Gurdon Bayne Wattles

April 6, 1935September 27, 2020

Gurdon Bayne Wattles, age 85, passed away unexpectedly Sunday, September 27, 2020 in Newport Hospital. He was the loving husband of Kathleen (Knudson) Wattles to whom he was married for 20 years.

Born in New York, NY, the son of the late Gurdon W. and Elizabeth (Bayne) Wattles he was a longtime resident of Little Compton.

At the core of his life was his loving family, his wife, Kathy, daughter, Elizabeth “Wendy” Wilkes; sons, Gurdon “Stan” Wattles and his wife Jill DeWare and Alexander Wattles; two stepdaughters, Kimberly Anderson and her husband Robert and Kirsten Stephens; twelve grandchildren, Robert, Christopher, Matthew and Elizabeth “Sweet Pea”, Alexander, Bennett, Lucas and Caroline Wattles, Sam Anderson and Isaiah, Spencer and Quinten Stephens and three great-grandchildren, CJ, Jacquelyn and Everleigh Rose Wilkes.

Gurdon graduated from the Millbrook School, Phillips Academy Andover '53, and Cornell University Class of '57, he was retired President and Director of the former American Manufacturing Co and retired Director of the former Eltra Corporation and the Safety Railway Corporation.

Gurdon’s passions were numerous, including sailing, education, history, music, the environment and wildlife which were manifest in his active involvement in numerous charitable organizations. His deep involvement on the Board of the New Bedford Whaling Museum captured all of these interests. As a former Director of the Newark Museum (NJ) he was so impressed with their Explorers Program, he was instrumental in starting a similar student Apprentice Program at the New Bedford Whaling Museum. His many sponsorships of at risk students in the New Bedford Star Kids Scholarship Program displayed his foundational belief in education for lifelong success.

His love of music included his alliance with the New Bedford Symphony and his lengthy participation on the Board of the New Haven Symphony were key to his appreciation of artistic and dedication to the technical and management aspects of these organizations that he valued so highly.

Along with music, he fell in love with the purpose and mission behind High Hopes Therapeutic riding in Lyme, CT. Consistent with Gurdon’s love of horses and education, he joined the Board, volunteered, and initiated the training program for therapeutic riding professionals. Gurdon had a real connection and passion for the natural environment, contributing a great deal to land conservation and wild life preservation. His New Jersey farm land was placed into the Green Acres program and now is the home of the New Jersey Audubon's Wattles Stewardship Center in Port Murray. Gurdon was also active in the Sea Research Foundation, Mystic Aquarium where he previously served as a board member. In Rhode Island, Gurdon learned of the Audubon Society of Rhode Island’s opportunity to build an education center in Bristol. Gurdon helped to make it a reality and joined the Board realizing this opportunity as another chance to promote environmental education. He is a member of the United Congregational Church of Little Compton where he had served as a Trustee and was active on the Development and Building Committees. Later, while seeing the need for the Westport River Watershed Alliance in Massachusetts across the State line, Gurdon participated by sharing his insight into the new building plans and development of an educational video to help illustrate the ecological dynamics of the river system.

Gurdon enjoyed the camaraderie of many friends at the Cornell Club (Founding Member), the New York Yacht Club, the Watch Hill Yacht Club (Charter Member), the Seawanhaka Corinthian Yacht Club, the Misquamicut Club (Charter Member), the Sakonnet Golf Club, the Acoaxet Club, the Elephant Rock Beach Club, the Somerset Club, Boston and the Sakonnet Point Club, the New Haven Country Club, the New Haven Lawn Club and the Pauma Valley Club.

Gurdon was a tireless creator – be it ideas, building structures or anything that floated.. His energy, curiosity, quick sense of humor and probing analytical thinking and thorough knowledge of history were always on display. He loved to be on the water, sail, ride his horse, share his chair with his cat Neige and explore technology where he was most fascinated by the developmental process.

In lieu of flowers, contributions in his honor may be made to any of these favorite charities: Wildlife Rehabilitators Association of Rhode Island, 2865 Tower Hill Road, Saunderstown, RI 02874, New Bedford Whaling Museum, 18 Johnny Cake Hill, New Bedford, MA 02740 or New Bedford Star Kids Scholarship Program, PO Box 50494, New Bedford, MA 02745 or Audubon Society of Rhode Island, 12 Sanderson Rd., Smithfield, RI 02917, or Audubon Society of New Jersey, 9 Hardscrabble Road, Bernardsville, New Jersey 07924 or New Haven Symphony, or Westport River Watershed Alliance, 493 Old County Road, Westport, MA 02790.

A Celebration of Life will be held Sunday, August 1, 2021 at 1:30 PM at Dancing Oaks Farm, 43 Rockbridge Drive, Little Compton, RI 02837.


