Friend of the River Award

W.E.R. La Farge Memorial Friend of the River Award

At its Annual Meeting each year, NRPA presents the W.E.R. La Farge Memorial Friend of the River Award to an individual or organization whose work in protecting the river reflects the spirit of W.E.R. La Farge, a founding member of NRPA. In 2017, we presented the award to Kathie Kelleher, founding member of Friends of Canonchet Farm.

W.E.R. La Farge

W.E.R. La Farge, poet, playwright and environmentalist, was born in New York City on June 24, 1930. In 1978, he began to live year-round at the River Farm on Narrow River, owned by his family since1908.


W.E.R. was a founding and active member of the Narrow River Preservation Association, which, over the years has preserved so much of the river we all enjoy.

W.E.R. believed in preserving watersheds, farmland and public access to recreational and scenic areas. He believed that we are all stewards of the land, inextricably bound to it and to each other.

La Farge Point Park and the U.R.I. Campanella Rowing Center were once part of the River Farm. W.E.R. donated these parcels and permanently restricted development on his land through conservation easements. The value of the gift was used as matching funds, allowing the Narrow River Land Trust with the assistance of the The Champlin Foundations and the Nature Conservancy, to preserve additional land on the Upper Pond.

W.E.R. died at home in October 27, 1994 and is buried at the River Farm. His 1971 poem Earth’s Song was inspired by the glacial estuary we call “Narrow River.”

Friends of the River

2017 Kathleen Kelleher

2016 David Smith

2015 Paul McCaffrey and Mick Westkott

2014 Jason Considine

2013 Rosemary Smith

2012 Annette DeSilva

2011 Robert Schelleng

2010 Arthur Gaines, Ph.D.

2009 Lesa Meng (posthumously) and Rick Moffit

2008 Robert D. Kenney, Ph.D.

2007 Linda Green and Elizabeth Herron from URI Watershed Watch

2006 Ken McShane

2005 Veronica Berounsky, Ph.D.

2004 Seniors Helping Others

2003 Narrow River Watershed Action Team

2002 Rhode Island National Wildlife Refuge, U.S. Fish & Wildlife

2001 Teresa McKinley

2000 Jon Boothroyd, Ph.D.

1999 Narrow River Land Trust

1998 Robert Leeson, Jr.

1997 Harvey Cataldo

1996 Sherri Blott

1995 Barry Devine

1994 Mettatuxet Improvement Association & Gary Galkin

1993 Richard Grant

1992 Paul Hargraves, Ph.D.


2017: Kathie Kelleher
Kathie Kelleher receives the 2017 W.E.R. La Farge Friend of the River Award from NRPA President Richard Grant. Photo by Veronica Berounsky

The 2017 W.E.R. La Farge Friend of the River Award was presented to Kathie Kelleher at the Narrow River Preservation Association’s 47th Annual Meeting on October 3.

“We honor Kathie for her dedication to the stewardship of Canonchet Farm, engaging countless volunteers in the life of the Farm, collaborating with partners, and teaching residents and visitors about the cultural and natural history of the area” said Richard Grant, NRPA President, as he presented the award.

Kelleher is a founding member of Friends of Canonchet Farm, an organization devoted to preserving and improving one of the largest parcels of public land in the Narrow River Watershed. Among other successes, Kathie has been a leader in the habitat restoration project removing invasive vegetation along Lake Canonchet and Little Neck Pond, has organized more than 60 guided walks through Canonchet introducing residents and visitors to the unique natural and cultural history of the 167-acre former estate of Governor Sprague, now owned by the Town of Narragansett, and is currently developing plans for a linear park at Canonchet Farm in collaboration with the URI Landscape Architecture Class.

2016: David Smith
NRPA President Richard Grant (left) presenting Friend of the River Award to David Smith

The 2016 award went to David Smith for his outstanding service as the NRPA Program Coordinator from 2011 to 2016 and for his dedicated and active participation in many initiatives and events concerning Narrow River and its Watershed. October 4, 2016.

