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Loss of a Conservation Champion: Bob Rung

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By Steve Pescitelli, Region 2 Stream Specialist

I am very sorry to report the passing of our dear friend and colleague, Robert C. Rung. Bob only recently checked into the hospital after a fishing trip on Lake Holiday. His heart condition was uncertain, but he was hopeful for a full recovery. He faded fast and finally succumbed to his condition.

He will be sorely missed by the many people he has touched over the years. He was a kind and generous man and one hell of stream biologist. His energy and passion for river conservation were unmatched. Just one example, water willow is now thriving on the Fox River thanks to his tireless efforts. He was also relentless with permit reviews, and never backed down from anybody. He was a true fish nut and loved them all.

If you knew Bob, you would not be surprised that he also threw himself into angling with equal energy and passion. Bob poured jigs, built rods, tied flies, and was always plotting his next fishing trip or strategy. He was well-known as one of the best jig fisherman on the Fox River. As an IDNR Technician years ago, he revised and updated electro-fishing rigs for the whole State and won the "Technician of the Year" award for many years running. He was also a long-time crusader for dam removal.

Bob will be remembered for the many things he did for Illinois streams over the years, but his most memorable assets were his generous spirit, and undying love for fish and fishing.




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So very sad to hear. Bob was our mentor in the water willow planting projects we've been active in for many years. Even after he retired from the DNR he was still a great deal of help to us. I admired and respected him very much.


Yeah he was, Scott. I never got to be really good friends with Bob, which I regret, but,

Actually, I was the conservation guy for the ISA and all that planting stuff probably would not have got going that early, if it were not for him and others. I used to call Bob up to pick his brain for newsletter stuff, regarding the Willows. He was always really professional and I always felt like he was being really honest about everything. " This works, this doesn't." "Here we had this success, here it didn't work". I always felt like it was a privilege to pick this guys' brain since I am kind of geeky and into bugs and critters. He was really into the Water Willow plants. Having been a "Kank-Rat" for more than a decade walked thru many a huge colony of those plants , just taking for them for granted. Now looking closer, you see how tight minnows hang to them, how many insects emerge when you walk thru them on a summer evening. I am not being sappy either, check it out if you don't believe me.

One fond, early ISA memory was a meeting we had at a pizza place on rt38, it was a really cool night, with good pizza and beer.. Bob gave a talk about studies they did about dams. If I remember right this was a little before the ISA membership just exploded. He was really great speaker, you could hear a pin drop in the place while he was talking and eyes glued to the presentation. I always felt like he did that job, because, he was the guy to do it.. sometimes.. thankfully it works out that way.

Afterwards he hung around and chatted and he was really nice and pretty funny.

We did quite a few plantings afterwards and he always was really pleased with the individual work ISA guys did, I remember him commenting on how the guys "were perfect" and how they would pile up gravel to build a little requiem from the current. "they are the perfect people to do this"

In the really limited amount of time I dealt with Bob, he made a HUGE impression on me that will be passed another generation, and really countless others, so THANKS so much for your dedication and my heartfelt, deepest condolences to your family and friends.

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it was less than a month ago i had the enjoyment to fish with bob and john lobach and ed dahmer at some private ponds. he was naming each specie of gill i caught and stories about them . bob always stocked the display tanks with fox river fish at the hunting and fishing days event . the world needs more people like bob . he will be in my evening prayers tonight. richmc

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I got to know Bob over the years of planting the Fox but only got to fish with him once this summer with Rich & Ed. We will continue to plant water willows & remember who taught us the value of improving habitat one area, one thousand plants at a time. He will be missed but the seed of his view of the rivers we all love to fish has taken root.

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I first met Bob several years ago when I just started fishing for smallmouth in Illinois. I was wading Salt Creek in the Western Springs - Lagrange area when I noticed this strange looking boat coming near me. I was surprised to see a watercraft of any kind on this skinny, ecologically challenged body of water. I saw wires hanging in the water and two guys with big nets scooping up fish that were floating up to the surface. Bob saw me about the same time and apologized for shocking so close to me. I had already climbed up on a log and was out of harm's way. Bob told me where they were taking out and invited me to come and watch them catalogue the fish they had collected.

I remember how impressed I was that Bob and his crew cheerfully did their job under trying circumstances with minimal good equipment. They had dragged that boat down a steep bank and navigated a log choked stretch of water in 90 degree heat. Everything from their boat, nets, collection buckets to the boat trailer looked pretty beat up. I think Bob made parts of the trailer himself. I asked if the state could buy them some better stuff and Bob just laughed. A true river warrior.

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Yes, Bob Was a true champion of our Illinois Rivers and streams. Had the privilege of planting willows with him and the conversation about the Fox and his thoughts on conservation were insightful to say the least. Planting and digging flew by due to his great knowledge and wisdom which he so freely shared. We were blessed to have him avail himself to our cause..

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