Fred Hurd passed away on Sunday, November 3rd, in California, one day after his 91st birthday. Fred, and his surviving wife Marie, have both been suffering from alzheimer's disease.
The Houston Canoe Club traces its origin to friendships formed by four men through the rigors of the first-ever four-day Texas Water Safari in 1963. Only two tandem teams managed to finish that grueling race, and Fred Hurd was on one of them - he paddled in the second place canoe in this race and went on to become one of the founding members of the club. Fred credited the Texas Water Safari with generating the publicity that created interest in canoeing on the part of members of the public. The club was officially founded at a meeting on October 7, 1964, at the Park Place police sub-station in Houston. According to the 30th Anniversary Commemorative Newsletter (October 1994), about twelve families were present at this organizational meeting. By the thirtieth anniversary the club had more than 300 members. It continues with an active membership, coordinating, according to its website in May 2012, “some 50 floats accumulating some 7,000 member miles a year".
The following are tributes written by various members of the club who knew Fred personally.
Fred Hurd helped found the Houston Canoe Club almost 50 years ago. After he and his teammate dominated the first Texas Water Safari, they decided to start a canoe racing club with 2 other men. The first idea was to call it Canoe Association of Texas (CAT), hence the first logo was of a bobcat paddling a canoe, but Fred told me they felt presumptuous to encompass the whole state and so settled on the more localized name we have now. According to Fred, in those early days, besides racing, there was strong interest in sailing and bow-hunting from canoes. By the way, Fred was a champion black powder rifleman, and retired corporate pilot.
Fred was a modest, but determined man, always genial when I was around him, as well as kind, thoughtful, and cheerful with a nice sense of humor. It was always a pleasure to hang out with Fred and Marie, on or off the water. A canoe with Fred in it was a beautiful thing. His paddling style seemed relaxed and effortless, but so efficient there was no keeping up with him! Tandem with Marie, she barely had to paddle.
I've missed Fred and Marie since they moved away, and she and their family are in my prayers now.
"...I cannot imagine Heaven, not even in my dreams / But I pray that it has water and the water flows in streams..."
Fred Hurd was one of nicest gentlemen one will ever meet. He and Marie were gracious and kind to everyone they encountered in the canoe club, and certainly to me. During the late 1980's and early 1990's, Fred and Marie paddled with the HCC on the Guadalupe River and the Medina River. On one particular occasion, the canoe club was camped on the property as guests of the owners (whose name escapes me, now) located on the Medina River where Highway 16 crosses the river just west of Bandera. As many of us remember, the Medina River is an excellent swift water stream with rocky rapids and challenging currents. At one rapid, one which was not dangerous or difficult, but it was certainly rocky, Fred and Marie were in their tandem kevlar canoe. I thought that a kevlar boat was not a good choice, considering all of the rocks in this section of the river. Nevertheless, I watched with awe as Fred deftly navigated their canoe through the rocks. He scarcely seemed to be paddling. While I had run down through there thrashing a bit and drawing hard to avoid crashing into a boulder, Fred simply slipped his boat past every obstacle as effortlessly as if he were on Luce's Bayou. His paddling skill was a pleasure to behold.
That evening at camp, Fred brought out his black powder rifle. He was a state black powder champion for many years during those times. Targets were set up in the wooded area near camp, and Fred proceed to hold a clinic on firing his rifle. If you have not had a chance to try to shoot a black powder gun, it is definitely an art. To be able to hit a target is beyond comprehension, at least for me. I tried to hold the heavy rifle steady while the hammer fell, the powder fizzed and the shot exploded. The ball that flew out went no where near the target, so I told Fred that was enough for me. Fred went on to shoot many more times. Each time, he was right on target.
When my kids were old enough to begin paddling, Fred brought me a small Sawyer wooden paddle. He said it would help them learn canoeing. And, it did. The boys used that paddle until it wore out. That's the way Fred was -- always interested in paddling and generous to us all. So, it is with much sadness that we hear of Fred's passing. God bless him.
John and Cindy Bartos:
Fred Hurd passed away on November 3, 2013 one day after his 91st birthday. Fred was one of the founding members of the Houston Canoe Club which was formed in 1964. He later was honored along with his wife Marie as Honorary Lifetime Members of the HCC. He and his partner were second place finishers in the first Texas Water Safari. If you haven’t read Phil Montgomery’s description of that race and the origins of the Houston Canoe Club published in 1994, it is definitely worth a read: here.
Fred was a pleasure to be around and he and his wife Marie were a cute couple. He was kind and soft spoken and accomplished in so many things. We always thought we were strong paddlers until we found ourselves working hard to keep up with Fred who never appeared to be working hard at all. I remember him talking about going up to the Boundary Waters years before lightweight camping gear was available and doing things like drilling numerous holes in his eating utensils to save weight. We enjoyed his describing his regular habit in his later years of paddling solo out in the San Jacinto River area above Lake Houston near his home and after paddling a bit he would tie his boat to a tree in the shade and play his harmonica and maybe take a nap. Sounds pretty good to us.
In the early 90’s Fred and I (and Ann Derby) ordered custom wood and canvas solo canoes from Tom Mackenzie of Loon Works. Our boats were going to be ready for delivery in Louisiana at the La Louisianne Canoe Symposium. Cindy and I were on the teaching staff there and Fred asked if we would bring his boat home for him. He said that we could use it while we were there if we wanted. We, of course demurred, but he said that if we did use it we need to properly dedicate it prior to first launch. The steps were are follows: 1. Name it. (Fred gave us his name and I can’t quite remember what it was now.); 2. Splash it with a liquid, whether it be champagne, coke or river water, and most importantly; 3. Step into your boat the first time with your right foot first.
We have passed that advice on to many new boat owners and it has served us well. We were honored and proud to have known Fred. May he rest in peace.
Fred Hurd, Bob Arthur,
Ken Hurd and John Bartos
Ken Hurd and
Photos courtesy of Jim Arthur
John and Ann Olden
Fred was a rare person. It sounds corny, but there aren't many people who are as genuinely good and kind as Fred. He was always positive and never said an unkind word about others. Although never boastful, he was so proud that the club which grew out of a group of families that wanted to camp and canoe together still flourished. He was always eager to tell you about where he had last canoed and where he wanted to go next.
He loved to tell about his first date with Marie. They went canoeing, it rained, and she put a bucket on her head to keep it dry. They were inseparable and still clearly in love with each other. Of course Marie worried when Fred went canoeing alone, but she understood he needed to do that. He loved to talk about paddling in the first Water Safari. We recall a photo on their wall showing a bicycle pulling a cart with a canoe on it. It was in the Heights, and he took the canoe to Buffalo Bayou.
In their later years he and Marie shot their annual deer to use for meat for a year. He had had a heart attack (?) at some point and ate deer meat instead of beef because deer meat had no fat.
Marie and Fred Hurd