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Paul Anderswith Tinsel Mollie Sarge. | Phoprovided

Paul Anderson with Tinsel, Mollie and Sarge. | Photo provided

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Updated: June 23, 2013 6:08AM



“Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.”

—Benjamin Franklin

United States Sen. Bill Bradley (NBA Hall-of-Famer), director Steven Spielberg, astronaut Neil Armstrong and Paul Anderson of Lowell have something in common. They are part of the 2 percent of nearly 84 million Boy Scouts since 1911 who had what it took to make Eagle.

Anderson, 57, is a retired operating engineer (Local 150) who lives with Elaine, his wife of 28 years, and their three dogs. Tinsel (born on Christmas Eve) and Mollie are beagles. Sarge is a rat terrier Anderson inherited after his father, a master sergeant in World War II and Korea, passed away.

***

“I was born in Racine, Wis.,” Anderson began. “It was April Fool’s Day and Easter Sunday. We lived in seven states before I started school. My dad traveled with American Bridge after he got out of the service. He and his brother became operating engineers.

“I was the oldest and Mom said she didn’t want us going from school to school, so Dad had to settle down. We moved to Ross Township (Gary) until I was in third grade. Then we moved to Highland. That’s where I got into scouting. I was a member of Troop 266 and eventually joined the Order of the Arrow; it’s like an Indian camping fraternity in the Boy Scouts.”

Did you attend Highland High School?

“Yeah, I was on the swim team for four years. As a lifeguard, I worked at Woodmar, Sherwood Club, Wicker Park and at West Beach part of one summer.”

What was your best event?

“Breaststroke. I went to the University of Evansville for one year and set an intramural record for the 200-meter breaststroke. I was a law enforcement major thinking I’d become a state trooper. Boy, what a joke that is.”

Why do you say that?

“It didn’t pay much. I saw the light and went to work for (Local) 150.”

How long have you been a member of the Izaak Walton League?

“About 18 years. The Diana Chapter in Shelby became kind of famous for River Watch about eight or nine years ago. I think we were the first chapter to implement River Watch.”

Some readers won’t realize that the Diana Chapter property is located on the Kankakee River.

“The Kankakee is a very healthy river. We’ve never tested it where it wasn’t above average or excellent condition in our little spot there. So, that speaks of upstream. I can’t speak for downstream into Illinois. In my opinion, the most important part of River Watch is when we check the macro-invertebrates. They will tell you if there is anything wrong with the water. If you have insects that are not resistant to pollution, that’s a good thing.

“Snails are a good indicator of a healthy body of water. We have the larvae of dobson flies, caddis flies, dragonflies... Hellgrammites are a good sign.”

Tell me about you and your wife’s involvement with the Indiana Department of Natural Resources’ Hunter’s Education Classes. I know that you two put in a lot of hours on a volunteer basis.

“I couldn’t do it without Elaine — she’s integral. I’m not much on paperwork, plus she has a degree in geology. She teaches the kids the scientific part of it. I’m more of a hands-on guy. The kids need to go out to the range and handle the gun properly. If they show up for our River Watch, they need to be waist deep in the Kankakee netting bugs. But it’s not just us; when I put on a class, there’s a dozen people helping me do it.”

Dick Cheney should have taken hunter education classes.

“I use him for a bad example. It’s really all about mentoring; I learned that in the Scouts. I’ve spent my life mentoring kids and I’ll probably die mentoring kids. They get a certification through the class, so there’s a reward for them showing up.”

I’m sure the classes cover topics like how to pattern a shotgun or gun safety — which are extremely important — but what about intangibles?

“There are some ethics involved. Not everybody is real ethical. I kind of need to present everything in a way that makes the students want to be ethical. Hunters are conservationists, you know that as well as I do.”

There are some who have a hard time accepting that.

“The Audubon Society and all the bird watchers benefit from the duck, deer and pheasant hunters. Our license fees go to support conservation. Mostly habitat development and maintenance. Loss of habitat is the most important issue wildlife faces. If the bird watchers were really serious about their birds, they’d buy a hunting license. The sandhill cranes out at Jasper-Pulaski are a prime example.”

Other examples?

“Wood ducks. In the 1960s, everybody was cutting down all the trees. I quit hunting woodies and I haven’t shot a woody since. Instead, I’ve built hundreds wood duck boxes. River otters were trapped out almost a century ago. Back in the ‘80s and ‘90s, we reintroduced them. My wife and I sponsor two river otters.”

***

Almost four years ago, while searching for a fiscal sponsor for our documentary film, “Everglades of the North: The Story of the Grand Kankakee Marsh,” my co-producer Patty Wisniewski and I showed up at one of the Diana Chapter’s monthly Izaak Walton League meetings in Shelby.

There were about 50 members in attendance. Being raised near the river, I recognized a few of them. Patty didn’t know anybody. We showed a 14-minute promo to these fellas who call themselves Ikes. It wasn’t all that good. Then, we told the crowd we were lookin’ for some help.

At first, as Patty and I stood there in front of that motley crew, all you could here were crickets chirping in the bayou nearby. Then, a stockily built guy wearing a camo ball cap and long ponytail, stood up and while staring a hole right through Patty and me, said: “This film idea is a great thing and we need to back these folks.” At the time, I didn’t know him from Adam, but that guy was Paul Anderson. The rest is history.

Anderson has taught hunter education classes to more than 3,000 kids and young adults in the past 24 years.

And how did he earn his Eagle Scout badge?

Young Paul Anderson taught classes of mentally challenged children how to swim.



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