As a nonprofit organization, the ERWP relies significantly on the contributions of many volunteers to support our projects and assist with raising funds. In recognition of the efforts of these volunteers, the ERWP has established an annual Volunteer Award, to be presented at our Annual General Meeting in June each year.

The Robert Lee Annual Volunteer Award

It was with profound sadness and shock that the Elbow River Watershed Partnership received news of the passing of Dr. Robert Lee on March 31 this year at 80 years of age. Bob was a great friend of the ERWP; he served on its Board of Directors between 2008 and 2013, including as Chair for five of those years (2008-2012). He used his photography skills to provide us with A Photographic Journey Along the Elbow River, an amazing set of helicopter and ground photographs from the headwaters to the mouth, in 2007. But there were sides to Bob that many of us never realized.

In the field of neurological sciences, he was not only founding head of the Department of Clinical Neurosciences (University of Calgary), but also served as president of the Canadian Neurological Society, Editor-in-Chief of the Canadian Journal of Neurological Sciences, and Executive Vice-President of the Canadian Neurological Sciences Foundation. As part of his medical interests, he travelled extensively to share his knowledge with doctors in many countries in Asia, and was team doctor on the Canadian Mount Everest Expedition in 1986 (in which Canmore’s Sharon Wood summited).

As part of all of these interests, Bob had a fervent interest in the environment and the out-of-doors, only in the Elbow watershed in which he lived, but in Kananaskis Country and the Rockies. He was there in all seasons, hiking, snowshoeing and skiing with his buddies to the last.

In 2008 the ERWP was in its early stages and looking for ways to help maintain the watershed in good condition. Bob was freshly retired from being Head of the Department of Neurology at the Foothills Hospital and was an accomplished photographer.One of his personal photographic projects was taking year-round photos of the Elbow River Valley from the headwaters near Elbow Lake downstream to Calgary. Don Cockerton, an ERWP Board member at the time, encouraged him to apply to the ERWP for grant money to support his slide show project. The Board provided some funding and Don arranged for a government helicopter flight so Bob could take aerial shots. He assembled his photographs and musical accompaniment on DVD as A Photographic Journey Along the Elbow River and distributed them with the help of the Partnership. The ERWP used several of his beautiful photos as posters or framed prints for promotion, as well as for tokens of appreciation for donors or supporters. Through this project, Bob became interested in the goals and work of the ERWP and joined the volunteer Board. He soon became its Chair, which he claimed, with great humour, was due to his brief absence during an AGM. 

During Bob’s tenure, he broadened the base of ERWP supporters and strengthened its funding. Perhaps his greatest contribution was to begin holding the AGMs somewhere at the river – to keep everyone properly grounded. As former ERWP Chair Gloria Wilkinson remembers, on his own he hiked and photographed the whole river, giving everyone an even better appreciation of the Elbow.

Bob understood the value of the ERWP’s work to enhance the environment and public understanding, and was willing to invest his own time and abilities for this worthy purpose. The Partnership is larger and stronger as a result; it continues to grow and do more to take good care of our precious Elbow watershed.

To those of us who knew him, Bob was a man of great caring and great sharing. He was openhearted, grounded and accepting. There was no hierarchy of people in Bob’s life — he was curious, compassionate, supportive and understanding of all the people with whom he shared his life journey. What a world we would have if the majority of people were as open, capable and as accepting as Bob. He was a wonderful man to work with and to know. He left us a substantial legacy but we miss him greatly.

As a tribute to Bob, the ERWP has made him the recipient of our 2017 Volunteer Award, which hereinafter will be called The Robert Lee Annual Volunteer Award. A donation to his designated charity, the Nature Conservancy of Canada, is also being made.


2017: Dr. Robert (Bob) G. Lee  

2016: Dr. Ralph Cartar - The inaugural Volunteer Award was presented to Dr. Ralph Cartar, in recognition of his valued volunteer service to the Elbow River Watershed Partnership in collecting and providing water quality data for Bragg Creek over many years.