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Chicago Whitewater Association

Marge "Rivermom" Cline: December 27, 1940 - October 29, 2007

About Marge

Marge ClineKnown as Rivermom, Marge Cline started paddling in 1949 in a dugout canoe, and didn't stop paddling or being part of the community. Marge has been an important and active member of the both the Chicago Whitewater Association and American Whitewater. She has started and trained thousands of paddlers in the Chicago area for over 3 decades. In 2000, Marge Cline was honored by Paddler Magazine for being one of 100 "Paddlers of the 20th Century” who've made a difference.

Marge's love of paddling was illustrated in the spring of the same year when, suffering chest pains, she drove herself to the hospital. After angioplastic surgery, she rested a day and was paddling the next afternoon. Marge had a few additional strokes/attacks and continued to come to pool sessions to help instruct through 2007. She continued as editor for the club newsletter to her very last day. She was an extremely dedicated woman and paddler. CWA owes so much to her. We all mourn the loss of a paddling icon. Our hearts go out to her family and friends.

Bob Cline April 9, 1940 - November 7, 2007

Marge and Bob Cline

The Chicago Tribune had a really nice obituary in Thursday's paper. The online version does not have a picture, but the print version had a very large version of her doing the headstand.

Many attended the memorial service. Many thanks to all of you who attended. John Carol, Marge's cousin, catered the lunch after the service. He made this water melon sculpture.

watermelon sculpture from service watermelon sculpture from service

Memorial Fund

CWA has decided to offer a Marge Cline Memorial Fund (MCMF). The funds will be used to provide financial support for kids wanting to learn to paddle. If you would like to give a donation to the fund please write checks to CWA and note them as a donation. You can obtain the address by contacting membership (at) You can also send funds via paypal to paycwa (at ) and again note it in the memo field so we know it is for the MCMF. Members will get additional updates within our monthly newsletter.

Accomplishments and tidbits

  • AW President 1982-1988
  • Candidate for International Whitewater Hall of Fame 2006
  • Paddler Magazine - 100 Paddlers of the Century
  • 1990 ACA 'Legend of Paddling' award
  • 2002 ACA 'President's Award'
  • President of the Midwest Division of ACA
  • National board of directors of ACA
  • Instructor Trainer Educator with ACA (only 1 of about 20 in the country)
  • Editor of the CWA newsletter for 28.5 years - that must be a record for any newsletter editor!
  • Marge spend a fair amount of time behind her Super 8 movie camera in the early years, and more recently behind a video camera, recording various aspects of CWA history. She entered a number of videos in the National Paddling Film Festival, and was a regular at the first 10 or 12 Festivals, typically serving as a judge.
  • 1983 National Paddling Film Festival - Winner 8mm Film: Recreational Scenic – Gallatin and Yellowstone River
  • One of her signature moves was a headstand in the bow of a C-2 while surfing a wave with a trusted stern partner (see picture below)

Photo Gallery

Marge cooking her famous lasagne at the CWA beginners trip. Marge and Bob taken at Nancy and Todd's wedding in 1993. Photos courtesy of Sigrid Pilgrim.
marge cooking marge and bob at a wedding

Marge Cline doing her signature headstand while surfing on the river. Photos courtesy of Sigrid Pilgrim.
Marge Cline doing a headstand while surfing Marge Cline doing a headstand while surfing Marge Cline doing a headstand while surfing

Marge and Sigrid at Paddle in the Park 2002. Marge on the river. Photos courtesy of Susan Sherrod & Parents of Suicide website.
Marge Cline & Sigrid Pilgrim Marge Cline

Marge running 5 foot falls on Peshtigo, Sept, 1980 – gauge at 11”, Marge in Tigerton Dells on the Embarrass River, Aug, 1980 – WI. Photos courtesy of John Karch.
 Marge running 5 foot falls on Peshtigo Marge in Tigerton Dells on the Embarrass River

Marge in Cheat River Canyon, WV, Labor Day Weekend 1980, Marge and Claude Lutz dancing around the campfire (probably on the Wolf). Photos courtesy of John Karch.
Marge in Cheat River Canyon  Marge and Claude Lutz dancing around the campfire

Marge at takeout , Bureau Creek, IL – beginner’s trip, 1983, River Mom in her “kitchen” with attentive audience (I think KY) around 1983. Photos courtesy of John Karch.
Marge at takeout , Bureau Creek, IL River Mom in her kitchen with attentive audience

Marge and Rich running a Wolf Slalom Course. Year unknown. Photos courtesy of Rich.
Marge and Rich running a Wolf Slalom Course. Marge and Rich running a Wolf Slalom Course.

Marge and Rich running the Wausau Course. Year unknown. Photo courtesy of Rich.
Marge and Rich running a Wausau Slalom Course.

Marge was an avid painter. Here are a few of her acrylics painted in the last couple of years that she posted on a forum.
moon and canoe acrylic moon and wave acrylic purple moon acrylic

Marge at Paddle in the Park 2004. Two paddles Marge painted and gave to Sigrid's daughter in 2000 when her twins, Ethan and Michaela were born. Photos courtesy of Jack Kruzich and Sigrid Pilgrim.
marge at paddle in the park baby paddles by marge

Marge lecturing at the Safety in Paddlesport conference. Presidential election party for Keith Pratt at sigrid's house. Photos courtesy of Sigrid Pilgrim.
marge at safety conference marge at election party

1991 group photo of an ACA Midwest Division/Wisconsin Hoofers Outing Club event - a first descent with a special water release of the Pine River Gorge in Northeast WI. Marge Cline is in the upper row of paddlers, 8th from left (top middle). Marge helped organize the water release. Second photo is the photo of Mandy, Jenn and Marge at a party last September, 2006 when Mandy closed WTA. Photos Bob Obst & Colleen Hayes, Mandy Buckner
1991 group photo of an Pine River Gorge Mandy, Jenn and Marge

Marge Cline standing 1st row far right at the 1994 "Wolf River Paddling Camp for Kids". Marge Cline kneeling 1st row far right being hugged by Bob Obst at the 1995 "Wolf River Paddling Camp for Kids". Marge Cline sitting in chair, left side of picture at the American Canoe Association Midwest Division Meeting within the "Wolf River Refuge." Marge Cline 3rd from left near center of the picture at the American Canoe Association Midwest Division Meeting within the "Wolf River Refuge."
Photos courtesy of Robert A. Obst.
marge paddle camp for kids marge paddle camp for kids marge aca meeting marge aca meeting

Stories and Comments

>>> Share your own story....

