Renowned for her eloquent, passionate advocacy for wilderness preservation, Murie, 95, has indeed lived a remarkable life devoted to wonder and beauty. It is a life that she shared for 39 years with the eminent wildlife biologist Olaus Murie (1889-1963), her spouse and partner in the crusade to champion the protection of America's natural treasures.
Many Americans are familiar with the Murie saga from Mardy's autobiographical works, Two in the Far North and Wapiti Wilderness. In recognition of her unique contributions to making wilderness protection a national commitment, Mardy received on January 15, 1998, the nation's highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom. President Clinton presented the award to Mardy in the White House's ornate East Room. Murie, wearing a black dress and a red wool jacket bearing an Indian blanket motif, wiped away a tear and stared up at President Clinton from her wheelchair as he placed the medal around her neck and said, "We still have work to do."
In his remarks, Clinton focused on the epic scope of Mardy's life: "For Mardy Murie, wilderness is personal," said Clinton. "She and her husband, Olaus, spent their honeymoon on a 550-mile dogsled expedition through the Brooks Mountain Range of Alaska. Fitting for a couple whose love for each other was matched only by their love of nature.
"After her husband died, Mrs. Murie built on their five decades of work together," the President continued. "She became the prime mover in the creation of one of America's great national treasures, the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, and blazed trails for generations of conservationists. Today, amidst the fir and spruce of the high Tetons, she shares her wisdom with everyone who passes by, from ordinary hikers to the President and First Lady, inspiring us all to conserve our pristine lands and preserve her glorious legacy."