2023 Spirit Stick Caretaker: Bob Funk

Spirit Stick Award Winner 2023 Bob Funk
Robert "Bob" Funk, 2023 Spirit Stick Caretaker. Photo by Cameron Gillie (aroundwisco.com)

Robert “Bob” Funk, a resident of Whitewater and member of the Waukesha/Milwaukee County Chapter, is the Spirit Stick caretaker for 2023. The Ice Age Trail Alliance staff bestowed this honor during the Awards and Recognition Ceremony at the Annual Conference and Membership Meeting, in Sheboygan, in April 2023.

Bob Funk inspires the entire Ice Age Trail Alliance community with his passion for the Ice Age National Scenic Trail. His long-time dedication has encompassed a wide range of activities: Trailbuilding and maintenance, Crew Leadership, and serving for many years on the Ice Age Trail Alliance’s Board of Directors.  

The Ice Age Trail Alliance’s Spirit Stick award symbolizes long-term dedication and service to the Ice Age National Scenic Trail and is presented to only one recipient per year. The Spirit Stick nominees must exhibit a passion for the Ice Age National Scenic Trail that has become a way of life; lead by example and inspire those around them; and carry out their service in a spirit of cooperation, optimism, and enthusiasm.

Bob Funk is known for his humility, thoughtful communication, and calm demeanor – the hallmarks of an effective leadership style. He’s also known for rolling up his sleeves and diving into projects. Since 2008, Funk has been a fixture at MSC events. As his trailbuilding skills evolved – crafting tread, rock work, and building boardwalk – he sought Crew Leader Training, wishing to guide future MSC volunteers. As a result, his role at MSC events expanded to include Crew Leader Manager, Technical Advisor, trainer for new crew leaders, and IAT-U instructor. Yet, at the end of the day, he can also be found lending a hand in the camp kitchen. And, at the local level, Funk actively participates in Monday Mudders, a weekly work group of the Waukesha/Milwaukee County Chapter.

Carousel images: 1. Bob’s wife, Jane, congratulates him on his award. 2. Debbie Krogwold, the 2022 Spirit Stick caretaker, greets Bob. 3. Dean Dversdall, a past Spirit Stick caretaker, congratulates Bob, along with past winners: Dean Paynter, Bill Welch, and Dolly McNulty. 4. Bob offers a few words. 5. Bob flanked by Debbie Krogwold and Luke Kloberdanz, Executive Director and past Spirit Stick caretaker. All photos by Cameron Gillie, AroundWisco.com.

His quiet and subtle expertise is unmatched. He has the unique ability to bring others up to his level – in work ethic, skill level, wisdom, and integrity,” she said. “Bob’s soft-spoken demeanor makes all of us (Monday) Mudders feel appreciated. We all know how important the Trail is to him, through his service on the Board and at MSC events, but it has been such a pleasure to get to work with him at the local level.” ~Pat Witkowski, past Spirit Stick caretaker and Trail Coordinator for the Waukesha/Milwaukee County Chapter

Funk’s passion for the Ice Age National Scenic Trail led him to accept a term on the Board of Directors, which led to more. All told, he has been a board member for 11 years with 4 of those years serving as Board President.

Here too, Funk has made a lasting impact through his involvement and dedication. He leads committees and actively participates in committee work. His diligence to details, thoughtful approach to challenges, and effective leadership has strengthened and moved the Alliance forward while focusing on sustainable growth. He has hosted numerous donor events, leading the way with his own decade-long commitment to the Yellow Blaze Club.

It’s clear: Bob Funk’s love for the Trail has undoubtedly become a way of life. 

Congratulations, Bob!

Funk was nominated by:

  • Sharon Dziengel, Thousand-Miler and Spirit Stick Caretaker 2013
  • John Kolbe, Waukesha/Milwaukee County Chapter member
  • Dave Lonsdorf, Dane County Chapter member and Spirit Stick Caretaker 2021
  • Pat Witkowski, Waukesha/Milwaukee County Chapter member and Spirit Stick Caretaker 2017
  • Mike Wollmer, Retired Executive Director of the Ice Age Trail Alliance