Heidi Haas - Marge was a great teacher, we'll miss her at conant….

Tom Lindblade - I had been feeling bad about not calling Marge to see ow she was doing, when I got a call from her a weeks ago Tuesday. I asked her how she was doing and she said she was OK but frustrated because she was still using oxygen. She wanted to know if I would do the Conant Solo Canoe course again, and I told her I was planning on it. She then said that she was thinking about coming to the IPC Season Ender Paddle last Saturday. I told her that we would all love to see her, but knew she probably wouldn't be there. I think the important point is that she never stopped thinking about paddling and that until the very end the paddling community was Marge's second family, and she was truly our River Mom

Sigrid Pilgrim - My earliest memory of Marge is her and Bob's attending pool sessions in Oak Park. How ironic that I was a first year "instructor" then. What I remember next was being at the Weber Special and noting the fact that the salad was served in a garbage bag. Needless to say, one ever ‘complained’ about anything next to Marge as prior to the Weber Special the following year she called me, not inquiring whether I was willing to make the salad, but rather matter-of-factly stating that I was to bring it since I didn't like the way it was done the year before. Marge and I shared many experiences and she nudged, gently pushed, and when needed, gave a shove to make me see things her way. She asked me to sort and put into three-ring binders about 10 years’ worth of paddling club newsletters she received as part of the GRADIENT exchange. She even managed to somehow get me to volunteer for three years to be on the board of ACA. We jointly developed a slide presentation on “Paddling Safely” and I remember well the hours we spent together trying to put the slides onto a video. (This was obviously in the dark ages before electronic cameras!) Personally the most rewarding collaboration with Marge was my chairing PADDLING IN THE PARK for 12 years. Little did I know what I was getting into when Marge asked me to help out one summer planning to offer canoe and kayak lessons to people participating in the park district’s festival! Some 10 years later, from not quite 30 people on the water in two days, this event saw more than 1800 on the same lake! One of my favorite stories of Marge was a hot summer month’s trip she arranged to NOC. We all made fun of her on the way to the river bringing her wetsuit. In the cattle car back to NOC, it started to hail. The only one warm and cozy of course, was Marge! My commitment to paddlesport never reached Marge’s level, but we enjoyed a great deal of mutual respect for each other. I still feel much honored that Marge entrusted me with a part of Mike’s remains to take to a vacation in the Rocky Mountains and the Oregon Coast. Also the mother of a son, I can only imagine the pain of her loss. Perhaps they are now both enjoying a paddle trip in a place we will all be at some day. We send our heartfelt condolences to Bob and the whole family. Sigrid and Alan


Joann Benedetto - My first encounter with Marge Cline was at a PSC Fall dinner circa 1983. I had just started to paddle with PSC on a regular basis and needless to say, had a lot to learn about paddling. I sat down next to this woman who wore these pop bottle 50's eyeglasses and a long grey ponytail. She was soft spoken but had an enthusiasm for paddling that seemed to rub off on everyone at the table. Marge Cline came to be an important person in my paddling life and someone I called a friend. I join the chorus of people who knew this lady in saying, "The paddling community will never be the same without you. YOU WILL BE MISSED."

Darren Bush - Rivermom. I have no idea where this term came from, but it sure works for me. Her love of paddling was infectious and she certainly infected me every time we paddled together. Marge was my first "official" canoe instructor at an IDW/ICE in 1996, and it was a wonderful weekend with a wonderful teacher and a wonderful human. I'll miss her, and I can't see a pair of funky horn-rimmed glasses without thinking about her.

John Morris - I only had the pleasure of knowing Marge for several days during an instructor IDW/ICE, but even in that short time she left a lasting impression on all those attending. I honestly believe she knew more about paddling than most of us can ever aspire to know. She was a wonderful inspiration to all those who came into contact with her and she has certainly left behind a legacy of students and instructors that will carry on her passion for paddlesports. We'll miss you Rivermom! Ozark Mountain Paddlers

Todd Leigh - It's hard to talk about Marge without choking up... she was such an important part of what became such an important part of may life... paddling. She (along with a couple other people) was one of the people who really influenced both my attitude and my style when it came to paddling. I first met Marge when I was a student at the Conant pool session in spring 1990. I'd already had a little experience and instruction in sea kayaking, loved it, and wanted to try whitewater. I hands-rolled the first night in the pool because she wouldn't give us paddles, and Marge said, "Oh, don't do that again, your hip-snap is perfect, and I don't want you to ruin it!" I did pretty much nothing but paddling in my spare time for the next several years, and Marge was a part of it for much of the time, whether as an instructor teaching me in the pool or on the river, or as an instructor trainer teaching me to teach. She certified me for Flatwater, Moving Water, and Whitewater Instructor (along with Frank and Erik), and she encouraged me to teach in the pool and on the river, as well as paddle. She taught me and everyone else to give back to the paddling community. And she was instrumental (and was one of my recommending ITs) when I became an IT myself. I worked with her a lot before I left the Chicago area, helping with the cross-discipline instructor training sessions she set up, and of course on the CWA beginner trips, kids camps, Paddle in the Parks, and other stuff that she always seemed to be cooking up. She was the best person I ever knew at getting other people to take responsibility for helping the paddling community. When I left Chicago I invited her to Michigan to certify our first set of instructors here in Lansing. I model our pool sessions and paddling community here after what she did for CWA in Chicago. One of the things I remember her saying was about changing clothes on the river... she used to say that paddlers needed to learn to be able to change discreetly in public, and to not peek when others were changing. Then she'd look out through her granny glasses, eyes twinkling, and say "Well, you can peek a little." That was Marge. Anyway I'd lost touch with Marge recently, but got updates on her occasionally from my dad, who helped at Conant. I guess I'd long expected her to pass on because I know her health wasn't good, but it's still sad to hear she's actually gone.

