← Back to Blog

John Willard – Retirement Life with Butterflies

Watching a beautiful butterfly emerge from a chrysalis is undoubtedly one of nature’s wonders. Croasdaile Village resident John Willard has spent 24 years volunteering each week to make that happen at Durham’s Museum of Life and Science Magic Wings Butterfly House. There he prepares butterfly chrysalises for their transformation from pupas delivered to the Museum from countries in East Asia, Central and South America, and beyond.

Butterfly House visitors can watch and hear John speak at work on Thursday or Friday mornings as he glues each pupa individually to a prepared string, hanging them upside down to position them in a natural setting. In explaining how a butterfly transforms from egg, larvae, pupa to adult stages, he tells them that over the next two weeks, visitors watching closely at the right time can catch an emerging butterfly in the act!

The Museum of Life and Science Butterfly House is one of the largest facilities on the east coast. In the 35-foot high, 5,000-square-foot facility, there are typically 30 to 50 different species of tropical butterflies flying in the warm, lush rainforest environment.

John met his wife, Jean, during their undergraduate years at Colorado State University. They married after John’s two years of service with the U.S. Army in Vietnam. Back in the U.S., John continued his graduate studies at the University of Arizona and Michigan State University, where he received a Ph.D. degree in plant physiology. He spent his entire career working for BASF Corporation, first in New Jersey, then at its agricultural research facility in RTP.

John and Jean moved to Croasdaile Village in 2014. Another CV couple, who moved here two years ago, Daniel and Patricia Amey, have also volunteered in the Magic Wings Butterfly House for many years.