It’s been a hard week for the Junior Forest Warden Family and all it’s members with the passing of two great and very experienced long time members. I met Bob Skarra back in 1983 at the Red Deer Sportsman show when he was at a booth talking about all the great activities, skills and camps that “Wardens” could do. I was only 9 years old and had no clue how much impact Bob would have on shaping my life during the years with the group. Bob Skarra was a co-founder of the Red Deer Junior Forest Wardens back in 1980, he wanted a club that his son and daughter could attend as a whole family. Bob was a “take the bull by the horns” kind of guy and would lead by example, he always wore his uniform proud and made us all understand that it was an honour to wear our red shirt. I remember still to this day when he presented me with my Bronze badge and welcomed me as an official warden. Bob was a big man (well to a 9 year old anyways) I remember shaking his big gentle hand and looking up at him and his big grin knowing that I wanted to be just like him. Bob also helped with the idea, and construction of “Warden Hall” at Camp Alexo out by Nordegg so the youth would have a place to go and enjoy the great outdoors. I attended a building weekend with Bob at Camp Alexo and I remember how he worked with us kids so that we could help in the build, he always wanted the wardens included. That same weekend we got snowed in and couldn’t leave till Monday and I remember Bob saying the “you have to find the bright spot in the situation” and so we went cross country skiing in the newly fallen snow. Another time out at Camp Alexo and it snowed again and my old Ford couldn’t make it up the hill and Bob was out in his yellow Toyota and pulled me up the hill (I didn’t think it would do it) and he said it’s not the size that matters but how much heart you have. Bob had a passion for the Junior Forest Warden program and all the cool hands-on things that we could do, but most of all was his excitement at teaching the Wardens and watching them succeed.
The Woodchuck club was like a second family to Bob and I can’t image how much time he volunteered to make our club such a huge success. We still hold Bob’s values of what makes a club successful still to this day, family involvement, community parenting, every family has to contribute, the four pillars and the uniform. Bob was also a co-founding member the JFW Alumni and helped at numerous national camps and primitive skills camps. I always thought of Bob as larger then life and with his passing it makes me realize how precious our time is here and he would want us to share that time with each other and the outdoors. Bob, you will never fully know how you inspired me in life to be better at what I do, to be honest and true to myself, fellow wardens and to pursue my dreams whatever that might be and just be the best that I can be. We will miss you and your presence will forever surround those who knew you in the Junior Forest Warden Family.
- Cody Howitt
A Tribute to Bob Skarra
Bob Skarra passed away on December 7, 2019
Bob was a JFW icon. He and two other fellows founded the Red Deer Woodchucks JFW club in 1980. At that time there were some problems dealing with the regional rep from Forestry, so Cliff and Dorothy Tetz (founders of the Eagles club in 1976) gave Bob some assistance, so in some respects you could consider the Woodchucks a brother/sister club. The Woodchucks have thrived for the last 39 years and are a very progressive and dynamic club. Some of the earlier members are still active: Don and Linda Shantz (wood carving, drum making and other hand crafts), Tom and Jan Blunden (Alumni Association, who have organized the Alumni Winter Skills and McKenzie Crossing Summer Family camps.
Many of you may have been to Camp Alexo (PT Cruiser Camp, etc.). Bob was instrumental with the Woodchucks building the “Warden Cabin” there, which some of you may have stayed in.
In his career he has taught hundreds of Wardens at the club, regional, National Camps and with the Alumni Association. Bob’s willow chairs were a hallmark project for the Alumni summer camps at Chambers Creek, and later at McKenzie Crossing.
I have had the privilege of working with Bob on many of these occasions. It was enlightening, inspirational, educational and most importantly, it was FUN!
Bob had a great sense of humor. He was a big man, had a big laugh and a big heart.
I won’t attempt to list all his endeavors and awards but two stand out. He was a great believer in the family values of JFW, so in April of 1994 he and Phyllis McBride co-founded the Alumni Association so the adventure could continue. His greatest award (reward) was the Wardens themselves. Indeed, Cody Howitt was one of Bob’s Woodchucks and is now the Assistant Chief Warden for Alberta.
He has left us now to continue his journey and I hope along the way it involves ice fishing for Burbot.
His name will be added to the “In Gratitude” memorial for outstanding contributions to the JFW organization. This memorial is mounted in the Hall at our Jumping Pound camp.
– Brian McBride, Eagles Club, Calgary