Jim Cronin - I'll always remember Marge as someone who acted like a drill sargent at times, but whenever someone had a problem she would immediately show the sweet caring side of her. I came to realize that the tough exterior was there to get things done, but the warm and generous side was always lying underneath. During my Cert class Marge was evaluating my hole surfing abilities. I entered the hole where my boat immediately lodged firmly on a rock. I calmly pretended to hand surf and twirl my paddle, while Marge whooped and hollered from the eddie. After 15+ years of instructing I never told Marge of my deception. No doubt she would see the humor in it. Like everyone else, I will miss her tremendously.

Jim Tibensky - Posted on If you didn't know her, she was "River Mom" to many, many paddlers, especially here in the Midwest. Marge taught for years as an ACA ITE (Instructor Trainer Educator), which means she certified people to be instructors and to be instructors who could certify other instructors. She was named one the Paddlers of the Century by Paddler magazine and had many other honors bestowed on her over the years. But the greatest honor went to those of us fortunate enough to have been loved by her. If you met Marge, then you knew what it was like, at least for that moment, to be the most important person in the world. That's how she made you feel. Marge was a true problem solver. She didn't get angry - she got involved. Not enough good instructors? Marge gets trained to produce more of them. Need to borrow a boat? Marge finds one for you. When her son committed suicide (a hideous story of how the legal system can truly hurt people - he hung himself in a jail in Tennessee after jail authorities were notified of his Bipolar Disorder. They were in contact with Marge for days, but buried him in a pauper's grave as a person with no known family. The story goes on and on) Marge used his story to fight for better treatment of the mentally ill. Marge was not a serious racer but volunteered at every race. She was a talented artist and played bassoon in a community orchestra. Her signature paddling move was doing a headstand in a canoe while the other paddler held the boat on a surfing wave. Coaches motivate through many different techniques. Marge had the very best technique - love and kindness. Jim Tibensky

Barry Grimes - I met Marge when she entered, attended and won with her 8mm film entry "Gallatin & Yellowstone River" at the first National Paddling Film Festival hosted by the Bluegrass Wildwater Association in Lecington, KY in 1983. I was immediately drawn to her great enthusiasm for the NPFF and soon was totally won over by her caring, kind and sparkling good nature. She and I had danced till we dropped at that first NPFF - something that subsequently became a wonderful tradition for us both in the following years. Marge always added a great amount of uber-enthusiastic fun to the general NPFF mayhem and as an accomplished amateur filmmaker, her entries always provided an interlude and antidote to the "who is mas macho" hair boating films that sometimes dominated the fest. Marge entered numerous film festivals over the years. In 1984 Marge entered "CWA An Expos'e " a film that highlighted boating around the country with the Chicago Whitewater Association. In 1986 Marge submitted "White On The Black" a 15 min 8mm film about the Black River in Watertown, New York. In 1987 Marge didn't enter a film but was still entertaining the NPFF audience as a member of the CWA's "LIPS" or Ladies in Polypro" a hilarious live dance review takeoff of the BWA's Women in Rubber. In 1988 she entered "The Nahanni" an 8mm film about the Nahanni River in Canada. In 1992 Marge switched to video with the entry "Learning To Read Whitewater" a video she had created to give new paddlers an idea of what they could expect once they got out of the swimming pools and onto the rivers. In 1993 Marge submitted the video entry "CWA", "A collage of activities perpetrated by members of Chicago Whitewater Association. Produced to provide incentive for the uninitiated to join our organization." In 1995 Marge entered "CWA Does Russia" a video about the Chicago Whitewater Association's 11 day trip to Russia. In addition to her great support of the NPFF through the films and videos that she entered, Marge was also a dependable, hard working and top notch volunteer NPFF judge who could always be counted on to contribute solid, insightful feedback for the other competitors. As a judge, Marge eventually morphed into the fest's own "NPFFMom" and could always be counted upon to help shepherd and monitor the other volunteer judges and help make sure each judge watched and properly scored their assigned films - no easy job I might add! I also was privileged to know Marge in her more famous role as Rivermom. She was a frequent instructor at Bob Obst's ACA kids kayaking camps on the Wolf River in WI, that both of my kids attended in the 90s. She was a great instructor who taught not only my children about how to paddle whitewater but also my wife and I on how to better instruct it. I would say that it's not too much of a stretch to credit Marge for helping to make both of my children become the solid whitewater paddlers they are today. Thanks Marge for all the fun and memories and your wonderful, tireless support of river conservation and the NPFF. I'm so very glad and honored that I was able to call you a friend. Your life has positively enhanced so many others and so I know the peace of the river will now be with you forever. barry grimes

John Steib - I met River Mom, Marge Cline in either 1994 or 1995 when I took my first Freestyle Canoe lessons in Louisiana at La Louisiane Freestyle Symposium. She had certified the year before in the very first group of FS instructors ever to be certified. She was in love with FS canoeing and very active in that particular style. Marge was variously a FS judge, competitor, instructor, and served on the ACA National Freestyle Committee. We got to know each other well through working together several times a year at the 3 FS Symposia, SW Canoe Rendezvous, ACA National BoD meetings, ACA SEiC meetings, and every-now-and-then the odd clinic, event, or competition. She thought nothing of getting off work on Fri., driving all afternoon and night, getting a few hours sleep in her van, teaching paddling all weekend, the reversing the drive to be back at work on Monday. She did that very thing, traveling to Louisiana each year for the La Lou Symposium, from 1994 to 2005. Marge had unending energy when it came to paddling. Marge Cline was a real character in the best sense of that word and bigger than life. I will definitely miss her. At times like this I find better expression in Acadian French so say : enfin, prenez un repos Marge ( at long last, be at rest Marge). John Steib National Freestyle Committee

