Mr. Canoe Paddles On

Except for paddling, there wasn’t much that could keep Ralph Frese away from his canoe shop in northwest Chicago. This fall, while undergoing regular morning treatments for cancer, Frese still spent his afternoons at the Chicagoland Canoe Base, the well-known retail outlet, outfitter and canoe-building workshop he established in the 1960s at his father’s old forge. Although he wasn’t building or restoring canoes, the creative passions that were his life’s work, Frese was content telling stories and spending time in what he proclaimed to be “the most unusual canoe shop” in the U.S., which, in reality, was more like a hall of fame of American paddlesports.

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