Charles Dauray was all for conservation, whether historic buildings or wetlands. He also preserved the archives of a strange, influential sect, which helped settle the wilds of 19th-century Estero. Dauray lived there until his death Dec. 8.
His desire to serve the public led him to leadership positions at many Southwest Florida nonprofits as trustee or officer.
Dauray was the founder of the College of Life Foundation, an incorporated arm of Koreshan Unity. The College of Life Foundation was run by a group of hollow universe believing idealists who built their New Jerusalem on banks of the Estero. Although most of their settlement is now in the Koreshan State Park they left behind a foundation that was a private, non-profit remnant long after the last Koreshans died.
Save birds to save yourself:$2M gift helps Florida’s ‘hidden gem’ science center soar
In 2007, Dauray was appointed by then-Gov.Charlie Crist to the governing board for the South Florida Water Management District. He became vice-chair and worked for the restoration of Lake Kissimmee. He also advocated for the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan.
His successor on the district board, Bill Hammond, an environmental advocate, recalls Dauray as a successful matchmaker for donors and nonprofits.
Hammond stated that he did a lot of good in this way. Charles was able, when local groups needed funding, to find a way.
Hammond also recruited Dauray on the Calusa Nature Center and Planetarium boards, which Hammond helped to fund. Dauray was a significant donor, Hammond said.
He also served as a leader in other organizations, including the Southwest Florida Holocaust Museum, Education Center, and the Izaak Walton League of America at both Florida and National levels.
Dauray was a champion of preservation of non-Koreshan Estero History, and served for many years on the board at the Estero Historical Society. He also donated several historic buildings, while also serving multiple terms in office.
Kenneth Doc Wisen, a fellow society member, said that “He was an excellent Board member.” He donated a couple of houses that we moved over to (Estero Community) Park and his associationcontributed toward moving them. He’s been generous throughout his life. Wisen stated that Dauray’s health problems forced him to resign from his position on the board. We miss him very much.
Dauray was usually dressed in casually worn khakis and a classic blazer at his frequent public appearances.
Dauray was born in Providence, R.I. to a family that owned a textile manufacturing facility. He grew up outdoors, fishing, hunting, hiking, and searching farm fields for Indian artifacts. His family arrived in Naples in the 1960s. After graduating from Providence College with a degree in political science, he spent a few years in St. Louis, Missouri with A.G. Edwards, before moving to Naples in 1970. Before joining the College of Life in 2000, he sold real property and became part-owner of 2 restaurants.
The assets and real property of the nonprofit were still substantial, and his tenure was not without controversy. A 2012 News-Press investigation revealed that the group had for years claimed to the Internal Revenue Service (which granted it its nonprofit status), that it operated a museum. However, it didn’t.
Dauray stated at the time that he saw the foundation as a community catalyst, supporting environmental, cultural, educational programs like FGCU’s Museum Studies program. To which the group donated.
He compared it with the Ford or Rockefeller foundations. However, some Koreshan families were furious. Dauray ignored the criticism. He said that he didn’t want to be stuck in the past and that he wanted to move forward. It’s impossible to save everything, and all the money in the world won’t make the past into the future.
The group, which is still in existence, has been focusing on environmental education and offering guided kayak and canoe trips.
Peg Phillips, College of Life Foundation’sformer vice-president,remembers Dauray as being quick with a joke, always had a story to tell, and had the most infectious laugh.”
She said she would miss his intelligence, wit, and imagination.