Jim Storms - I will not forget the guitar and accordian jams and sing alongs at the Weber special and beginners trips on the Wolf. I also won't forget paddling the "loop" on the Yough with Marge in my John Sweet custom made Paramax C2 with Marge. In my earlier years I moved around alot from Chicago and then Pittsburgh, then back to Chicago, then Stevens Point/central Wisconsin and ultimately Minnesota. It seemed like wherever I travelled and paddled in my single days, whether on the Yough, the Nantahala, the Red, Wolf, or Menomonee, I always had came in contact or had a touchstone with people like Marge, John, and Anna Wohead. It was like having a second "mom" on the river apart from my own family in Chicago. I'll never forget when I stopped some of my rovings and was getting "serious" on job hunting in computers/technology in Central Wisconsin. I had my kayaks on the car and literally camped in campgrounds, walked out of my tent in the morning in a business suit, and did informational interviews during the week. But on the weekends I paddled with whoever I could find on rivers. Well on one particular week I was not getting any great job leads and was pretty bummed out. So who do I bump into during that week but Marge and Anna. We laughed around the campfire about my job hunting techniques, and boy did I get some great Marge and Anna cooked dinners! They rejuvenated my juices, and together in the next 3 days we paddled the Wolf, Red, and then travelled up to do the Ontonagon river. It was not so much that it was a big "whitewater" river. It was just the mystery of the 3 of us never doing it previous that made it fun. As I remember it was just the 3 of us and mostly swift current to class 1.5. It was rainy, but that mysterious kind of day with a different palor of the brown hills we travelled through that was different than all the big technical rivers we had done together in other parts of Wisconsin. If there's one image I won't forget it will be of Marge and Anna's car heading north to the Ontonogon the night before with the shadows of the kayaks on their compact car in front of me against the twilight of the UP/North Shore, and the black silouette of their car with 2 kayaks, on top and the tall pine trees zooming on by on both sides of the road. That's the way I'll always remember Marge and believe as to where she's at. At twilight, with her K1 on top, heading north.

Jack Landrey - took a little bit of instruction from such a wonderful laddie. she taught me the righting pry when I was a c-1er....

Justin Beales - Many people remember Marge as the phenomenal instructor she was. Others remember her as a dedicated, persistent and, dare I say, controlling member of the CWA. Meeting her at age 11 or 12 (the same age as her son Mike)I only saw her as a friends mom. While I later saw all the rest of it, I really have no vivid memories of her as anything else. I don't really know why this memory sticks out but I thought of it when Mike passed on as well. Mike and I must have been 14 or 15 at the Wolf River Slalom that year. After a day of practicing for the race and helping setup we decided to paddle or squirt boats around the deep pools below the race site. Marge was busy organizing as she always was at these events. I don't know if it was Marge's or Mikes idea but it was somehow decided that Mike and I should paddle down to Gilmore's Mistake and play around for a while longer. Marge offered to pick us up and drive us back to camp. Looking back she may have seen this as an ideal opportunity for a well deserved break after a long day. We had a great time in that mile or so of river and Marge was waiting as promised at the end. That's it, no big deal. Just Marge stepping away from being River Mom long enough to play shuttle bunny for a couple of kids who were not quite done boating that day. Years later I was married and Marge was at a shower my parents threw for us. She handed us a gift and asked us to open it right away. I could tell she was excited. We opened it and found a beautiful painting she had done. She asked me if I recognized it. I said it looked familiar but couldn't place it. "It's a painting of Gilmore's Mistake," she told me. The next time I was there I tried to see it the way she painted it. I think I figured out where she was sitting when she made it but I'll never really be sure. She always seemed to be in the right place at the right time for us kids. Now, when I am moving to a new house she is there again to remind me to take a little extra care when we decide where to hang that painting.

Mariana and Hugo Varotto - Like many others, my wife and I first met Marge at one of her pool sessions, at Conant High School. We were not sure if we wanted to do whitewater kayaking or canoing, so we took both classes at the same time (Marge was teaching both). We ended up with kayaking. However, during CWA's 30th anniversary celebration, we picked up a whitewater canoe and paddled it as a tandem in the Fox River. I still remember how happy was Marge that we picked up a canoe (she had a soft spot for canoes). Sometime after, I did my instructor training and certification with Marge. It was truly enlightening to see her as an instructor's instructor. Her knowledge level (technical, group management, instructional) was amazing (she usually didn't have to use that knowledge at the regular pools sessions). Several years ago, my wife and I took over assembling and distribution of the Gradient. Each month, every second Sunday or Monday, I'd get multiple e-mails from Marge with the different pages that formed that month's Gradient issue. The only time that she was not able to do that was when she was in the hospital due to health issues (although she still edited some articles with her laptop at the hospital bed). Her favorite phrase during the week preceding each Gradient's edition was "My cupboards are bare !" when people would not send her enough articles. As Sandy pointed out, Marge would paint a small canoe paddle and give it as a gift to babies of CWA members. When my son Lucas got his paddle, I was speechless. That's a gift that my son will treasure for years. Thanks Marge !

