About Bob Cary

Some people are not content to just live their lives, but in their living, make a contribution to the people, communities and world around them. Bob Cary was one of those people. His creative juices were constantly flowing. Although it seemed he was always doing something: writing, drawing, painting, skiing, participating, talking, drumming, laughing or exploring, he was also one of the most still and easy-going of people.

Anyone who ever met Bob Cary never forgot him. If you've never read one of his books, pick one up today. You'll discover a wonderful mind as well as a beautiful area of the country, Bob's beloved Ely, Minnesota.

A (not-so-brief) History

Robert Huen Cary was born in Joliet, Illinois on Oct. 20, 1921, where he grew up and graduated from Joliet Community College in 1941 with a degree in journalism. His studies were interrupted in 1942 when Bob joined the Marines and served with the Second Marine Division in combat in Guadalcanal, Tarawa, Saipan, and Tinnian until 1944.    (See Bob's listing on the Veterans Memorial Hall site.)

Upon returning to the States, he took advantage of the GI Bill and studied commercial illustration at the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts.

He worked as outdoor writer for the Joliet Herald News from 1948 - 1955, was editor and outdoor writer for Joliet Spectator from 1956 - 1957, and served as outdoor editor for the Chicago Daily News from 1958 - 1966. His work brought him to a place to which he returned again and again and which stayed in his heart, Ely, Minnesota.

So, in 1966, he moved to Ely with wife Lil and daughter Barb, where he founded Canadian Border Outfitters, a canoe trip outfitter situated on Moose Lake, 17 miles northeast of Ely.

During his first year of outfitting he became friends with legendary Dorothy Molter, eventually chronicling her 54 years of living in the wilderness in his well-known book The Root Beer Lady, the illustrations for which remain the standard of Dorothy's memory.

During that time, Bob also helped organize the Ely Area Canoe Outfitters Association, taught wilderness guiding classes and was an advisor at the Northern Tier High Adventure Scout Base on Moose Lake.

In 1974, Bob became the editor of the Ely Echo, Ely's weekly paper, which featured his popular column Birdshot and Backlashes and where he covered many local issues with perception and wit.  Bob was also a featured columnist for the Senior Reporter in Duluth, Minnesota and free-lanced articles to Outdoor Life, Field and Stream, Sports Afield, Minnesota Sportsman, Travel, Minnesota Monthly, Boundary Waters Journal, the Chicago Tribune, the Wall Street Journal and many other publications.

Camp Scene, Bob Cary's mural in Ely, Minnesota Bob was a generous supporter of the arts in Ely. Besides supplying the community and its residents with his art, he was also a member of Northern Lakes Arts Association and he painted two murals in downtown Ely which can be viewed today. "Camp Scene" (at right), commissioned by Greenstone Public Arts, can be viewed in the Zup's Grocery parking lot off of Sheridan, the main street in Ely. Another, "Windigo," can be viewed on the wall next to WELY radio station building on Chapman Street in Ely.

Because Bob knew the importance of preserving and protecting nature, he participated in several conservation efforts. While in Illinois he assisted the Illinois Izaak Waltons in getting 3,500 acres of Joliet Arsenal land transferred from federal to state ownership for public recreation area in 1950; he organized the Will County Clean Streams Committee and coordinated efforts of the Izaak Walton League and Wilderness Federation members in an anti-pollution drive resulting in fish restoration in a number of Illinois rivers. He won the Illinois Izaak Walton Award for his anti-pollution articles.

Bob Cary with Minnesota Governer Karl Rolvaag (63-67) In Minnesota, Bob served on several committees: the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Advisory Committee for Minnesota Governor Wendell Anderson, the state committee for the Minnesota Lottery to provide funds for natural resources, and the committees to establish both an International Wolf Center and North American Bear Center in Ely.

He organized and taught the Wilderness Guide School held in Ely, Eveleth and Duluth, was a founding member of the Ely Nordic Ski Club and was instrumental in organizing the Wilderness Trek XC Ski Race, an annual event in the Ely Winter Festival for many years.

Bob enjoyed friendships with many of Ely's well-known residents including writer and naturalist Sig Olson, world-acclaimed nature photographer Jim Brandenburg, explorer Will Steger, mukluk designer and entrepreneur Patti Steger, and canoe builder extraordinaire, Joe Seliga. Just about everyone who met Bob called him "friend."

He wrote, illustrated and published books, including Root Beer Lady, Tales of Jackpine Bob, The Big Wilderness Canoe Manual, Winter Camping, Ely Echoes: The Portages Grow Longer, Bush Pilots: Legends of the Old and Bold, Fear Was Never An Option, The All American Outhouse Book, Born to Pull (also illustrated by Gail deMarken), and Fishing and Hunting by Canoe. He also illustrated many other authors' books.

For two years he was the host of the WELY radio show "Camp Talk." He appeared in numerous outdoor TV shows and was a frequent speaker and lecturer at Elderhostel and public schools.

He ran for President of the Unites States in 1980 as candidate of the Independent Fisherman's Party, losing to Ronald Reagan by 63 million votes.

Bob was a life long member of the American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars.

He was married to wife Lillian for 46 years until parted by her death. In 1998 he married long time neighbor Edith Sommer. BotBob's big catchh women were excellent anglers, shooters, canoe paddlers and campers.

"How lucky can one guy get," he said.

One of his favorite pastimes was playing the drums, singing and emceeing with his band "The Starlighters" on Saturday nights at Burntside Lodge in Ely.

Bob Cary passed away in his home surrounded by his family on June 17, 2006. He will be missed by his friends, his community, and his many fans. Here are some interesting sites about Bob on the web:

In a 1989 story in the Chicago News Tribune, Bob Cary said his epitaph should read, "I could have been eminently famous in a number of different fields, but every time I was about to do something great, I went fishing. I never regretted the fishing."

Watch some video of Bob on the Audio & Video page.

Website design by Webgoddess.net Internet Website Design