Robert “Bob” William Eldredge, the 2010 Maryland Horseman of the Year who was locally known for giving underprivileged kids opportunities to learn more about nature and camping, died Feb. 15 at 90.
Mr. Eldredge had suffered from Alzheimer’s disease for 11 years, said his daughter, Wendy Eldredge-Pace.
Before her father’s death, her fondest memories of him were his “incredible imagination” and his storytelling, she said. Canoeing and camping trips were the norm for the Eldredge household, according to both of his daughters.
“There was a gentle way about him. I never wanted to disappoint him because he was just a unique man of honor,” Mrs. Eldredge-Pace said.
His other daughter, Kim Eldredge-Wright, said the involvement of being in nature constantly has “very much affected” how she lives her life today when it comes to what she votes for and a general passion for the environment.
“There are just so many different things in my life that are probably related to him,” she said.
Mr. Eldredge was passionate about the environment, nature and animals, but especially horses.
Mr. Eldredge was born Sept. 10, 1929, in Middletown, Connecticut, to Brigadier Douglas G. Eldredge and Dorothy Eldredge — two Salvation Army officers.
At age 12, the younger Mr. Eldredge was working at the Salvation Army’s Camp Puh’tok in northern Baltimore County, which was founded by his father in 1942.
Mr. Eldredge grew up taking care of and grooming horses at Camp Puh’tok, where he later was referred to as the “Keeper of Horses” after a Sioux Native American gave him the name in the 1940s.
Mr. Eldredge graduated from Baltimore City College in the late 1940s and went on to attend Baltimore County Community College and what was then Towson State. After deciding not to finish Towson State, Mr. Eldredge joined the Navy and was assigned to the USS Roosevelt and USS Jason.
He served with the 7th Fleet during the Korean War from 1951 to 1955 while working in communications, participating in Exercise Mainbrace and Exercise Longstep.
Exercise Mainbrace was a naval exercise organized by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.
After the war, he graduated from Springfield College in Massachusetts in 1958, majoring in recreation. That year, he met his wife, Peggy Lee Schoepflin, after injuring himself falling off a mule. Ms. Schoepflin was a camp nurse at the time.The two were married later that year.
It was also during his time at camp that Mr. Eldredge developed a friendship with Orioles Senior Vice President Lou Kousouris.
Mr. Kousouris said he was 14 at the time he met Mr. Eldredge in 1958. The two later had a 60-year friendship. In 1961, Mr. Eldredge began working for his father at the top bar ranch and later became the wrangler.
Mr. Eldredge and his wife relocated temporarily to New York, where he became the director of The Boys Club in Delaware and New York. It was during this time that his two daughters, Kim Eldredge and Wendy Eldredge, were born. The family later returned to the Baltimore area, where he lived in Monkton and worked at the Middle River Boys Clubs and again at Camp Puh’tok.
He became the managing editor and art director of The Maryland Horse magazine until 1986, looking to give it a National Geographic feel. He ended up winning 11 first-place awards from American Horse Publications for the magazine’s layout and design.
Mr. Eldredge continued to show he was of man of many hats and talents, working in watercolor and oils to create Maryland fox hunting country and Maryland Hunt Cup course maps. In 1966, he designed and created illustrations and maps in the Steeplechase book “Jay Trump: A Steeplechasing Saga” by Peter Winants.
Mr. Eldredge was known for providing opportunities for underprivileged youth to camp and to be exposed to different nature learning experiences.
By 1967, Mr. Eldredge began chartering a plane for a fly-in to the Canadian Northwoods. Two years later on a canoe trip to the Lac La Croix waters, he nearly met with disaster when his canoe spun out of control in unexpected turbulent water. In the 1970s he led many wilderness trips with groups of young men.
Mr. Kousouris says doing this work and providing opportunities for teenagers in Baltimore almost came naturally to Mr. Eldredge and that his understanding of animals, nature and the environment was far ahead of that of his peers at the time. This was evident as Mr. Eldredge was honored as the 2010 Maryland Horseman of the Year, an award that honors people with a long, productive career in the equine industry.
“He knew about the environment, he knew the opportunity of kids and he did things to further the kids and that interest," Mr. Kousouris said.
Mr. Eldredge and his wife were married for 49 years until she died in 2007. He had decided years ago, Mrs. Eldredge-Pace said, to donate his body for research. Since his death, the family has decided to donate his brain to the brain bank in hopes of further researching possibly finding a cure for Alzheimer’s disease.
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“While we have lost the embodiment of Bob Eldredge, we can honor and find peace in the legacy he left behind for all of us to share, celebrate, and continue for generations to come. Puh’tok will remember Bob as one of nature’s protectors; someone who recognized the beauty and significance in nature’s details,” the statement said.
“We will carry his art, his vision, his voice, and his care and heart for Puh’tok with us in our own minds and souls. We are so grateful for his inspiration.”
Mrs. Eldredge-Pace said a celebration of life will be held for her father at the Puh’tok camp April 19.
In addition to his two daughters, Mr. Eldredge is survived by five grandchildren; his brother; Gordon “Moke” Eldredge of Billings, Missouri; and many nieces, nephews and adopted grandchildren. Mr. Eldredge was preceded in death by three siblings, Douglas Eldredge Jr., Jean Hoen and Evelyn Fugitt.