Frank and Ann Weider - Marge became a part of our lives when Frank was her student at Conant High School (which is actually Hoffman Estates, not Schauburg - Marge loved tradition and once it was listed as Schaumburg, it couldn't be changed). This was 1980 and she became a very good friend. Frank trained under her guidance for his certification in kayak instruction and then kayak instructor trainer. So many whitewater and training trips they had and so many memories...At loose ends one weekend in Sept. 1987, Marge wanted to paddle but didn't have plans, so asked us to surprise her. We picked her up and she fell asleep; we arrived at the put-in for the Bark River(flatwater but very interesting!) in the Oconomowoc, WI area with a group of PSCers. She had a ball that day as I paddled tandem with her, a new river and a new group for her! Frank and Marge won a C-2 award on the St. Francis slalom in Missouri one year in the early '80s. I learned all about cast-iron cooking from her Memorial Day weekend 1991 in Iron River, WI; we were participating in an ACA Midwest Div. extravaganza weekend organized by Marge in her new capacity as vice-commodore of the Midwest Div. It included all facets of canoesport, including a dragon boat. Marge helped me through the learning curve of postal rules for bulkrate mailings as I began my stint as the newsletter editor for ACA's Midwest Div. Frank was the poling chair for many years and Marge was very supportive of his position and efforts to promote the sport of canoe poling. We were very happy to have Marge and Mike as overnight guests when we moved to Louisville, KY in 1995. Marge passed through town many times and always stopped for a cup of coffee and a visit. She and Mike were our guests just a short time before his passing and that was a truly tragic event. Frank was very honored to have been asked to spread Mike's ashes on the Tellico River, TN; he chose Baby Falls. Moving to Florence, Northern KY, in 2001, we lost touch somewhat with Marge as she wasn't traveling long distance much anymore. She was always in our thoughts and the last time we spoke to her was on New Years Day this year; she was at Rich and Julie's annual paddle/party. Her passing came as a shock of course, but not totally unexpected, given her recent health. We're really gonna miss that gal; we loved you, Marge! Our prayers are with Bob and the family. Frank and Ann Weider

John Pape - In the early 1980's I bought a kayak from the Chicagoland Canoe Base and they referred me to the CWA as a good place to learn to paddle. I took lessons, and Marge quickly got me involved as secretary of the CWA and organizing the Wolf River Slalom. I realized it was really Marge who was doing most of the work, but she made everyone feel good for doing whatever they could. The CWA turned out to be the best group I have ever been involved with, due in no small part to Marge. I think people liked calling her River Mom because she made the CWA feel like a family, whereas a whitewater sport with the dangers involved could have been more macho. I remember driving with Marge and her son Mike in her Chrysler minivan to paddle the Nahanni River. For at least 25 years that was her river trip vehicle of choice. The whitewater was limited, but she loved being out on the water and seeing Virginia Falls in a place so remote few people will ever see it. It was an adventure. The recent retirement planning commercial reminds me of Marge. The American dream is a suburban home with a two car garage, a white picket fence, and a puppy dog? Wrong... the thing that Marge lived for was to pursue what she loved. She didn't need retirement to pursue her dreams, she did it all her life. I succumbed to the requirements of a corporate job that moved me to Dallas and I lost touch with Marge and the CWA. About a year ago though I started making plans to move back to the Chicago area and even after 20 years Marge was one of the first people I contacted and went to see. It was around last Christmas and she had just taken delivery of her latest edition Chrysler minivan. She said she no longer did overnight trips because she wanted to be there for Bob. We watched some of her films, I learned of her medical issues, her taking up painting, and we talked about Mike. I will miss not being able to visit her when I finally get moved, but I am glad she lived long enough for me to see her those last few times. Marge is one of the finest people I have ever met.

Patrick Rivers - To me Marge was a good friend, a very gifted instructor and someone who could inspire others to do much more than they thought they could. I will always remember her barking out a command or stating her opinion and then you would see that twinkle in her eyes, then she would wink and then she would laugh. I have one of Marge's paintings which I will always cherish and remember her by. Marge, I am extremely glad that our paths crossed and I will miss you very much.

John Carol - Thank you to everyone who told a story it has ment alot to us ( the family).I am Marges nephew and I would of met some of you by feeding you at paddle in the park.Marge has been an important part of my life. She didn't teach me how to paddle or the love of water but not because she didn't try I didn't go to a pool session or take the time in as much whitewater as I thought. I truely want to thank Aunt Marge for takeing me and my friends and family on some of the beginner trips the Red river is my favorite.We got to learn and have a blast watching some of the best paddlers do the coolest things in a boat.Mike was one of them with his squirt boat. My kids all got to have a love for the water and learn how to be safe on the river by playing at first drop or playing hide and seek under the overturned boat at monistary falls.Our family has a flatwater boat so we didn't get out with Marge and Mike as I would of liked but I learned from Marge how to plan a trip do shuttles and be sure not to leave anyone behind and how to teach what I learned from all of you to have fun on the water for me that was the boundry waters or the Wisconsin river or just the Nippersink mostly flat water. Aunt Marge we Love ya and miss you.

Tam Fletcher - Marge was my River Mom too. I showed up on a Sunday morning begging to get into the kayak class, my heart pounding, at the very thought of rejection. Marge welcomed me in and this started a decades long affair with white water. I remember pots of stew and chicken dumplings that I helped her prepare for Wisconsin beginner trips. Under her guidance, the vegtables were cut small enough to appease John Karch. I remember another story that she told on herself when she and John were traveling out east to boat. She was driving in the wee dark hours, in the middle of nowhere, when she pulled over to the side of the road. Wakeing John up, she informed him that they were lost,that she had no idea where they were, and that she was now going to crawl into the back to sleep. Marge made things happen where ever she focused her engery. I'm lucky that she was willing to paint a large whitewater mural in my home. It is a thing of beauty and showcases her considerable talent. Knowing her made my world a better and richer place. Goodbye Marge, I really miss you.

