Bob Cary, now deceased, was born and raised in Joliet, Illinois, graduated from Joliet Community College with a degree in journalism, and studied commercial illustration at the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts.
He worked as outdoor writer for the Joliet Herald News, was editor and outdoor writer for Joliet Spectator, and served as outdoor editor for the Chicago Daily News. Through his work he discovered Ely, Minnesota, a place to which he returned again and again and which stayed in his heart.
So, in 1966, he moved to Ely with wife Lil and daughter Barb where he opened a canoe trip outfitting business outside of Ely.
During his first year of outfitting he became friends with legendary Dorothy Molter, eventually chronicling her 54 years of living in the wilderness in his well-known book The Root Beer Lady, the illustrations for which remain the standard of Dorothy’s memory.
In 1974, Bob became the editor of the Ely Echo, Ely’s weekly paper, which featured his popular column “Birdshot and Backlashes” and where he covered many local issues with perception and wit. During his writing career he was also a featured columnist for the Senior Reporter in Duluth, Minnesota and free-lanced articles to Outdoor Life, Field and Stream, Sports Afield, Minnesota Sportsman, Travel, Minnesota Monthly, Boundary Waters Journal, the Chicago Tribune, the Wall Street Journal and many other publications.
Bob was a generous supporter of the arts in Ely, supplying the community and its residents with his art with two murals in downtown Ely, as well as many paintings and sketches.
Bob wrote, illustrated and published many books including Root Beer Lady, Tales of Jackpine Bob, The Big Wilderness Canoe Manual, Winter Camping, Ely Echoes: The Portages Grow Longer, Bush Pilots: Legends of the Old and Bold, Fear Was Never An Option, The All American Outhouse Book, Born to Pull (also illustrated by Gail deMarken), and Fishing and Hunting by Canoe. He also illustrated many other authors’ books.
For two years he was the host of the WELY radio show “Camp Talk.” He appeared in numerous outdoor TV shows and videos.
He was married to wife Lillian for 46 years until parted by her death. In 1998 he married long time neighbor Edith Sommer. Both women were excellent anglers, shooters, canoe paddlers and campers.
“How lucky can one guy get,” he said.
Bob Cary lost his battle to cancer in his home on June 17, 2006. In a 1989 story in the Chicago News Tribune, Bob Cary said his epitaph should read, “I could have been eminently famous in a number of different fields, but every time I was about to do something great, I went fishing. I never regretted the fishing.”