A Tribute to Bob Rice

Last week marked the passing of the venerable Bob Rice, a long-time denizen of the north woods of Wisconsin, in the Chequamegon National Forest, Clam Lake, Wisconsin. Age, 63.

Bob was born and raised in the Chicago suburbs. Not long after graduating from high school, he moved up to the forests northern Wisconsin and never looked back. There he bought 40 acres (later expanded to 80), and built a small home on Red Ike Lake, which he added on to over the years. He always talked about his desire to have a power line run out to his house, and after many years it finally happened. Until then he got his electricity from a gas-powered generator.

He married Lynn Holter, the daughter of master wood carver Jerry Holter of Clam Lake, and had two kids, Nate, now serving in Iraq, and Anna, a college freshman.

At our cabin – what I call the Lake House in the Middle of the Woods, bought by my dad decades ago – Bob was our closest neighbor, about a mile’s trek through the woods. I spent a lot of time at Bob’s, especially when I lived up there right after high school while working at Telemark resort 20 miles away. He was a man of integrity, humor, knowledge, friendliness, helpfulness, and dedication. As a master carpenter, he could build or fix anything. He died with his boots on; I’m told that he was still in the middle of building a mansion. I’m also told that the owner of the mansion must be devastated because he liked Bob so much – not just for his work, but for his good company. Someone else told my mom that he was his best friend. I’m sure lots of folks considered Bob their best friend.

Bob managed to give up smoking and never resume, but not so, I am told, the bottle. It appears latter is what, perhaps indirectly, finally did him in. But even so, 63 years of good cheer, hard work, and a love of the north woods is a pretty good life.

Now Bob is living it up on the great Red Ike in the sky.

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