John Puskar - John Puskar – It is interesting to look in the past and ask myself if I did what she asked of me? I don’t remember the first time I met mom other then it was sometime in the mid 80s. I just remember she was like a drill sergeant I had in Special Forces. Demanding, yet kind, arrogant yet considerate, and often getting me to do more then what I wanted to commit to, and she would often introduce me to the class as a Marine! I think she was biased, LOL. When I think about what memories I have of mom a few come to mind. • I have always liked talking to her when I need advice or want to argue over something even though I know for sure I will gain something and win nothing. A few months ago, I brought a pizza over for Bob and her and we talked about why she pushed me so hard and what is it that I should do now that I have some free time and I am a certified canoe instructor. It was like grandma’s house now instead of mom’s. I got to go through some of her files as she wanted me to have copies of some of them. I think she was happy to see me coming around and stepping up. As I was going through her files, I thought of it like a toy box and what cool stuff can I find inside! Afterwards we sat and watched Dancing with the Stars. • Dancing; I am now a ballroom dance instructor and in part it’s because of mom. We were attending a workshop in New Orleans for free style. (Free style is like figure skating but with a canoe.) Mom would always say “train your canoe to do what you want”. During one of the nights, mom talked me into going to a bar. Bar I thought, last time I was in a bar folks were carried out on stretchers. I don’t drink, why would I want to go to a bar? Well we know mom, she got me to drive, and we went into a nothing little hole in the ground place. I thought for sure I would be offered up as alligator bait. But of course I was wrong and had a blast. In fact at one point mom was dancing with me and at one point she stopped and said “if you are going to turn me, you do it like this”! When I got back to Chicago I started to take group classes so next time I danced with her I would get it right!!!!! And now I am teaching all ages and competing in dancing. • I went to New Orleans maybe three or four times and two things always got me about mom. She would start the class and within a few minutes she’d have us doing some new ice breaker she came up with and we would all be laughing and warming up even though we just met. The other was the fact that even though we are both very good paddlers and I can roll any type of canoe and my low braces you can walk on, she always tried flipping me in the canoe with Alligators on the shore!!!!!! Well the way I see it I have two things done and two to go. Mom once said in front of a class that I am the best damn driver she had. She said “If John is driving I know I am safe and can sleep”! It sticks to me because is means a lot to me that I did something right! The other is that I received my ACA canoe certification. I did sign up for the Kayaking certification but mom was too ill to teach. So the two things I have to complete are my Kayaking certification and becoming an IT (instructor trainer). I know that she knows how much I love to teach but I also know that four of me could not equal the energy she had for boating. Love you mom, and will miss you dearly. John Puskar PS: Marge said way back that her students are her children and she cares about each and every one of us. Since that time, I have called her “mom.”

Larry Sellars - I knew Marge for a little less than ten years and she was a true friend. She pushed me to become a Kayak IT because she wanted the CWA to always have at least one, even if I was moving to Chattanooga. Marge really loved teaching the sport of paddling and the CWA. Marge was terrific at helping new paddlers see their potential and to infect them with the love of paddling she enjoyed. I will always remember her great laugh and the twinkle in her eye when she pulled the joke on you(and I was a great target for her jokes). But the best thing I will take from being around Marge, is how we can grow from the many life lessons that paddling presents us. I count myself blessed to have been one of her river kids and to have had her as one of my mentors. I will miss her solid advice and friendship. I also know that I will see her smiling face whenever I am near the river and teaching a kayak class. Marge, thank you for all your efforts to help us be better paddlers. You will be missed.

Dan Dixon - Tuesday, November 6th.
This morning, the day after I learned about Marge, I did something I had not done in at least two years. I pulled my oldest flute out of its case and awakened my family with music; stealing the moment from the electronic alarm clock.
I did this because it is one of the ways that I show affection for my family. Whether they appreciate this, or even understand the gesture, has never been stated. For all know they may see it as a blessing… a blessing that I do not play the tuba.
The spontaneity of the urge is what struck me most.
We all package life and death a little differently. But most of my closest friends, like Marge, are more closely aligned. I know this because Marge and I shared at least three deaths that come immediately to mind. (That excludes the false report of my own death that she helped to dispel before my parents got wind of it.)
What would Marge and I do when someone close to us passed away? We paddled.
Once, after a paddling companion died, I watched most of the group, understandably saddened, pack up their things and go home. For the three of us who stayed to paddle, we were confused, and even somewhat offended by the actions of the rest. We felt that they were missing the whole point. Though admittedly, the grand portion of the planet upon such an event, would also throw in the towel. The three of us were compelled by a sense of duty that we assumed the other paddlers would also feel. It was as if “paddler” was somehow a label for a philosophy or a religious point of view. For Marge, and for some of us, I guess it is.
I have also danced and played music. With the limitless ways that humans occupy themselves, I hope that everyone has at least one thing they do where the concept of time is lost in pleasure. Whatever the activity, the point is the same; death should be a slap in the face reminder. A reminder of why we live. A reminder of what we have learned. And often, it is a chance to reflect upon whom we learned it from.
I think of Marge as an example.
Marge made us all reassess what a paddler’s profile might be. That is the funny part. That the best part about Marge came not from her strengths, but from what she would have considered her weaknesses. She told friends that she was legally blind. I am not sure exactly what that means but, I can tell you that I peered many times through her kaleidoscope-like sunglasses and could never conceive of how they could work.
As if that was not enough, Marge’s cigarettes limited her lungs' ability in a sport where you often find yourself upside-down in the water. Also, Marge often struggled with a lack of confidence in more advanced rapids. Though seemingly sane and normal, she would often apologize for her nervousness. Marge’s dedication to paddling, despite these hurdles, in one fell swoop, squelched the worries of the hundreds of people she brought into the sport.
Though we recognize these parts of her character as the very essence of her success as an instructor, I think she viewed these traits as a burden on her friends. I think part of her giving nature may have been to compensate for what she perceived as flaws; in a way, making certain that she was pulling her social weight. And in that, there is something important…
At any given moment, simultaneously, we are all a burden; an example; and a gift to those around us. That is the reminder that I was slapped with today... so this morning, I played my flute for my family.
These words we write are, without doubt, for us and not for Marge. Though the gift that we have, which is this community, we owe greatly to Marge. I am thankful for all your words that bring me across my physical distance and back in touch with old friends. It is for you all that I offer these words and a story. There are too many that I could leave you with, but here…
We were floating the Vermillion River one day when Marge stretched out on the floor of our canoe to rest. The flat stretch was long enough that Marge fell soundly asleep and for those of you who have done this, you understand just how good sleeping in a boat can feel. It is like being in a cradle; rocking along with a sound and a rhythm as pacifying as can be hoped for.
Understanding the pleasure in this moment, I did my best not to bang the paddle against the canoe nor make sudden movements. Marge always worked hard and she seemed so tired that I was more than happy to let her rest. The time and distance slipped behind us and I too closed my eyes for moments, to just listen.
I managed to keep things quiet, at least that is to the final run-out of Wildcat Rapid. There, in my effort to keep the boat level instead of letting it rock to follow the waves, some water lapped over the gunwale and onto Marge. She awoke with a “You rascal! I can’t believe you did that!” and reached up, grabbing the gunwales, as if to sit herself upright. But then, Marge merely readjusted onto her side and settled back down to rest again.
I would have been barely twenty then. I am forty-five now. We had already been paddling together for long enough to establish a comfort that allowed this story to happen. Marge had a lot of these types of days and my wish for all of you is just that. Have a day where you do the one thing that makes you happiest while remembering something you learned from a departed friend.
A Marge Day!