  • Wildlife Rehabilitators Association of Rhode Island
  • New Bedford Whaling Museum
  • New Bedford Star Kids Scholarship Program
  • Audubon Society of Rhode Island
  • Audubon Society of New Jersey
  • New Haven Symphony
  • Westport River Watershed Alliance


1 August

Celebration of Life

1:30 pm

Dancing Oaks Farm

43 Rockbridge Drive
Little Compton, RI 02837


Gurdon Bayne Wattles

have a memory or condolence to add?

Kathy Wattles

July 12, 2021

Thank you Cam. That was a wonderful time in our lives. Full of suspense and new adventure. You did so much and made Gurdon so happy. I am so glad to have those memories, Kathy

Cam Church

July 1, 2021

I had no idea back in 2008 when I signed on to be Gurdon's boat captain what a whirlwind adventure it would be. I have so many fond memories of our adventures together playing with boats and exploring the possibilities of performance along with the pleasurable experiences that boating can bring to one's life. And through it all, it was great to get to know your wonderful extended family, friends and acquaintances that I met along the way. Gurdon had a relentless passion and patience with everything he did. I enjoyed his company very much. See you soon, Cam Church

John Berg

March 30, 2021

I was in disbelief when Gurdon left, and I’m still not ready to say goodbye. My sincere condolences to you. I loved Gurdon's stories, the machinations, his weaving of intricate plans for improvements to the farm, and to our town, the land he loved and all the institutions he was so pleased to be part of. He was a dreamer, he made all of our dreams come true.

Kathy Wattles

October 19, 2020

The notes and cards I have received on Gurdon's passing have been overwhelming. From friends who knew him well to those who had only briefly met him and from those who did not know him at all but wanted to thank him for all the things he has done to benefit others.
Gurdon's quiet, determined approach will always be remembered.
Thank you dear ones for your thoughts and prayers that have helped our family at this difficult time.

Abigail Brooks

October 15, 2020

Dear Kathy,
Please now that all of us at Sakonnet Preservation Association who have had the good fortune to work with and be supported by you and Gurdon have you and your family in our thoughts. Gurdon’s enthusiastic engagement with and support for the work of conservation and education non-profits such as ours set a meaningful example for all of us. His depth of knowledge and expectation of integrity and responsible management were of the highest order, and he fully grasped the responsibilities of stewardship. I send our sincere condolences to you, his loving partner in his endeavors, and to your extended family.
Abigail Brooks

Louise Medeiros

October 10, 2020

It is with heavy hearts that the Azorean Maritime Heritage Society has learned of the passing of Gurdon B. Wattles. Gurdon was a strong supporter of the New Bedford Whaling Museum as well as a generous friend of AMHS. During our International Regatta years especially, he and Kathleen graciously hosted many Portugese dignitaries and AMHS members aboard his yacht Blue Heron. We cherish our fond memories of those days. Gurdon’s warm hearted participation will be sorely missed.

Tony Thompson

October 7, 2020

With a nod to Robert Frost, Gurdon proved that good stone walls also make good neighbors; whether restored for history or created for the horses. A thoughtful, generous and caring gentleman, our neighbor Gurdon has been a stone's throw away in Little Compton and a few pews away every Sunday at the LC Congregational Church for the past 30 years. During this time, Gurdon has also been a good neighbor to our church, the New Bedford Whaling Museum, the Mystic Aquarium (plus many others) and beautifully restored the homes he owned in Rockbridge, including my grandfather's farm house. His senior dog has obviously been encouraged to be nice to our junior puppy. He will be sorely missed in every community his presence has touched.

Tony, Nancy & the Thompson Family

John Parke

October 6, 2020

Dear Wattles Family

My deepest condolences to you on the passing of Gurdon. He was a very special person and left such a wonderful positive legacy in this world! I have great memories with Gurdon at the Wattles Stewardship Center here in NJ and his stories of his younger days exploring the property and finding various animals and artifacts! I really loved speaking with him, because he was a visionary and was so real and sincere. The man was truly an inspiration, truly someone who cared about helping the planet and others and making a difference. I will miss his smile, stories, his passion for life and I am forever grateful for everything he did for conservation and wildlife! - John Parke

Margot Cottrell

October 5, 2020

Dear Wattles Family,
Gurdon's unexpected death has come as a startling shock to all of you as well as his many friends and causes. He was so kind, compassionate and loving and has left his stamp on all of us.
We are grateful to have known him and enjoyed the Wattles hospitality... many condolences from the Cottrell family

Gene Monteiro

October 5, 2020

Kathy, please accept my heartfelt condolences for the loss of your husband. Gurden was such a wonderful human being and one of God’s masterpieces. I truly appreciated my friendship with him and shall never forget his kindness, his smile and that he had a good soul. His passing has left a huge void in the lives of many and his service to the Whaling Museum shall never be forgotten. May God heal your pain from his passing and I truly hope our paths cross again.