Celebrating the life of tireless outdoors woman, Robbi Castleberry
If you enjoy the marvelous Centennial Trail, thank Robbi Castleberry.
Should you notice that homes do not line the Palisades and the Rimrock area – those basalt cliffs to the west of the Spokane River near Indian Canyon – and that is now an area for all to enjoy, tip your hat to Robbi Castleberry.
If the area in which we live that is so very, very rich in all things outdoors, is something you really appreciate, perhaps offer a prayer of thanks to Robbi Castleberry.
Castleberry, who along with husband Vic, were tireless advocates of project after project after project and cause after cause after cause, passed away June 10 at age 80 of apparent cardiac arrest in her home near Indian Canyon.
She was both eulogized – and largely celebrated – last Thursday in the Commons at the Mukagowa Fort Wright Institute by a packed room numbering heaven knows how many.
As in most memorials, there were pictures, there were tears, there was music and a seemingly endless procession of people who told the usual tales associated with one’s life.
But first, after Vic Castleberry personally greeted everyone upon their arrival in a receiving line, there was beer, wine and food, an odd juxtaposition for a memorial service. But unique just the same, much like Robbi.
Close friend and conservation collaborator, Lunell Haught, marveled at the crowd that still was in front of her 2 ½ hours after the fork on a wine glass somewhere in the mingling crowd went ting, ting, ting and let everyone know it was time to take care of the business of letting Robbi know what a big part she has played in our community, how she’ll be missed, and who will wear her many hats in the years to come.
“She and I worked on the organization end of outdoor work - the Conservation Futures Campaigns, Centennial Trail, Washington State Summer Games canoe and kayak venue and competitors,” Haught said. “So we’d start working on something and I’d call her and she’d say ‘I’m going canoeing’ or ‘I’m going riding’ and she always got things done, but she’d go off and have great times - so it was nice to meet all the people she was playing with,” Haught, the chair of the Spokane County Parks Advisory Committee told the crowd.
If it had river, outdoors, nature or conservation it its title or reason for being over the better part of past half-century, it likely has a Castleberry fingerprint on it.
That was evident at Mukagowa where canoeists, horsemen and hikers proceeded to the microphone to tell a Robbi story. So many in fact that the auditorium chairs made the back and butt pretty sore. Maybe like Robbi’s hands, feet and rump and the good pain that came from paddling, hiking and riding horses.
Robbi was born and raised in Spokane. She never strayed far from her childhood home at Sunset Florists at the top of Spokane’s iconic Sunset Boulevard. She and husband Vic built their home not much more than a mile away where they raised and avidly rode horses.
That’s of course when they weren’t exploring rivers all over the West, and beyond.
I knew Robbi as a pioneer paddler who helped deliver much needed river access, both to floaters and the public to our gem of a river.
Arguably it was the paddling community where Robbi – and Vic her retired cardiologist husband – were best known. But don’t say that in front of legions of backcountry horsemen, Conservation Futures program or those fond of the Allegro Baroque Concert Series.
The two met in the late 1960s when Vic migrated north from his native Texas to work at the Rockwood Clinic. That’s where Robbi worked as a medical tech.
The two attended an outdoors show in 1969 and spied a pair of aluminum canoes for sale. One was a flatwater craft and the other fit for whitewater. “We flipped a coin and got the river canoe,” Vic said. So began a 40-plus year journey that has seen the couple paddle virtually every navigable river and creek in the Northwest and Western Canada.
And on one of those many trips down the river an encounter with Mother Nature’s magic likely brought us the Centennial Trail.
One spring evening along the river it began to rain, Robbi recalled. The combination of rain and setting sun was a sight that took her breath away. “The river is just spouting diamonds,” she said.
“Man,” she thought. “People just have to be able to view this thing forever; so there came the start of the (start of the) Centennial Trail.”
Thanks Robbi for this and all the other great things you’ve left us. We’ll try to work as hard as you did keep them as places for other generations to enjoy.
Paul Delaney can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.