Kirk 1923-2011_jpg_t285Very sad news. I received an email from James Raffan this morning informing me that Kirk Wipper, an absolute legend in the canoe world, has passed away. I'll let James' email below (and the attached video) inform you of his passing and why he was such a special man - but I'd like to add that it was Kirk who was responsible for me writing all those guide books throughout my career, as well as keeping my sense of humour during my speaking events. Years ago he came up to me after I delivered a humorous presentation to a crowd at a canoe festival I once organized in Peterborough, shook my hand with a tight grip, and said "Focus your gift at keeping them going out there; it's the only way were going to save the wilderness we have left out there."

Thank you Kirk. You truly will be missed.

Here's James Raffan's email sent to me:

I regret to inform you that Kirk died suddenly last evening. He was with Ann and friends at Elmhirst's Resort and, apparently, choked on a piece of meat and they were unable to clear his airway. His neighbour Don White called from the Peterborough Hospital at about 11:40 to relay the sad news. Ann's son Mike was with them, as are the friends and neighbours so she is not alone. I know you will join me in conveying heartfelt condolences to Ann and the rest of Kirk's family.

One of Kirk's favourite poets was 19th Century English writer William Arthur Dunkerley, who, under the pen name John Oxenham, wrote, "For death begins with life's first breath, and life begins at the touch of death." So ends and era. And so begins another, hard as that is to fathom at this moment.

As you may know, Kirk was honoured last fall with the Ron Johnston Lifetime Achievement Award by his peers and colleagues in the Ontario Camping Association. In conjunction with this honour, the OCA made a short film to mark the occasion. If you'd like to have a look, go to Ann's MobileMe page.

Near the end of this retrospective on his life, Kirk-prophetically, as it turns out-recites a poem called "The Way" by John Oxenham. There will be much more to be said and done to mark the passing of this life that has brought us all together, this life that has done so much for Canada ... but until we all get organized and back on our feet I leave you with these words spoken by Kirk himself just a couple of months ago and send them along with stunned disbelief, I'm sure you share, that the time has come to say goodbye to our old friend.

To every man there openeth A Way and Ways and A Way And the High Soul climbs the High Way And the Low Soul gropes the Low And in between on the misty flats The rest drift to and fro; But to every man there openeth A Way and Ways and The Way (this is Kirk's personal variant on the poet's original line) And every man decideth The way his soul shall go

This past evening, sadly, a High Soul has paddled on.

Details about arrangements will follow.


"You have to do what you can, do your best with what you are. And you have to believe in wilderness. If you do that you can't go wrong." Kirk Albert Walter Wipper b Grahamdale, Manitoba, December 6th, 1923 d Peterborough, Ontario, March 18, 2011