Ralph Frese

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Ralph Frese, canoe maker and conservationist [1] and prominent figure in the North American canoeing circles lived from 1926 until December 10, 2012.[1][2] Frese lived in the Chicago area. He is known for promoting conservation and canoeing, building historic replica canoes (including large ones), and starting canoeing and conservation organizations and events.

Frese was also a fourth-generation blacksmith, operating in a building next to his Chicagoland Canoe Base store in Chicago and was said to probably have been the last blacksmith working in Chicago

Life[edit]

In a 2008 interview, Frese told the Chicago Tribune that his "first boat was a canvas kayak he bought for $15 when he was 14 years old. From then on, he spent time paddling Chicago-area rivers and extolling the virtues of riverbank wilderness." [2][3]

Frese was also a fourth-generation blacksmith, operating in a building next to his Chicagoland Canoe Base store in Chicago. He made tools for sculptors and stonemasons.[2] Larry Suffredin, Cook County Forest Preserve District Board commissioner said "He may have been the last blacksmith working in Chicago" [2]

In the early 1950s, Mr. Frese founded the Illinois Paddling Council.[2] In the 1950s Frese began building canoes.[2]

He started the (Chicago area) Des Plaines River Marathon in 1958.[2][4] Now called the DesPlaines River Canoe & Kayak Marathon, it is the second oldest continuously held canoe race in the United States."[4]

He also started the (Chicago area) New Year's Day Canoe Paddle which was in its 27th year as of 2012.[2]

He built replica Birch bark canoes out of fiberglass, including for Voyageurs National Park. Bill Derrah said that he met a person in Mississippi who built 40-foot canoes for the Mississippi River who learned how to build them from Frese.[1]

Francis Brenton - British adventurer, writer, photographer and explorer built his little kayak at Chicagoland Canoe Base before his second trip across the ocean. Also Francis Brenton's dugout canoe "Sierra Sagrada" was stored at Ralph's store, now part of Chicago Maritime Society canoe collection.

Awards and recognitions[edit]

Frese was inducted into the Illinois Outdoor Hall of Fame in 2006.[1]

The forest preserve district of Cook County, Illinois (the county containing Chicago) designated a section of the North Branch of the Chicago River the Ralph Frese River Trail. It goes from Dempster Street in Morton Grove to Willow Road in Northfield.[2][5]

He received a Legends of Paddling award from the American Canoe Association.[1]

Death[edit]

Frese died on December 10, 2012. As described on the DesPlaines River Canoe & Kayak Marathon website, "Following an illness which tempered, but by no means diminished his enthusiasm for life in general and canoeing in particular, Marathon founder Ralph Frese died early December 10. Of course, the 55 year old annual Marathon was but one of many contributions of Ralph to fostering a quest for outdoor adventure, athletic competition, Voyageur history, canoe design and construction, metalworking and environmental responsibility in his 86 years with us. We are grateful for these contributions and in particular for his ability to attract, inspire and enthuse an ever-growing cadre of like-minded supporters, of both professional and amateur backgrounds, to follow in his footsteps. We appreciate the many leadership roles which he has played in our lives!"[4]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e Remembering conservationist and canoe-maker Ralph Frese Chicago Sun Times December 11, 2012 By Dale Bowman Retrieved December 18, 2012
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i Ralph Frese, 1926-2012 Chicago Tribune December 12, 2012 By Graydon Megan Retrieved December 18, 2012
  3. ^ http://www.chicagonow.com/booth-reviews/2011/10/at-85-life-is-still-but-a-dream-for-mr-canoe-ralph-frese/ At 85, Life is Still But a Dream for Mr. Canoe, Ralph Frese by Seth Saith October 14th, 2011 Retrieved January 13, 2013
  4. ^ a b c http://www.canoemarathon.com/ DesPlaines River Canoe & Kayak Marathon website, home page "In Memoriam Following an illness which tempered, but by no means diminished his enthusiasm for life in general and canoeing in particular, Marathon founder Ralph Frese died early December 10. Of course, the 55 year old annual Marathon was but one of many contributions of Ralph to fostering a quest for outdoor adventure, athletic competition, Voyageur history, canoe design and construction, metalworking and environmental responsibility in his 86 years with us. We are grateful for these contributions and in particular for his ability to attract, inspire and enthuse an ever-growing cadre of like-minded supporters, of both professional and amateur backgrounds, to follow in his footsteps. We appreciate the many leadership roles which he has played in our lives!" Retrieved December 18, 2012
  5. ^ http://fpdcc.com/ralph-frese-1926-2012/ "Ralph Frese, 1926 - 2012" December 11th, 2012 Official website of Forest Preserve District of Cook County Retrieved January 13, 2013

External links[edit]