Elizabeth Olson, Liz Matteson, Jane Matteson and Bob Matteson at Sig Olson’s writing shack in Ely, MN.
In 1991 I had the honor of taking Bob Matteson on his last canoe trip to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area. Bob led an amazing life. In addition to starting the Sigurd Olson Institute at Northland College in Ashland, WI, Bob did many wilderness adventures, traversing the North American continent with his children along the way. Bob was dear friends with Sig and Elizabeth Olson. It was fitting that we started the last trip from Sigurd Olson’s Listening Point cabin on Burntside Lake north of Ely.
Bob served in what became the CIA during WW II. Immediately after the war he was sent to Switzerland to capture Nazi war criminals, and he caught the big one, Ernst Kaltenbruner. Kaltenbruner was a primary figure in the holocaust and the highest-ranking member of the SS to face trial at the first Nuremberg Trials. He was found guilty of crimes against humanity and executed.
Listening to Bob tell stories of his life and career was a bit surreal as we paddled through the pristine beauty of the Boundary Waters. Bob served as a high ranking U.S. official in Vietnam, overseeing a vast territory in South Vietnam. Also on the trip was Dan Sandstrom, a Vietnam veteran who was seriously wounded in the territory Bob oversaw, and while Bob was there. Bob and Dan became friends on that Last Canoe Trip, brought together in the wilderness 20 years after the war.
To download a copy of Bob’s log click here. It’s a fun read!