drive on the right and get acclimated to the climate and American culture and food took many months.” Wiggly got on the Internet bandwagon at the dawn of the Web. He worked as a government contractor developing and managing Web sites at the Office of Naval Research, U.S. Department of Education, and U.S. Department of Energy before settling into his present job at NSF.
Uncle Wiggly is still involved with environmental causes and nature studies. He is on the Executive Committee of the Montgomery County Sierra Club and a member of the Audubon Naturalist Society, Maryland Native Plant Society, and Botanical Society of Washington. He also enjoys photography and traveling.
“I have many fond memories of the campers and staff I got to know at SGF forty years ago. These exceptional people had a profound influence on my life that I will carry forever.”
The SGF website and Guestbook brought back fond memories and friendships with Neal and Sandee Goldberg ('68-'69), Len and Gail Sosnov ('70), Marc Antonio Squarito (Skins), Les Perlstein, 'Lemon' (Mike Mellon), the Chanin brothers (Howard and Steve), and many others. Neal was fantastic -- he introduced the counter culture and brought the 1960s to us. In 1969, Sandee and Les' girlfriend (what was her name?) went to Woodstock and came back transformed and brought the excitement to all of us.
I remember taking the campers gold panning in the creek (I salted some of the pebbles with gold paint, unfortunately the paint was a bit soluble in water). And then there were the 'archeological digs' where I would pull up a skull given to me by Lemon and let out a primeval scream. Took a few hours to get all the campers returned. One time, a camper got to the skull before me and we had a tough time getting the skull returned.
Neil Dorfman adds...
"Wow! Uncle Wiggly... I have been telling this story of that 1969 summer for so long. Actually, during SGF 2008 Overnighter last summer, I painted a bunch of pebbles gold and they led the way to our Indian Ceremony. I also buried a bunch of bones for the SGF 2008 campers to dig up. So, Uncle Wigs, know that your legacy lives on."
"Well here goes. Uncle Wiggly, you never heard it from me so this for you.
One night, 1969 3rd trip, I heard this sound coming from the flagpole. The next morning i asked Skins what it was and he went on to explain it's this band called The Grateful Dead... the HIPPIES follow them all over the country. Wow, how cool is that. It wasn't until a few years later that I heard that same sound and, well, 143 shows and some 30 years later, that was part of my adventure. So know that Uncle Wigs, Neal Goldberg. Skins, all the Hippie chicks, etc., at SGF in the late '60s and early '70s helped shape our childhood and contributed greatly to our American Adventure."
The Many Faces of Uncle Wiggly - Hall of Fame Counselor