Norm Minas

Feb. 22, 1957-Dec. 23, 2017

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Tammy Minas remembers well the first time her future husband took her on a fishing date.

“He gave me a rod and reel and showed me how to cast,’’ Tammy said. “He sat there and watched. I caught so many, bluegills, I think.’’

She married Norm Minas more than 32 years ago.

“I didn’t go with him many times after that,’’ Tammy said. “That was his thing. His way to unwind.’’

For those new to relationship building, that is a core truth, giving the other space.

Fishing was Minas’ thing. He was the great explorer of the Kankakee River watershed. He passed along knowledge in his online fishing posts. He contributed the Kankakee report for the Midwest Fishing Report for years. He met and helped people by the water’s edge–Patrick Curran and Patrick Patel come to mind.

That changed last summer when cancer treatment put the damper on his tramping around.

Minas died the Saturday before Christmas. He thought he had fought back cancer again. He initially had squamous skin cancer. It spread to his tongue and his neck. Then he thought he had that beat until it was discovered in his lungs last month.

As his wife sorted through his things, she found new subscriptions to fishing magazines. When I took Mr. Minas on a tour of memories (Nov. 15 Sun-Times), he talked of fishing again in the spring.

My hatred of cancer deepens profoundly.

Mr. Minas had just retired from the railroad–he was a train dispatcher for years–in April.

I asked Mike Clifford, who like Mr. Minas was a former conservation director for the Illinois Smallmouth Alliance, for memories, he messaged, “While doing a macroinvertebrate sampling in Rock Creek for the `Everglades of the North’ documentary, Norm stood at the edge of the water and explained in great detail everything that was happening.

“The man was a walking encyclopedia of knowledge. I eventually learned that fishing with him was not a relaxing morning spent chasing smallmouth [bass], it was a classroom. . . . and I soaked it all in.’’

Norm Minas in his environment, prepping to wade the Kankakee River near Langham Island for one of his last times, the Saturday before he began his final round of cancer treatment in July.
Credit: Dale Bowman

I caught my only 32-degree smallmouth with Mr. Minas. As important as fishing was, other matters were more interesting.

“With him, it was one of those things where you just talk about all things with no real point in particular,’’ remembered Ken Gortowski, the Fox River explorer. “I love those kind of rambling conversations that bounce around and around from one topic to the next and he was good at it.’’

I found out fishing with Mr. Minas that his music teacher in eighth grade at Spaulding School in Midlothian was Dennis DeYoung, before he was in Styx. Mr. Minas was a roadie for local bands in his younger days and a life-long Deadhead.

He is survived by his wife, two daughters, Amy and Molly, and a son, Zachary.

John Schenck established a GoFundMe in Mr. Minas’ memory. Click here to see.

There will be no formal services. His wife thinks there may be a memorial by the Kankakee–“You know how much he loved the river’’–in the spring and people might wear tie-dye.

The Kankakee is frozen bank to bank.

STRAY CAST: Burbot are the piscatorial equivalent of a James McMurtry song.

Norm Minas wading the Kankakee River, near Langham Island for one of the last times, the Saturday before he began his final round of cancer treatment. in July.
Credit: Dale Bowman