Crofutt tendered her resignation after months of contemplation, citing Dunn’s declining health in his battle with multiple sclerosis as her motive.
“It’s still going to be a tough departure,” Crofutt said.
Her tenure with the ranch began in 1992 when Dunn brought her on board to market the ranch and develop new revenue streams. She remembers his words.
“Do you want to be part of something that is larger than life?” he asked.
Sally describes her 20-year working relationship with Dunn in one statement.
“I hitched my wagon to his star and together we made Texas Land Stewardship history,” she said.
Brien’s ideas were to achieve a for-profit renewable resource plan to keep land owners on their land. Sally’s job was to make it happen, which is exactly what she did.
One of the many revenue streams she built was the bird-watching venue. Not only did she write the Fennessey’s annual newsletter which brought in a large share of birders; she also began partnerships with the Port Aransas and Rockport Chambers of Commerce, taking part in various birding festivals by hosting birding tours on the ranch.
Over the years, Sally has also collaborated with the Corpus Christi Visitors Bureau and Convention Center, Coastal Bend Bays & Estuaries Program, Texas Parks & Wildlife and countless tourism, county and state offices in her quest to create revenue streams for the ranch.
Another effective collaboration came in 2002 when she brought the Fennessey on board with the University of Houston to establish the University of Houston Fennessey Conservation Center.
This partnership was meant to provide a research center for UH faculty and students involved in Texas coastal conservation research.
In 2006, Sally played an integral part with Brien in obtaining a conservation easement on the Fennessey purchased by the University of Texas at Austin and the Mission-Aransas Reserve which restricts development from occurring and ensures that the valuable habitats of Fennessey Ranch will continue to support wildlife well into the future.
Joining forces with these two universities brought boundless educational opportunities for the Fennessey such as Monarch Madness. Monarch Day was one of Sally’s many “pet projects” where the Fennessey joined forces with the University of Houston and the National Aransas Wildlife Refuge in a program called Migration Stewardship Beyond Borders.
This is a two-part educational program that takes place in June at the Aransas Wildlife Refuge and October at the Fennessey Ranch. Fifth- and sixth-grade Coastal Bend students are introduced to the concept of migration and all it entails.
The outdoor classroom also injects many other aspects of Coastal Bend wildlife preservation and conservation efforts.
Her latest collaboration was joining forces with Todd Steele PhotoArt. The Photo Club allows novice and professional photographers to purchase memberships to photograph the wildlife and beautiful vistas the Fennessey Ranch has to offer.
Sally is the middle daughter to Nebraskan wheat farmers and cattle ranchers Paul and June Crofutt. Her environmental ethic and love for the land come to her quite naturally.
Dunn was born into a South Texas land empire and he also grew up loving the land, respecting it along with noblesse oblige — giving something back to the people for the common good.
Dunn’s walls are filled with many awards which are a testament to the things he and Sally accomplished for wildlife, conservation and the land. The recognition is testament to their efforts.
The Fennessey Ranch will live on just as it is now, with its undisturbed wildlife, lush grasses, prairies, wetlands and marshes; just as it was meant to be.
Dunn now lives quietly in his Bayside home surrounded by his wife, Donna, and around-the-clock nurses attending to his needs and comforts.
As for that star Sally hitched her wagon to, it’s blazing its way to a new horizon.