Two thousand eighteen has been, in many ways, a good year for the Friends of Sugar Creek. Our Spring Cleanup, Sugar Creek Canoe Race, Family Friendly Float Trip and the Kids, Canoes and Crinoids event were all deemed successful. Unfortunately, however, in early May the Friends of Sugar Creek lost a great friend when Roger Beach passed away. Roger was a founding member of our organization at its inception thirty years ago.
Roger’s love affair with the Creek began when he was a young boy. Since he lived close to the Creek, he and friends often fished, skipped stones, and hunted for crinoids, better known locally as Indian Beads. His vocation, however, took him in another direction. During his high school years, Roger discovered he had a good sense of spatial relationships. This gift led him to complete a program in architectural drafting at Latin Tech in Indianapolis. In the course of his career with two architectural firms, Roger had the opportunity to design rooms in Mackey Arena at Purdue University among other projects.
Yet Roger did not turn his back on the creek. He devoted much of his free time honing his canoeing and kayaking skills. In the late 1960’s he nearly drowned, a scary experience that led him to learn all he could about safe paddling. As Roger became more safety conscious, he trained to become a canoe safety instructor trainer. At that time, he was only one of two individuals to achieve the instructor trainer rank in Indiana. As a result of his service to the local Red Cross Chapter, not only as a water safety expert but also as a program manager of the disaster action team, he received the Red Cross volunteer of the year award in 2002.
As his skills developed, Roger and fellow canoeists in the community formed the Sugar Creek Paddlers, and, in 1987, Roger was a founding member of the Friends of Sugar Creek. He served on the board of directors of the Friends for a number of years. Utilizing his drafting skills, in 1971 he created a detailed map of Sugar Creek for the Paddlers, a map that is still in use today.
For Roger a perfect trip down Sugar Creek, particularly with family, was a leisurely affair. He insisted on stopping frequently to “play,”—hunting crinoids, finding interesting rocks, spotting fish and other “critters” and, of course, simply pausing to gaze on the water and the woodlands. Roger could also move at a faster clip, when he chose to. He learned he could get from the start to the finish of a racecourse in short order. Although he and his wife, Nancy, occasionally raced in the C2 mixed category, and Roger sometimes raced in the C1 class, his forte was paddling solo. As a result of his participation in US Canoe Association races, Roger became well known and respected in the larger canoeing community. He was selected to be a course judge for pre-Olympic kayak and rowing trials in Michigan, Maine, and Southern California and at Disney World.
After more than twenty years with large architectural firms, he and Nancy opened Eagle Embroidery in 1990. Roger discovered if he could design big, he also could design small. Inspired by the patches he accumulated from various canoe race events, Eagle made patches of all kinds. Yet Eagle was not Roger’s first small business venture. He and a friend recognized that canoe-related accessories were not available locally so they started Paddle Holm where paddlers could purchase canoe-related items at a reasonable cost.
Dean Ford, one of the founders of the Friends of Sugar Creek, remembers Roger as “…unassuming, generous, dependable and kind to everyone he met. He never missed a FSC meeting or event during the 18 years I served on the board. Roger knew Sugar Creek better than anyone and was a virtual river of information. Nobody could maneuver a canoe solo like Roger. We all depended on him.”
While Roger, Nancy, and children, Rachel and Dennis paddled rivers all over the country, Sugar Creek, Roger’s “home stream,” was a special place for him. And Roger will always be a special, never to be forgotten, member of the Friends of Sugar Creek.
Aus Brooks is the President of Friends of Sugar Creek.