The Canadian canoe community lost one of its most ardent supporters March 18 with the death of Canadian Canoe Museum founder Kirk A.W. Wipper, who died at age 87 as the result of a choking incident complicated by Parkinson’s disease.
“This is surely the end of an era,” museum executive director James Raffan told local papers. “Kirk will be sorely missed but his legacy lives on in the hearts and minds of the members, volunteers, staff and friends of the museum who join daily stewardship of these 600 canoes and kayaks — this unique portrait of Canada he created– that was his passion for so many years.”
Recognized as a pioneer in the development of outdoor education in Canada, Wipper, whose son, Douglas, lives in Paddling Life’s hometown of Steamboat Springs, Colo., owned Camp Kandalore in Ontario and was a past president of the Canadian Recreational Canoeing Association (now Paddle Canada).
“Canoeing was his true passion,” says Douglas, who also carries the torch by running a canoe school in Colorado. “He was known far and wide throughout Canada for what he did with the museum.
Indeed, Wipper is best known in Canadian paddling circles for putting together the Kanawa International Collection of Canoes, Kayaks and Rowing Craft, a collection of more than 600 watercraft that now comprises the core of the Canadian Canoe Museum in Peterborough, Ontario.
Honored last fall with the Ron Johnston Lifetime Achievement Award by colleagues in the Ontario Camping Association, which also made a film in his honor, Wipper’s work with the canoe collection dates back to 1957, when a friend presented him with a dugout canoe from the late 1800s. The collection grew and eventually became housed in a building at Camp Kandalore. In 1994, Wipper transferred control of his historic collection to the Peterborough museum.
“He was a good guy all around and it is a sad day,” said former museum chairman Don Curtis. “He was intense and demanding but still rewarding. He would recognize a good effort. He was knowledgeable and dedicated to the outdoors. He would go anywhere in Canada to collect a canoe. I was taught by him in Toronto and we struck up a friendship.”
The Kirk Wipper memorial gathering, “Travelling On: Celebrating the Life and Passions of Kirk Wipper,” will be held at The Canadian Canoe Museum on Sunday, May 1, 2011, 2 p.m. followed by a reception at the museum. Anyone moved to contribute a song or story to this celebration should contact the museum (705) 748-9153 or firstname.lastname@example.org.