Bruce Weber - Like evryone else, I was saddened to hear of Marge's death. I had left Chicago before Marge became an active paddler but I met with her on one of her visits to the Northwest. I think we ran a section of the Clackamas. I remember having a campground dinner in the tradition of the 'Weber Special'. But I knew her best through the Gradient which she arranged to send me, appsrently forever. We will all miss her.

Sandy Kubillus - Marge really always felt like River Mom to me. She guided me down Section 3 of the Wolf on my first ever beginner trip (I had not done the Vermillion or the DuPage), and I was really scared. My husband, Mitch Beales, and I always say that our first date (June 21, 1984) was going to Marge's house to pick up a boat for me to use on the Vermillion the following weekend. I went with Marge, her son Mike, and John Pape to the Nahhanni River in the Northwest Territories in the 1980s. During that long drive up there she decided that us "kids" needed some play time and stopped at an indoor water park in Edmonton, Alberta Canada. At the time, this was one the few indoor water parks there were. Mike, John, and I had a great time, while Marge sat in her van and watched a tornado. Luckily it did not touch down near us. On the way back we drove straight through to Chicago - 52 hours! This is still my record for longest car trip! While we were traveling through the Northwest Territories there was nothing out there but trees. We even had to carry extra gas, since there were no gas stations. At one point Marge noticed a turn-out with a garbage dumpster. She promptly stopped, put her stove on top of the dumpster and whipped up a dish she called "shit on a shingle". She was always cooking up these dishes from her girl scout leader days. Remember the stew for the beginner trips? In the last few years Marge has been the piano player at our annual Christmas Parties. She said that this was the only time that she played piano, but amazingly she was pretty good. She will surely be missed. Last year she did not make it at the last minute since Bob was not feeling well and she needed to be with him. It is sad to hear that Bob is now gone too, but at least he is with Marge and Mike.

Karyl Chastain Beal, Mother of Arlyn, Columbia, TN - My story is a little different from the others. I met Marge through our Parents of Suicides (POS) Internet community. Marge joined POS after the death of her son Michael to suicide. We had our first retreat in south Georgia in the summer of 2000. Marge drove down to attend the retreat with her kayak on top of her car. We'd never met before, but she came in and we connected instantly. During the retreat, Marge took us all to the Ochlocknee river, which was about 15 miles away. We were amazed when she paddled her canoe out into the middle of the river and stood on her head. Then, we were all profoundly touched when Marge scattered some of Mike's ashes in the river. We were honored that she shared the experience with us, because we understood how she felt about losing Mike. Then, Marge took charge and told us we were going to have a Peace Fire Ceremony. She had brought ashes from a special Peace Fire she'd attended. She directed the program on Saturday night. It was the culmination of 2 days of intense grieving. We've continued the 'tradition' Marge established and we've held Peace Fire Ceremonies at every one of our retreats since then. We moved to Tennessee, and we dug up the ashes from that original Peace Fire and brought with us to mainain continuity. And then, we decided to create a special quilt to honor the lives of our daughters and sons. Marge sewed the squares for us to create 6 separate quilt sections holding memorial squares for about 125 daughters and sons who died by suicide. We call this the Most Beautiful International Suicide Memorial Quilt in the World - and it's also the first of its kind. The POS quilt has been shown in Washington DC several times, and one section of it was shown in Sweden at an international suicide prevention conference. Marge has been less active in POS during the past few years, but she's remained part of the group. We will continue to honor Mike's memory for Marge, Rivermom, for her, and for Bob, her beloved husband, Michael's dad. If anyone wants to see photos of the first retreat or the quilt, go to and click on the POS memorial website. See you on the river, Marge. Love and peace, Karyl, mother of Arlyn

Patty J - Mother of Allen Boring Jr - I had the pleasure of meeting Marge in 2000 at the POS retreat in Pavo, GA. Marge was just who she was and I immediately felt very close to her. We shared the stories of our sons and Marge told me about Mike's love of the water. In 2001, Marge gave me the honor of putting some of Mike's ashes into the ocean at Myrtle Beach. I still have two of her drawings that she shared with the POS group and I will think of her when I look at them.

