Old Salts

Rowing with the old folk on the Milwaukee River.

For the second year in a row, the Urban Ecology Center hosted a canoe trip down the Milwaukee River in July for canoers sailing toward the 100-year-old mark. The unofficial Nonagenarian Paddle Fest started in 2014, with UEC volunteers guiding crew members ages 91, 95, 96 and 99.

In summer 2015, paddlers ages 84, 92, 96 and 97 occupied the middle seats, along with 100-year-old Richard Franz, who inspired last year’s trip, and (hold your breath) a 102-year-old woman named Trudy. The flotilla traveled from the Milwaukee Rowing Club to Riverfront Pizzeria on the Milwaukee Harbor for lunch.

Says Ken Leinbach, founder of the Urban Ecology Center and coordinator of the annual trips: “I find them all quite inspiring, as I’m only halfway there and already feeling the effects of age.” He says plans are already underway for a trip in 2016.

“Old Salts” appears in the December 2015 issue of Milwaukee Magazine.

Find the December issue on newsstands Nov. 30.

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Kurt Chandler began working at Milwaukee Magazine in 1998 as a senior editor, writing investigative articles, profiles, narratives and commentaries. He was editor in chief from August 2013-November 2015. An award-winning writer, Chandler has worked as a newspaper reporter, magazine writer, editor and author. He has been published in a number of metro newspapers and magazines, from The New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle and Minneapolis Star Tribune, to Marie Claire, The Writer, and Salon.com. He also has authored, coauthored or edited 12 books. His writing awards are many: He has won the National Headliners Award for magazine writing five times. He has been named Writer of the Year by the City & Regional Magazine Association, and Journalist of the Year by the Milwaukee Press Club. As a staff writer with the Minneapolis Star Tribune, he was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize and chosen as a finalist for the Robert F. Kennedy Award. In previous lives, Chandler worked construction, drove a cab and played the banjo (not necessarily at the same time). He has toiled as a writer and journalist for three decades now and, unmindful of his sage father’s advice, has nothing to fall back on. Yet he is not without a specialized set of skills: He can take notes in the dark and is pretty good with active verbs.