Among the many benefits of being friends with Rick Telander has been getting to know some of his friends. One of the more distinctive is Rory Fanning, whom Rick met when the former Army Ranger was walking across the United States to benefit the foundation of his late buddy, Pat Tillman.
When Rory's father passed away last week, he contacted me, looking for someone at the paper to write the obit. Of course I volunteered. It was interesting to learn about his father's complicated life. Not everything can be worked into an obit, and there was one aspect that never made it onto the page, but is worth mentioning here. Rory and his dad had some rocky times in their relationship—I don't think I'm speaking out of school saying that; a lot of fathers and sons do, I certainly did. But when his dad passed, Rory stepped up and tried to present him in his best possible light, and to make sure people knew about him the way he wanted to be known. Not every child writing an obit does that. Holding a grudge is so easy many people do without considering there is another path, but Rory stood up for his dad at the end, even though his dad wasn't always standing behind him, and I admire that. I've learned a lot from knowing Rory—he's a marketing executive at Haymarket Books, and doesn't accept the truisms of American life that I do, or did. But I think this moment gave me something that I'm going to value and try to apply in my own life.
Bob Fanning not only ran with the wolves, he liked to kill them.
“He was a man’s man, a bear hunter, a horseback rider, there was no one like Bob,” said his lifelong friend, Frank Murnane, owner of the Murnane Cos. “They broke the mold with Bob Fanning; one of a kind, in all respects.”
Fanning’s lifelong animosity toward wolves came from a desire to protect elk, as founder of Friends of the Northern Yellowstone Elk Herd. In one of those epic battles that roil the great expanse of the West, between federal power and state authority, between environmentalists and ranchers, you knew exactly where Bob Fanning stood.
“Lock and load and saddle up while there is still snow on the ground,” Fanning declared, after the governor of Montana encouraged local ranchers to shoot troublesome wolves on their property in 2011, the year Fanning ran for Montana governor, part of a pack of Republican hopefuls, though he did not win.
As to how an Oak Park native, graduate of Holy Cross High School in River Forest, ended up in Big Sky Country, well therein lies the tale of Robert T. Fanning Jr., 69, who died on Christmas Eve, in Billings, Montana.
He was born in 1949, one of six brothers — Danny, Kevin, Brian, Quinn and Tim, and a sister, Mary. Their father, Robert T. Fanning Sr, was a stockbroker who owned Fanning Shoes in Oak Park, and mother Ann was a homemaker.To continue reading, click here.