On Jan. 23, 1951, Bob was born in Jersey City, New Jersey, to Vernon and Eleanor Harte. He grew up playing baseball, hunting, fishing, trapping and getting into mischief with his three brothers. Bob's grandfather, "Pop-Pop," was instrumental in Bob's life, teaching him construction skills, and more importantly, to think independently. At 21, after a short stint in college, Bob was restless to experience the Alaskan lifestyle he had read about.
Bob landed in Southeast Alaska, where he spent his first few winters trapping near Wrangell. Next, he headed north to the Interior. Fort Yukon became his home base as he trapped in different locations around the area. He quickly established a name for himself and met many lifelong friends. Bob heard about an abandoned trapline in the Brooks Range, and there, finally found his home. For more than 40 years, Bob lived on his trapline from early fall until spring.
His best trapline memories revolved around the times when his family joined him. The family included his daughter, Talicia; stepson, Traver; foster son, Steve; wife, Nancy; and their dog team. Bob's favorite spot on Earth was the "throne," a high rock outcropping that overlooks the river near his cabin. He loved to sit on the throne, drink a pot of coffee and take in the view. He marveled that he was the only human around for miles.
Bob was very proud to have participated in a Russian/American trapper exchange program in the early 1990s, when he trapped with families in Russia. This was a first for any American trapper, and it helped bridge the cultural and political divide between the two nations. Back on the home front, he made ends meet by working seasonal carpentry projects for the Binkley family in Fairbanks.
In Bob's words, he was an "excellent trapper, hunter, fisherman, outdoorsman, carpenter and log builder." He wanted people to know that the Holy Spirit was his guide and best friend, protecting him and providing companionship during the many years on the trapline. He loved his family deeply, particularly his daughter, Talicia. His dream was to finish building her home so that she and her 8-month-old daughter, Carmella, could live comfortably.
On Friday, July 21, 2017, Bob attended his own celebration of life. He sat around the fire, drank a few beers and told stories with longtime friends. This was his last night on Earth. Who would have thought that this would be his final exit? His family and friends always joked that Bob had nine lives. If you stopped to count, it was probably closer to 20. After wrecking his motorcycle, crashing his plane, accidentally shooting himself, falling off his cabin wall, swamping his boat in the ocean, crashing another plane, getting run over on his motorcycle, having brain surgery, crashing another plane (I could go on), God chose a peaceful passage for him. It is ironically fitting.
Bob chose to live life differently. The famous lyrics sung by Frank Sinatra resonate, as Bob did his life "My Way." At his final gathering of friends and family, he mentioned how thankful he was for all the people in his life. He said, "You are my family and I love you dearly." I'm sure this message extended to all those who were connected to him. Bob is gone, but his spirit lives on in each of us. He now has eternal peace. "Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place ..." (Mark 6:31, NIV).
A memorial service will be held for Bob at 7 p.m., Saturday, July 29, at the Chena Village, off Tall Spruce Road. In lieu of flowers, please send gifts in the name of Nancy Becker (Talicia Harte's mother) to: 2655 Tall Spruce Road, Fairbanks, AK 99709.
Published in Daily News-Miner on Jul. 28, 2017.