Thursday, December 13, 2012

Passing of a Legend

Photo courtesy of Chris Walker, Chicago Tribune 2001/February 21, 2012

Chicagoland canoe legend, champion of the Illinois waterways, and fourth-generation blacksmith Ralph Frese passed away on Monday, December 10. For those of you not familiar with Ralph, he was an acquaintance of Wagner Farm volunteer Jack, but his credentials did not stop there. He was also an environmentalist, crusader, historian, lecturer, writer, blacksmith, and canoeist supreme. Indeed, Ralph was popularly known in the paddling community as “Mr. Canoe” and was a champion of the Chicago-region rivers for more than 50 years. In recognition of his love, dedication, and contribution to these waterways and the sport of canoeing, he was the recipient of numerous awards from national, state, and local organizations, and in 2007, the Board of Commissioners of the Forest Preserve District of Cook County named the North Branch of the Chicago River from Willow Road to Dempster Street the Ralph Frese River Trail.

Some of you may remember that Ralph spoke at our quarterly volunteer meeting back in October about the history of the North Branch of the Chicago River and how it has changed over time. I'm so glad that Jack introduced us to him and that many of us were foturnate enough to hear him speak about his passion and lifework before his passing. I think I speak for all of us when I say that it was a pleasure to have had the chance to meet him and learn from such a legend. A wake will be held from 3:00-8:00 pm today followed by a service at 8:00 pm at Simkins Funeral Home, 6251 W. Dempster St., Morton Grove, Illinois.