Art Graham joined the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation in 1988 with Terry Sweet. I’m not sure how the conversation went, but knowing those two, I’m sure it was a good one. When it came to the RMEF, there wasn’t much Art wouldn’t do. This earned him the nickname “Terry’s Do-Boy”. As a committee member, Art was in charge of running the raffles and served as a state chair as well.
Art passed away unexpectedly on August 25, 2019. After his death, the Grand Junction Chapter took up a collection to make a Habitat Partner donation in his honor.
I was an avid ice fisherman before I finally convinced Art Graham, my dad, to go out on the ice for the first time. That first trip didn’t produce many fish. He did catch a very large crawdad, shared a ton of laughs and spent some quality time with family. After that first trip, I wasn’t sure I’d ever get him back out on hard water. But, to my surprise, Dad was hooked.
Three months after Dad passed, Chris Rose brought to me the idea for an ice fishing tournament in Dad’s honor. I loved it! Rose and I had quite the discussion to hash out the details and how to best bring it to the committee. When we pitched the idea, we were met with mixed reactions. Some thought we shouldn’t have come to the committee meeting, while others were receptive of the idea.
That first tournament was a success as well as a learning experience. What impressed me the most was all the people who participated and supported the initial tournament in honor of my dad.
This year is the fourth annual event and its running strong! We have two divisions: adult and youth. The kids get SWAG at sign-up as well as cash prizes at the end – just like the adults. Dad would have wanted it that way. The tournament also features various raffles and a silent auction with proceeds benefiting RMEF. The tournament site features several lakes, a lodge with a restaurant/bar and lodging accommodations.
We are sure to have more tournaments to raise money for elk country and wildlife conservation in the future. I welcome this because every year, at least one person makes it a point to share with me an Art Graham story. These stories, along with the annual ice fishing tournament in his honor, ensure my dad’s memory will go on forever. If he were here today, he’d be telling everyone he knew and every stranger he met – encouraging them to join us. That job is now mine, so join us, won’t you?
By Steele Graham