Tuesday, March 15, 2016

The Passing Of The Torch (& its follow-ups)

This is a bit of a different blog post.  I recently received an email from the grieving widow of one of my customers.  She was trying to reach friends and angling acquaintances of her late husband to let them know about his passing, and when his funeral services would be. 

  I forwarded her message to most of the people on my fishing email list, not knowing whom might know her husband and who might not.  Fishing makes for some pretty strange bedfellows.  Anyway, I added a few words of my own to her missive, and ended up getting quite a response from it.  Below is her email to me, my forwarded email, and a few of the responses I got back. 



Dear Jack,
> I don't know if you knew my husband, Don Cushing, but he was an avid fly fisherman and attended the Cutthroat Chapter meetings for a number of years until his arthritis and hearing got the best of him. Don passed away early Monday morning and our family is asking that donations be made to Colorado Trout Unlimited in his name. Don was a Colorado native and grew up fishing with his father and brother, then going on to teach our son who is now teaching his own son and daughter. Many hours were spent on rivers, lakes and streams, enjoying family, friends and nature, with the main focus on catching one more trout for the day. My mother-in-law thanked me several times for "allowing my husband to go fishing". I replied that I was always happy for him to go fishing because he returned a better husband and father. I am so thankful he participated in an activity that was so fulfilling and, I believe, spiritual for him.
> Don's memorial service will be held Sunday, Feb. 28th, 2:00 pm, at the Horan & McConaty Mortuary at 5303 E. County Line Rd., Centennial, CO 80122.
> I know only one member of the Cutthroat Chapter and left a message informing him of Don's passing. If there is a way to notify other members of that chapter before Sunday, I would appreciate your help in passing on the information.
> Don and I always looked forward to your special articles that were so on point and powerful. Thank you for your dedication and service.
> Fondly,
> Peggy Cushing (Mrs. Don Cushing)

On Feb 26, 2016, at 3:14 AM, jack bombardier <jack@confluencecasting.com> wrote:

To All My Fishing Friends,

  If you are receiving this email, the odds are good that you've spent a day with me floating down what I like to call the "Upper Lower" Colorado River.  As a result, you might be under the impression that surely, the life I live must be the most perfect and desirable existence possible.  After all, I get to do what I love the most, in the place I want to do it, while married to a woman younger and smarter than me who makes five time what I do while doing what she loves to do. Who could want or ask for anything more?

  Well there are two types of individuals that I envy. The first is couples that fish together.  Just two days ago I was bringing some people down to Denver along Clear Creek in an SUV while working my winter gig as a limo driver, and saw a young man and woman stringing up fly rods together and felt a major pang in my heart. I love my wife, but she considers catch and release fishing as mere torture, and to be honest she sort of has a point, even if I don't agree with it. 

  The second type of situation I envy is the father-son dynamic, where I spend the day on the river with a father and son, and getting to be a tiny part of watching a father pass his love of fishing and the outdoors on to his son.  Even if the son (and maybe even the father) might not know it, those precious hours spent on my boat will likely be hours that both of them will be thinking of for the rest of their lives.  Hopefully, those hours of bonding will be looked back upon as some of the best  times they'll ever spend together, no matter what twists and turns their lives journey's will bring them.

  So what then to make of that scenario on steroids, that of a father and his son and his son all together on my boat for a day?  That is to say, grandfather, father, and son?  That particular combination has happened only three times in the dozen years I've been taking anglers down the Colorado River.  I know that its been three times exactly because  all three times its been memorable.  On all those three trips I've spent most of the eight river hours wishing that I could be one of the three other people on my boat.   Would it be best to be the grandfather, being lucky enough to see that not only were your values being passed on to your son, your very blood, but to your grandson as well?  How incredibly special must that be?  But what about being both a father and a son in that dynamic?  To be spending the day in an extraordinary setting with both the man who made you what you were, and being in the position to pass those lessons on to your offspring as well?  Or might it best to be the fine young man to be so lucky to be in presence of both generations at the same time, to be the recipient of such unconditional, multi-generational love? 

  The reason that such questions have come to the forefront of my mind tonight is that Colorado has lost a dear member of it's angling fraternity.  His name was Don Cushing, and he and his son Jon and his grandson Nate spent an afternoon floating with me down the Lower Upper one perfect September day a couple of years ago.  I spent entire eight hours undecided as to which of the three I envied the most.  I'm sure back in the "real world" their lives were no more perfect than mine appears to be. But one could not help buy admire the passing of the torch so evident in the love and support they all had for each other.

  I don't know the particulars of Don's passing, and can only hope that the end of this life's journey came as peacefully and painlessly as possible. After all, everything we know of someday must come to and end, and that is the best any of us can hope for.  But I have to think that in Don's final moments, knowing that the values he had treasured had been passed on to Jon and Nate (and hopefully on to Nate's kids someday) were in good hands must have been of some solace to him. 

