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Bob Binger

C. Robert Binger was born September 11, 1918 and died on August 14, 2012 at the age of 93. Like Oberholtzer, Binger was a member of the “Explorers’ Club.” For Bob, this was in recognition of five sled expeditions into the Canadian Arctic, meeting nomadic Inuit peoples from 1965 to 1970. Bob Binger also served in World War II and participated in the landing at Iwo Jima and Okinawa.

A decade ago, a good friend of the Foundation and sometimes scribe for the Board of Directors, Barb Breckenridge, requested details about the connection between Bob Binger and Ernest Oberholtzer. Bob recalled three stories about Ober, and here are excerpts from Bob’s letter to Barb written in 2001:

“We lived in International Falls for eleven years (1947 - 1968). I worked for the Minnesota and Ontario Paper Co. in Minnesota and in Canada. I became acquainted early on with Ober and often was at his house (Miss Andrews’) where he played his violin for us.

”My first story took place on Frigate Friday... Ted Hall and I were visiting Ober one evening on the Frigate Friday and Ober verbally described his 1912 canoe trip with Billy <Magee> to the Arctic. He showed his glass slides, some of which he had sent to Japan to be hand colored… We had kerosene lanterns for light, which helped to enliven Ober's story. He described the note he left in a baking powder biscuit [sic] can for his mother, which he left in a stone cairn on a high promontory on Nueltin Lake. This information later turned up on a visit my family and I made to Churchill on the train at a subsequent date.

”The second story has to do with a trip my son and I took Ober on to an old gold mining camp called Pickle-Crow(?) north, far north, of Red Lake Ontario in northwestern Ontario. We drove this long distance, often on a single lane road or trail. During this drive we crossed the Albany River at the outlet of Lake St. Joseph. This was the site of an old Hudson Bay Post, now abandoned. At this location we saw a group of teepees and Indians back in the woods tanning moose hides. Ober got very excited and ran over to talk with these people, advising them of his nick-name, Atisokan (storyteller). We had a wonderful visit and I had an elderly woman measure my feet for beaded moccasins. She would not take any money, payment to be made when I received them. I received them in about 3 months time.

”A third story, and the last one, involved an accidental meeting with Ober during our visit by train to Churchill. Ober happened to be there, I believe, on his return from a trip back to Nueltin Lake with Bob Hilke... Ober had gone on to Churchill to locate a white trapper named Windy Smith who had discovered the note Ober had left there many years before, <the one> advising his mother not to worry if they didn't get back before winter set in. I was with Ober when we met Windy Smith and learned about his discovering the cairn and the note.

”Ober often visited friends in Minneapolis in the fall. The Winstons, I believe, and on one of such occasions Ober came here and had supper with my family and we all listened entranced by Ober's descriptions of some of his experiences.”

In recent years, Bob Binger often met with Bob Hilke when Hilke was in town and traveled out to White Bear Lake. Our board president, Jim Fitzpatrick, also knew Bob and the Binger family, and we end this tribute with a quote from Jim:

“I went to Bob’s memorial service (Sept 8, 2012) representing both the Fitzpatrick Clan and the Oberholtzer Foundation Board. I recognized my classmate, Tom Binger. Bob was quite a person. My dad knew them well. In fact on our canoe trip down the Turtle River into Rainy Lake in 1959 he worked out the use of two outboard motors and gas to get our canoes from Redgut Bay to Fort Francis. We got them from the paper company yacht that was stationed in Redgut Bay. And Mr. Binger was there.”

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