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News from The Grey Owl

Robert “Bob” Picken: 1932-2019.  R.I.P.

2019-02-06: Reflections on Bob Picken from his fellow Directors

I met Bob Picken for the first time in the late seventies. I was a young sports announcer for CBWFT, the French Radio-Canada television station. And I remember hearing his voice coming from the old announcers lounge on the second floor when you walked in the CBC building on Portage Avenue. And even when he was doing his sportscast on the air, you could hear his voice coming through the walls of the studio. So much for sound proofing. Not only did Bob have this incredible voice, but he also was a fantastic writer. And his delivery was always impeccable.

I had been coming to the Grey Owl for a number of years when Bob approached me to join the Board of Directors in the early nineties. I agreed without hesitation and I must say, working in his company on organizing this golf tournament for almost 30 years, has been one of the most enjoyable experiences of my life.

Last year, I was very proud to put forward a resolution to change the name of our annual Honour Award to the Robert J. Picken Honour Award, to recognize Bob’s contribution to this tournament.

Bob was the Grey Owl, and without his tireless contribution, this golf tournament would not have had the success that it has known for the past 60 years or so.

We will miss his Picken Report at our monthly meetings; we will miss his presence at the starter’s tent during the tournament; we will miss his direction and expertise but most importantly, we will miss the man, our friend Pick.

François Riopel

Grey Owl director

I was invited onto the Board of Directors of the Grey Owl by Ralph Bagley in 1996.  As you can imagine, attending my first meeting of the board was somewhat intimidating, seeing and meeting people such as Jack Wells, Ed Dearden, Dallas Beck,  Marcel Gautier and, of course, Bob Picken.

I have had the privilege of working with Bob Picken ever since. We worked together on computerizing aspects of the tournament.  Most of the work was in regards to him being the Drawmaster.  We would get together at my house and prepare the Entry Bulletin and Entry Form for mail-out or via email. We would go through the database and update each and every name that submitted an entry.  During the tournament we would work for hours on each days draw.  We would work on each days scoresheets, updating them by hand till 3 or 4am and be ready for the morning so we could post them up on the scoreboards.  And, while it was a lot of work, it was also filled with a lot of fun and laughter.

Bob was very much “old school”.  Although he was adopting new ways of doing things [computers, email, etc] he somehow could not get rid of typewriter habits.  I guess he used an IBM Selectric electric typewriter because Bob would write emails that used the space-bar for wrapping lines with columnar text like our duty roster and the tee-times for the Knobby Beck tournament, which is held the Thursday before the Grey Owl begins. His text would not line up unless your email windows was a size that matched his when he created the content.  I tried to explain to Bob that Tabs could be set and he should hit ENTER at the end of each line.  But, while he understood, he kept on with his ways of doing things.  He was also the fastest 4-finger typist I have ever seen.

What struck me most was the way Bob conducted himself.  Very professional. Thoughtful. Opinionated and firm in his decisions, but they were based upon his thoughtful insight and vast experience. Also, Bob treated everyone with respect and friendship.

Bob in so many ways was the public face of the Grey Owl Golf tournament.  More than that, he was the structure of how the tournament was run the past 20+ years.  He was a mentor, a role model and I am proud to say he was my friend.  He will be missed. Most of all he will be remembered.

John Nordien

Grey Owl Director

Here is the classic joke Bob once told at the Grey Owl Howl…

Two Trees and a Woodpecker
Two tall trees, a birch and a beech, are growing in the woods.
A small tree begins to grow between them, and the beech says to the birch, ‘Is that a son of a beech or a son of a birch?’

The birch says he cannot tell, but just then a woodpecker lands on the sapling.

The birch says, ‘Woodpecker, you are a tree expert. Can you tell if that is a son of a beech or a son of a birch?’

The woodpecker takes a taste of the small tree and replies, ‘It is neither a son of a beech nor a son of a birch. It is, however, the best little piece of ash I have ever poked my pecker into.’

Bob brought down the house!

Todd Slatnik

Grey Owl Director