A memorial service was held on Saturday, August 17th for long-time Sitka Conservation Society board member Bob Ellis. As per Bob’s wishes, his ashes were distributed in the ocean in one of the Tongass fjords that was most familiar to him. Bob is missed dearly. His influence, leadership, and mentorship, however, are all still deeply felt and present in the work of the Sitka Conservation Society.
I met Bob when I first arrived in Sitka over 13 years ago. He interviewed me for the job I still hold at the Sitka Conservation Society, and I developed a close friendship with him. At times, I was asked write about Bob and it was always a challenge. Bob Ellis did so much in his life and has such a history that I can’t even try to list it all. When I've tried, I'm always told all the things I missed — and they were all significant and amazing things that he had done, each with a long story of their own. We have a story on Bob in our Living Wilderness Honor Board, and it outlines some of his accomplishments. You can read that story here: http://www.sitkawild.org/robert_j_ellis
One of the things that I am most grateful to Bob Ellis for is how he ingrained in the Sitka Conservation Society the concept of “living with the land.” Bob knew how to harvest and process and prepare just about every food that the lands and the waters of the Tongass provided. And that went beyond just the sockeye salmon that he loved to catch and can at Necker or Redfish Bay aboard his boat the Nakawasina. Bob went deep into the flora and fauna: he would create his own nutritional and medicinal supplements from a wide range of species of kelp in the intertidal. He learned how to prepare fish livers into his own gourmet creations. Bob built the raised beds of his potato and garlic gardens with native stone. His home foundation was hewn into bedrock an built from local woods; a yellow cedar tree grew up through the middle of his deck. Bob was a role model and a teacher in all the skills he developed for living with the land on the Tongass, and it has forever shaped SCS.
As a board member and staff mentor, Bob helped create the Sitka Conservation Society’s “Living with the Land and Building Community” youth programs. He showed me how things could be done to live more sustainably and more in-tune with the natural environment, and then he helped mentor the leaders of the youth programs who went on to teach those skills to Sitka youth. If you want to see Bob in action, we made a video where he taught some of our 4H program leaders how to harvest kelp so they could share those skills with kids.
Check out Bob in action: https://vimeo.com/41995023
The Sitka Conservation Society honors Bob Ellis by continuing to do the work that he valued and ensuring that his deeply held values and ideals live on. Bob is recognized on our Living Wilderness Honor board as one of the individuals that has made the Sitka Conservation Society into a strong voice for Wilderness, sustainability, and conservation in Alaska. We honor him in these ways, and in striving to do work and deeds that would have made Bob proud.
Generous supporters of SCS who shared a long friendship with Bob have offered to match any gifts made to the Living Wilderness Fund in honor of Bob Ellis. If you would like to participate in this opportunity and make a gift in honor of Bob, you can make a donation to the Living Wilderness Fund or by sending a check to Sitka Conservation Society, 201 Lincoln Street, Rm 4, Sitka Alaska, 99835.
Thank you so much, Bob, for everything that you have done for the Tongass and for the Sitka Conservation Society.