Kimmi Mom of Christopher - I never had the pleasure of meeting Marge or Bob in person, but she touched me in many ways throughout our shared time online. As members of an online support group for parents who lost children to suicide - we shared a lot (broken hearts & trying to survive life on earth w/o our precious sons). She adored her precious son, who was gone too soon & gone before her - which is something no parent should ever have to go through. She touched me by being one of the original creators of our *Most Beautiful International Suicide Memorial Quilt in the World*...not only by actually being the one who sewed my son's square on that quilt, but more importantly by creating this SO I could have my child be one of the faces on it! She also touched my heart by coming up with the POS *Peace Fire* which is held during the retreats - again, by doing this, it enabled my child & I to be an ongoing part of something that is very special to us all. Though Marge & Bob have passed on now, SO many things she felt were special this life will continue on because she took the initiative & got them going. The solace I find in this is that she is now reunited with her child she missed so very much, free of the pain she dealt with for so long here on earth, and is at peace. I am sure she will find that great river in the sky right away:) Marge & Bob are walking streets of gold & worshipping with the King...right along side their son & those they loved so dearly who went before them. And I just can't find anything in THAT to be sad about. (((Marge & Bob))) you will be SO missed by those who loved you so much here on earth! Luv Kimmi Mom of Christopher FOREVER!!! 08/31/80 ~ 08/31/00

Pat Dupuis, Mother of Francois - To Marge's family: I have never met Marge but we corresponded on POS. I admired her so much because she was an active person. Her idea of the POS international quilt for those of us who have lost a child to suicide and the Peace Fire of messages to our children were such wonderful ideas. I was overwhelmed at seeing the quilt for the first time with our children's faces on the squares. When it came time for the Peace Fire, I was shaking with so much emotion as the parents gave their letters to their children and placed in the fire. There was silence during this time but several of the parents were weeping as they made this connection with their child. Marge gave so much of herself to POS. Her traditions will go on in POS for many years to come. Marge is with Mike now. She is peaceful. Pat Dupuis, Mother of Francois Dupuis, 1974-2000.

Cathy Lutz - Marge was my dad's (Claude Lutz) dance partner, and whenever I think of her, the first image that comes to mind is the two of them dancing a crazy polka around the campfire while the accordion music speeds up to their tempo and other dancers look nervously over their shoulders as the pair barrels around for another circle. Of course, it was entertainment to everyone watching, but you couldn't help but feel the unbounded energy and enthusiasm emanating from those two -- especially when they would step what seemed to be dangerously close to the fire. Marge had an energy all her own and a love of the paddling life that infected others, and she was clearly always the boss of various paddling trips. I'll never forget her booming voice when she yelled for her now deceased son Mike -- Miiii-CHAEL!!!! -- who, the little rebel that he was, responded immediately to her. And when the group of us kids were playing somewhere, maybe causing a little trouble or staying up too late or stealing the adults' beer, there was only one person in the group that we were truly afraid of, and that was Rivermom -- looking back, it was because she commanded our respect more than any of the other parents. Still, her teaching skill and patience, the deep friendship she was able to have with her son Mike, and her wide smile and genuine laugh, showed that she was a gentle, caring, loving, deep person through and though. To say she was unique would be an understatement. I've been out of touch with Marge and the Chicago paddling community for many many years now, but Marge's passing brings back so many wonderful memories. Speaking for the entire Lutz family, we'll miss her.

Mandy Buckner - Marge was a great friend, teacher and mentor. She will be deeply missed. She trained and certified me to be a canoe instructor in 1995. And mentored me through the IT process for years. I'll never forget teaching with her.

Bob Obst & Colleen Hayes - We close our eyes and see Marge Cline sitting on that square starting rock under the over-hanging cedar tree at the top of Hansen's Rapids on the Wolf River. We can see her assisting slalom race organizers on the icy banks of the Yahara and Wolf Rivers. We can see her guiding a little fleet of kid-powered boats down ) boulder-studded Sherry Rapids. We can see her organizing and providing leadership at American Canoe Association meetings. We cannot see her gone. Marge Cline was one of a kind. We will miss her. Marge - and her husband Bob Cline - are in our prayers. -Bob Obst & Colleen Hayes (Madison & Middleton, WI USA)

Kathy Ullrich - River Mom is my Mom. I do have boating stories, but these are only part of what I remember about my mom. Today is her birthday so I have been on your site reading your memories to help heal the pain of my loss. She taught me to canoe is Girl Scouts, Her near death experience on the Wolf River(a trip I was on) helped save my life many years later when I was canoeing on Kilbuck Creek and we hit tree strainers. I had to take off my life preserver, let go of the branches I was holding on to and swim straight down and under the branches to get free. I see there is a discussion of the Rockford White Water Park or the Aurora White Water Park. So the entire paddling community is aware I ask that you support the park in Rockford. My mothers midlife "crisis" was boating---mine has been real estate. A few years back the two seemed to merge, like a confluence, my involvement in the River District in Rockford to revitalize the downtown and restore historical buildings(to me the are beautiful antiques that need to be saved) and my mother's interest in the water. I told my mother about the idea to have a park in Rockford and she asked me to take the photographs that are on your website. The campaign CWA started to lobby our politians has been key to the city doing the due diligence and engineering study to determine the suitability of the site. My understanding is that the preliminary study is completed and the site is well suited for a park. (Evidently one of the largest cost for a park is the electrical pumps and the lay of the land and the Rock River are ideal for reducing the amount of power need to operate the park). Beyond the technical reasons for the park in Rockford. I had discussed with my mother the opening of a restaurant called River Mom's in one of the historical buildings next to the site. (My mother was a waitress for most of the years when I was growing up and I followed her foot steps for many years and have much experience in the restaurant industry) When you view the site it is an old dam with abandoned buildings, but I can visualize a fully operating White Water Park with a beautiful River Walk that has shops and restaurants. I also visualize a bench under a tree with a memorial to River Boy who was my dearest brother. I was closest to Michael because I was 11 when he was born and always had to baby sit him. My mother worked and so I watched him full time for 4 summers. I still miss Michael so much. A place where I live that would merge with my mothers interest would mean alot to me. Part of me always felt I lost part of my Mom when she became River Mom. As I grew older I understood her passion and the needs she had that the paddlers met for her. The love and support I have seen displayed through her death has helped me tremendously. I ask that you support the White Water Park in Rockford rather than the park in Aurora.

Chicago Whitewater Association is a 501(c) non-profit organization. Chicago, Illinois

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