In Palo Alto County, there stands a sign with a quote by John Muir that reads: “Going to the woods is going home.” It was placed on eight acres of woodland, just east of Lost Island Lake, in honor of Robert and Wanda Jacobson — parents, educators and outdoor enthusiasts.
Robert and Wanda both grew up in rural Iowa, each developing a lasting love for nature. Robert, in particular, had a deep respect and appreciation for the outdoors influenced by his experience growing up poor during the depression when fish and game fed the family. He always sought to understand how nature worked.
“Dad was the most ‘at home in nature’ person I’ve ever known,” said Robert and Wanda’s son, Tom Jacobson. “He had an enduring love for wild things and admired how they lived and survived though our Iowa winters.”
Robert and Wanda met through teaching. Both shared their love of nature with their students, organizing field trips that would engage their students with the wonders of the natural world. They passed down their love of nature to their children Tom, Cindi, Cheryl and Sondra.
“We all remember stopping on county roads to watch pheasants, ducks, geese, muskrat or other wildlife as Dad described what we were looking at with an awe,” said Robert and Wanda’s daughter, Cheryl Lyon. “That love rubbed off on all of us.”
Cheryl recounted the numerous trips the family went on to enjoy time outdoors. That was until Robert and Wanda built a house on their property in Palo Alto County, which included a much-loved eight-acre woodland, their own little nature oasis.
When their children inherited this land, they decided to permanently protect the place that meant so much to their parents. Tom, an Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation (INHF) member, and his siblings reached out to INHF to learn more about their options.
“This was Robert’s feel-good space,” INHF Donor Relations Director Abby Hade Terpstra said. “He saw these eight acres as a place for wildlife woven into the agricultural landscape.”
The Jacobson children decided to donate the land to INHF, ensuring it will always be a place for nature.
“When we were recently in Ruthven, a passerby asked what we planned to do with the wooded land,” Cheryl said. “When we shared it had been donated to INHF to be kept as wildlife habitat, he expressed his gratitude and mentioned he’d seen four wild turkeys come out of the woods that morning. That is the best tribute we could imagine for Mom and Dad.”