Like so many folks in this region, I possess a lifelong attachment and abiding passion to the outdoors - not only hunting and fishing, but just about any activity embracing nature and our beautiful forests, fields and waterways.
I consider myself especially blessed to have had the opportunity to make my living by doing something involving the outdoors for the majority of my adult life. From many years in the sporting goods business to working as a fishing guide to becoming an outdoor writer and photographer, I've been able to experience the outdoor sports from many different angles.
My career as an outdoor communicator has always proved exceptionally rewarding. As a writer and photographer, I am often afforded the opportunity to go places and do things I might never done have otherwise. But the most rewarding aspect of those endeavors has been all the wonderful people I've had the pleasure to meet and work with. At an early age, I became aware of the special bond that exists among outdoor folks. It's not easy to explain, but I know most of us who hunt or fish understand it completely. And the older I get, the more such relationships and friendships mean to me, so losing a dear outdoor friend is all the more devastating. I experienced such a loss last week when my great fishing buddy Vic John Jr. lost his battle with cancer.
I first met Vic about 10 years ago when I was the editor of Pennsylvania Outdoor Times magazine and he stopped by my office one afternoon. Vic was an active member of the Raystown Striper Club, and at that time, he organized and ran the annual Stu Tinney Reunion Tournament, a major fundraising event for the club. His mission for visiting me was to see if I would be interested in promoting the event in the magazine. He was both surprised and delighted when I explained I was certainly aware of the upcoming tournament and had already scheduled a feature article about it.
With business out of the way, our conversation turned to fishing and other mutual interests. I mentioned that I had never caught a striped bass from Raystown Lake, and Vic immediately offered to help remedy that situation by inviting me to go fishing with him sometime soon. True to his word, I landed my first Raystown striper a couple of weeks later while standing on the deck of Vic's bass boat. Vic loved Raystown Lake and was always willing to help promote the lake and its varied fisheries. The local tourist bureau frequently enlisted him to take outdoor writers from all over the country fishing on Raystown, a task he willingly performed many times.
As Vic and I became better friends, we fished together more often, including partnering for several bass tournaments in New York, Maryland and Virginia. I recall one tournament on the lower Potomac River a few years ago that found us fishing at dawn in Chopawamsic Creek, a tributary on the Virginia side of the river.
Chopawamsic flows past the Marine Corps base near Quantico, and we were close enough to hear the Call to Arms and the Star-Spangled Banner emanating from the base's public address system. Vic, who served in the Marines himself, enjoyed the wakeup call. Later, we saw a young man fishing from the shore catch a nice bass.
Vic congratulated him and struck up a conversation. Turned out he was a Marine stationed nearby and would be leaving the next day to serve as part of the honor guard for President Bush on a visit to California.
Vic's passion for fishing and the Raystown area was exceeded only by his love for his wife, daughter and grandsons. His family will miss him deeply as will his many friends. I am honored to have been one of them.