  The time we will all get to spend on this little verdant rock we call Earth is fleeting indeed.  The best we can hope for is to leave it a little better than we found it, and to instill those values in those who will follow along behind us. Don Cushing was a person for everyone to admire who treasures the natural world we are lucky enough to inherit from the fathers and grandfathers who came before us. To paraphrase a Coldplay lyric, those who are dead, are not dead, they're just living in our heads.

  Below, I'm copying you all on the email I got from Don's widow Peggy.  I have no idea whether or not you knew Don, but even if you didn't, if you love rivers and fishing and family know that Don was a kindred spirit, and please wish Peggy and Jon and Nate and Stacy the best in your thoughts and prayers.


Would you mind if I used your story on Don in a cutthroat 
chapter email blast notifying members of his passing? Quite well written
 and would be great for all to read


Thank you for this poignant piece.  Having 14 grandchildren (taught 2 to flyfish) and being 75 years old made it hit right in the solar plexus.

Hopefully, Bob Willoughby and I will float with you this summer....maybe a half day this time.

Herb Luhman

On Feb 26, 2016, at 3:14 AM, jack bombardier <jack@confluencecasting.com> wrote:

Thanks for taking charge of this Cam.  I was away yesterday and just picking this up now.  Let me suggest the following:
1.       Notification of funeral services:  there is obvious urgency in this.  Matt/Mike, could you send out an email blast to the CCTU membership today?  I think it would be appropriate to attach the very caring and loving note from his wife, Peggy.
2.       CTU Fund:  It appears that Don’s wish was that donations be made in his name to CTU.  Cam, do you know of a way to set that up?  Is there an address where donations can be sent? 
3.       CCTU recognition of Don:  Let’s work on putting something on our website and Newsletter.  I would suggest including the very moving piece written by Jack Bombardier yesterday (with his permission). I’ve attached that email, as I don’t believe it was sent to everyone.  Having a picture of Don would be great.  I think we should also recognize Don’s passing at our next CCTU membership meeting.  We can discuss the particulars of that at our Board meeting on Tuesday.

That’s all I can think of right now.  We can all only hope that folks will have similar thoughts and caring for each of us when we are gone.


Allen Adinoff, MD
President Cutthroat Chapter Trout Unlimited


Thanks Jack!!!  I love your letters. Keep em comin'!!!

My dad and brother were fortunate enough to go on a float trip several years ago (in WY). I speak for all of us when I say it was a special trip and one we will always remember. 

Joe Chickey, Jr.

Don Cushing sounds like a guy we'd all have liked to meet, caught a couple trout with and had a couple beers besides afterwards.

I really appreciate your emails,

Matthew G Leman
Fort Collins, CO


Dear Mr. Bombadier:
I want to thank you for the heartwarming tribute you wrote for my brother, Don.  It was beautiful and true.

One of the last things he and I talked about when we were saying our "goodbyes" was that he was able to get his three generation together for a float trip.  This meant a lot to him.  He also asked me if I would take Nate fishing on the Big Thomson River.  Nate's early fishing were in spots where catching was fairly easy, and he wanted me to reveal to him that it can also be "slow."  Though I can't wade streams anymore, I promised I would take Nate and Jon to the stream and Jon can wade/fish with him.

If you would be kind enough to send me your mailing address, I'd like to send you a couple of books I've published on rivers, streams, and fly fishing by way of thanks.

Bert Cushing

  Dear Jack,
Words cannot express the gratitude our family feels for the help you have been in passing on the news, but most of all, your response to my note was so much more.  Thank you so much for your tribute to Don, and sharing of the experience you had with Don, Jon and Nate.  Including the pictures was so special.

You are indeed an exceptional man, and I thank God for you.  May God bless you, your family, and the work you do.


Peggy Cushing
(Mrs. Don Cushing)


1 comment:

  1. Jack,
    Thank you for sharing the story of the fathers and sons. I copied it and sent it to my three grown sons with whom I've had the privilege of introducing to fly fishing, though it was many years ago.
    I wanted to share with you the responses I got back from them today.
    First from my youngest son 37. "Good stuff thanks for sharing"
    Then from my second son who's 38 and working as a Christian missionary in Portugal. "Great article. I cherish the times (when) we have all gone fishing together. Would love to get all three generations on the water together next time we are in Colorado."
    Followed by my oldest son who's 40. "Thanks for sharing. I cherish and remember the many times we've got to fish together and look forward to getting the three generations together on the water. Sounds like this guy (you Jack) may be a good guide when we do that.'
    I have so many great fishing memories. One particular memory I have (yes, I have a good memory) was the day we went to Tebo coin shop and sold your coin collection and took the money to buy our first fishing gear. I'll never forget that."
    Love you dad.