January 19, 2013


Susan's untimely death was shocking. The lady was--well, I can think of no more fitting word than "vivacious." She was enthusiastic about life and living, about friends, and about those wild creatures inhabiting the Northern Rockies. And with husband Joe retiring after several decades of service with Minnesota's Department of Corrections, the lady eagerly looked forward to a future filled with more excitement, more challenge, more fresh air, and more distant vistas.

Susan went into the hospital for what everyone expected would be a routine minor operation. While in the hospital (the hospital for God's sake!), everyone's friend, Susan, had a brain aneurism and died. Suddenly. Unexpectedly. When she departed, the lady left an unfillable hole in the lives of those she'd touched.

I first heard the name Susan Wollack when she wrote an effusive note congratulating me on my book, "Learning to Talk Bear." An excerpt from the lady's letter reads:

"... All I know is we found an author who has something to say and says it well."

Congratulations from Susan Wollack was not to be lightly
dismissed--the woman was a journalist. But compliments relative to a written work on bears was even more noteworthy because the woman had an affinity for bruins that transcended many people's imagination.

Susan and Joe also had an affinity for Glacier National Park and spent much of their summers roaming the Park environs. Naturally, the Wollack's vehicle pulled into our yard. Naturally, becoming friends was easy--who could resist Susan's blandishments?

Years went by. Susan and Joe could barely wait for my next grizzly bear book, "Chocolate Legs." Again, she was effusive. Then her number was drawn for the roll up Yonder.

Jane and I was on a booksigning tour when Susan died. Her husband left the brief, very sad phone message on our machine. When we returned home, we called Joe and talked with him. The Wollacks are--as with most us--a family of modest means. But Joe said several of their friends wanted to contribute to Susan's memorial. "I know she wanted to help bears," Joe said, "and I was wondering about buying a couple of bear-proof metal food boxes to be placed in Glacier Park campgrounds." Susan's husband trailed off with, "If it helped just one grizzly stay out of trouble ..."

I suggested that Joe hold off making a commitment until other possibilities for a proper memorial were considered. But upon reflection, neither Jane nor I could think of a more fitting memorial to a lady with a deep love for all things wild than the metal backcountry storage boxes Joe suggested.

As a consequence, several metal storage lockers are being purchased with contributions from Susan's friends. The lockers will be given to Glacier National Park for use at backcountry campsites. The gifts will remain forever as a memorial to Susan Wollack's memory.

Two of the lockers (weight 145 pounds each) is slated for use at Elizabeth Lake.

It may be the most beautiful camping site in the entire Park.


Next week? Another walk on the wild side.


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