Kratky, Robert Kim May 15, 1946 – Mar 12, 2013
Kim enjoyed a long and fulfilling life as a West Kootenay educator, mountaineer, skier, environmental activist, husband, father and grandfather.
Born in Kansas City, Missouri, he attended that city’s public schools and went on to earn degrees in History and in English from the university of Kansas. While an undergraduate, he joined Delta Tau Delta social fraternity, which led to life-long friendships so important to someone with no siblings. In 1969 Kim earned a Master of Arts in English Literature from Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois and immediately moved to the faculty at Central Michigan University’s English Department, where he was an Instructor for two years. Yearning for overseas travel in the summer of 1971, Kim resigned his post for European and Middle Eastern gallivanting. In Nicosia, Cyprus, he met his future wife and life partner Canadian Janice Isaac and they traveled together.
They returned to the USA and then moved to Nelson, B. C. Canada in March, 1973. Kim acquired his Canadian Landed status, taught part-time at the old Notre Dame University of Nelson and worked as a labourer at Kootenay Forest Products and the CPR (Canadian Pacific Railway). In December 1974, the couple left on another trip, this time, a year long journey through Africa by public transport from north to south – a defining experience in Kim’s life. Back in Nelson in 1976, Kim earned his BC Professional Teaching Certificate at Notre Dame and went immediately to teach at Stanley Humphries Secondary in Castlegar, 1977 – 1990.
In 1985, the couple lived in Tugun, Queensland, where Kim was on a teacher exchange at Mermaid Waters near Surfer’s Paradise, Australia. Kim and Janice were married in Queensland, Australia in 1985. After returning to Canada in 1986, they adopted daughter Karla from Honduras and in 1988 they adopted her sister, Julia, completing their family. In 1990 Kim was hired by Selkirk College where he was a member of the English and Renewable Resources faculties, teaching composition, literature, Commonwealth Literature and various resource related courses until his retirement in 2010.
Kim’s mountaineering began in 1973 when he and Janice joined the Kootenay Mountaineering Club (KMC) and Kim made his first ascent, an easy slog up Ymir Mtn. Kim honed his skills, became a volunteer rock and snow instructor for the KMC (it was all amateur in those days) and attended his first of many KMC summer climbing camps in 1976, this one at Deville Neve south of Rogers Pass. He was a regular at these camps over 30 years, climbing extensively in the Selkirk, Purcell, and Monashee Mountain Ranges. In 1996 and 1998 Kim was part of two locally-based, self-contained, non-guided climbing expeditions in Peru and Bolivia. Both times, the party met with great success (Pisco Deste, 18,872 ft., in the Cordillera Blanca; Huayna Potosi, 20,000 ft, Cordillera Real of Bolivia). Around the year 2000, Kim began to climb with David Jones’ Flying Circus, a link that led to warm friendships and new climbing opportunities. Kim provided “exceptional assistance” in providing data for two of Jones’ books, Selkirks South and Selkirks North. As Kim’s career matured, he turned more to backcountry skiing and was a regular in the Whitewater Backcountry and at Kootenay Pass, often racking up 50 – 60 backcountry days per season with wife Janice and main ski partner Howie Ridge. He was also at recent ski mountaineering camps at Blanket Glacier, Mt. Lyell, and Fairy Meadows.
Kim expressed his love for rural BC in his decades long involvement with the environmental movement. In 1981, he was part of a three day climbing and hiking traverse of the Valhallas with Ministry employees to help put the final stamp on Valhalla Provincial Park. Having been the KMC Conservation Chair for some two decades, he represented the club at stakeholder meetings where numerous agreements over backcountry commercial recreation were hammered out. In the 1990’s, he became a member of West Arm Watershed Alliance’s steering committee and worked to create West Arm Wilderness Park. Since 1990, Kim has been very active on the West Kootenay side in working to preserve the Jumbo Creek valley from a massive mega ski resort. At the time of his illness, he was spokesperson for West Kootenay Coalition for “Jumbo Wild” and had addressed numerous local rallies and sparred with the developers over a twenty-year period.
Kim was a keen gardener and cook. His interest in the study of Spanish language and literature led to multiple visits to Central America and Spain, a six month sojourn in South America and a love for, and familiarity with, Latin American fiction in the original Spanish. Kim is survived by his wife, Janice and his two very much loved adult daughters, Karla and Julia, and a wonderful baby grandson Joel, born in 2012.
Kim always said he had no regrets – there was no “bucket list” left for him. He imagined himself as like a character in Shakespeare’s Macbeth: “We shall not soon see his like again”. He was right.
Note: As an English instructor, Kim wrote elegant articles about virtually every one of his climbs. They start to appear in about 1981 in the KMC Newsletter and continue until his health started to deteriorate. He was easily the greatest contributor to the KMC Karabiner and Newsletter. After Kim died, I was able to procure a disc that supposedly had everything he ever wrote. On an outdated computer, it was retrieved on a floppy and the computer language deciphered. What came out on the CD though, was only a fraction of his writing. The rest has been retrieved from the downloads on the KMC website. I think I have included all his writing for posterity.