2015: Paul McCaffrey and Mick Westkott

Narrow River Preservation Association’s Veronica Berounsky congratulates Mick Westkott (far left) and Paul McCaffrey on receiving the 2015 W.E.R. La Farge Memorial Friend of the River Award at the 45th NRPA Annual Meeting on October 1. The award recognizes their leadership in starting the Narrow River Turnaround Swim in 2006 and building the one-mile open water swim over the last ten years into a signature event both for NRPA and local swimmers. Westkott is in his 44th year as the Swimming and Diving Coach at URI. McCaffrey recently retired from Narragansett Schools where he taught Physical Education. Both men are members of the Rhode Island Aquatic Hall of Fame.

2014: Jason Considine

Richard Grant, President of the Narrow River Preservation Association (left), presents Jason Considine of South Kingstown with the 2014 W.E.R. La Farge Memorial Friend of the River Award at the 44th NRPA Annual Meeting on October 2. The award recognizes Jason’s “leadership in founding and hosting the annual Pettaquamscutt Paddle each year since 2008, and for his generous support of NRPA’s annual kayak fundraising program.” Jason is the owner and operator of Narrow River Kayaks in Middlebridge, and is a member of the NRPA Board of Directors.

2013: Rosemary Smith

NRPA President Richard Grant presents Rosemary Carty Smith of Narragansett with the 2013 W.E.R. La Farge Memorial Friend of the River Award at the 43rd NRPA Annual Meeting on October 3.

The award recognizes Rosemary’s work in “founding and coordinating the On Pettaquamscutt winter speaker series” and her active participation in many others areas of service to Narrow River and its watershed.

On Pettaquamscutt: Presentations on the Environment and the History of the Narrow River Watershed is joint project of NRPA, Friends of Canonchet Farm, South County Museum and the Maury Loontjens Memorial Library. In January 2014, the series begins its third season of monthly Sunday afternoon presentations at the library.

2012: Annette DeSilva

Narrow River Preservation Association presented Annette DeSilva with the 2012 W.E.R. La Farge Memorial Friend of the River Award at the 42nd NRPA Annual Meeting on October 4.

The award recognizes Annette’s many contributions to preservation of the Narrow River Watershed, including management of NRPA’s River Watch water-quality monitoring program since the program’s inception in 1992. Earlier in the meeting, Annette was joined by fellow NRPA Board member Dr. Veronica Berounsky in presenting an analysis of 20 years of data from testing at 14 sites along the river by volunteer water-quality monitors.

2011: Bob Schelleng

Robert Schelleng of Narragansett accepts the 2011 W.E.R. LaFarge Memorial Friend of the River Award from NRPA Board member Dr. Veronica Berounsky at the NRPA Annual Meeting on October 4, 2011. Schelleng was recognized for his volunteer participation in the NRPA’s River Watch Program, with bi-weekly testing of water quality on Narrow River from May until October for each of the last 20 years. Now for those of you keeping score, here is what Bob has done so far for NRPA River Watch:

  • Monitored the water at Lacey Bridge 140 times
  • Conducted 560 dissolved oxygen tests, took 140 temperature readings, did 560 chlorophyll tests and made 200 salinity measurements
  • Collected 50 sets of water samples for further testing at URI
2010: Dr. Arthur Gaines
NRPA Board member Veronica Berounsky presenting the 2010 W.E.R. LaFarge Friend of the River Award to Dr. Arthur Gaines. Projected on the screen behind them is a painting of the River by Ed Coman. The same view of the River is in photograph on the Award. (photo by Annette DeSilva)


In the late 1960’s and early 1970’s Arthur Gaines undertook the first in-depth, landmark study of the Narrow River for his doctoral work at the University of Rhode Island. Because he understood the high ecological value of the river, he also volunteered to serve on the first Board of Directors of NRPA.

In his talk at the 2010 Annual Meeting, entitled “Why the Narrow River is a Special Place and Deserves to be Protected,” Dr. Gaines presented data that opened a window into our River’s history. The sediment core samples that were recovered from the River floor depict the major events, such as the hurricanes of 1938 and 1954. Chemical samples show evidence of the United Nuclear accident nearby in Wood River Junction in 1964 and, from much farther away, the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant disaster Ukraine in 1986. Dr. Gaines slides also included historic photographs of the River shoreline and the folks like Bill Lacey who made their livings from the River.