Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Oak Park native Robert T. Fanning Jr., friend of elk, foe of wolves, dead at 69

Bob Fanning
    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.
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  1. Way to start the year, doing something you do extremely well.

  2. I think the obit does indeed present Robert Faning “ the way he wanted to be known.” I don’t remember Rory’s book mentioning conflicts with his father, but it’s impossible to imagine that they didn’t occur frequently and persistently. Bravo to both Fannings and their scribe!


  3. wonder how he would have felt back in the 1800's when we killed off all the buffalo. For the most part I abhor hunting. I assume he went hunting for elk as well as other animals. I understand you have to keep some animals under control, but for the most part all species of animals, bird, insects are part of the eco system. I don't know if this is really true or even partially true. https://www.yellowstonepark.com/things-to-do/wolf-reintroduction-changes-ecosystem Controlling the eco system is one thing but just killing off species for the sake of doing so is something else

    1. Here is a slightly different view, asking if the introduction of wolves to Yellowstone Park improved the ecosystem. The important thing to me is scientist are allowed to conduct experiments, to verify what were the factors involved in increasing the biodiversity, before similar projects are introduced to other National Parks. Did Mr. Tanning wonder how the elk survived for millennia without hunters running around killing all wolves on site? The introduction of wolves occurred in 1995, he lived long enough to see the results, did he reconsider his dire predictions?

  4. Very interesting obit indeed.
    A life is not easily summed up on a page, but Neil has the ability to bring that life back, for a few brief moments, for us to digest, contemplate, and perhaps learn from.

  5. Mr. Fanning's rescue M.H. Detrick was no small feat. Many companies that lacked the resources to fight asbestos claims were forced into bankruptcy. If I recall correctly it included family owned businesses that sold automotive parts, brake pads and linings containing asbestos, heating and cooling parts stores that sold boiler and furnace parts lined with asbestos, who were forced into bankruptcy. Now we have the case of Air and Liquid Systems Corp. v. DeVries before the Supreme Court. This is a company that did not manufacture any asbestos parts whatsoever. Lawyers are arguing the company should have known their products would be coated with asbestos.

  6. I would have liked to introduce him to Helene Grimaud, the French classical pianist who founded the Wolf Conservation Center in South Salem, N.Y. I'm sure those two would have had an interesting conversation, although perhaps not a long one.

  7. The deceased wanted to protect the elk against wolf predation, but as predator species go, wolves are small beer compared to homo sapiens with high powered rifles.



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