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Hal Du Pont: Remembered by shooters, photogs and cat lovers

STORY BY LISA ZAHNER (Week of March 4, 2021)

The loss of 84-year-old Indian River Shores resident S. Hallock Du Pont Jr. last week was felt by many he touched with his kindness, from the world of competitive shooting sports to his circle of friends in the local photography club, to a community of shelter felines seeking good homes.

According to Barbara, his wife of 17 years, “Hal” Du Pont was a pioneering pilot, an adventurous world explorer, a successful entrepreneur, a talented wildlife photographer and a devoted humanitarian who left every organization, project or endeavor he got involved in much better than he found it.

“Whatever Hal did, he did it to the fullest. He took control and brought it to its fullest potential,” Barbara said.

Born in 1936 in the heart of his historic family’s home turf of Wilmington, Delaware, Du Pont traveled extensively with his family as a boy, catching a life-long case of wanderlust.

He loved the great outdoors and wildlife, especially eagles.

Wanting to soar like one, he enrolled in Air Force ROTC, joined the ranks of the United States Air Force Auxiliary, trained as a pilot and became the youngest Brigadier General in the Civil Air Patrol.

With his flying capability, he traveled widely, pursuing title after title in competitive skeet, trap and sporting clays competitions across the U.S. and abroad.

In the 1950s, Du Pont founded his Europa Corporation, specializing in rare German-made Krieghoff shotguns and rifles sought by competitive shooters and hunters. In 1983, Du Pont moved the business to Vero’s barrier island, serving clients from his Beachland Boulevard office for many years.

His daughters Kemble du Pont and Virginia Whitehouse later took over the impressive collection and relocated the business to mainland Vero.

Locally, Hal Du Pont joined and revitalized the Indian River Photo Club, and served on the then-Indian River Memorial Hospital Board, as well as holding leadership roles in various national competitive shooting organizations.

Members of the shooting community in online forums posted remembrances of Hal over the past week, recalling his kindness, his generosity, his endless willingness to share his knowledge – and even his guns – with up-and-coming competitors learning their craft.

Seventeen years ago, Hal married Barbara in Vero and they traveled about six months of the year so Hal could compete in shooting events and so they both could photograph landscapes and wildlife all over the world.

“We hunted with our cameras; it’s a passion we developed together,” Barbara said. Of their globe-trotting photo shoots, Barbara recalls an expedition to Antarctica as the most harrowing. “We flew to South America and went by ship, I’m talking 40-foot seas,” she said.

No distance was too far, no trip too extreme in the name of adventure and great photography.

South Africa was Hal’s favorite spot for photographing wildlife, and the cheetah became his favorite animal after he met some rescued cheetahs up close. “He loved cheetahs because you can pet them, and they purr. You can’t pet lions or tigers,” Barbara said.

A long-time volunteer with a local no-kill animal rescue, Barbara converted Hal’s affinity for the big cats that roam the savannas of Africa into a passion for much smaller cats homeless on the streets of St. Lucie and Indian River counties. Dogs and Cats Forever remembered Hal Du Pont with great affection.

“Throughout the last 14 years, Hal was a true friend to our shelter and supported us in various ways, both large and small. Recognizing the need for the 150 plus cats at the shelter to not only have a comfortable place to live while they awaited adoption, but also to have a building which would showcase them to potential adopters, Hal proposed to finance the construction of a 3,100-square-foot Cat Building that would be connected to the rear of the existing shelter building at 4600 Selvitz Road in Fort Pierce.

“The groundbreaking for that structure was held in 2014, and, by 2015, the cats had happily moved into their new accommodations.”

Personally, Hal and Barbara adopted fostered and rescued a large number of cats over the years, starting with a bonded pair named Thelma and Louise.

“When he crossed over the rainbow bridge, Hal probably had a lot of cats waiting for him,” Barbara said.