Remembering Eric Wiebe
Every family has its legendary characters.
They may act boldly — saving the life of another or achieving a success against odds. They may also possess characteristics — honesty, a booming voice or quick, wry wit — that help them stand out within their clan and even the larger community.
An example of someone like this in my family is my cousin Eric Wiebe.
Regrettably, my memories of Eric are sparse. What I do recall is a John Wayne-like figure with a laugh as big as his hands.
He used those hands to carve beautiful knives and brew his own beer.
Eric passed away in 2009, following an extended battle with cancer. He was 49.
Eric followed our fathers into a career in law enforcement, graduating from the Nebraska Law Enforcement Training Center in the year I was born.
He worked alongside my father at the Beatrice Police Department for six years. It was in that span when Eric dove into a frigid river to save a woman.
My cousin spent the majority of his career in the service of the land, wildlife and intersection of people therein. As a Conservation Officer, he helped introduce people, especially young ones, to the world outside, instilling a respect for nature.
Doing that often involved hunting and fishing.
As a firearms instructor and fisherman, Eric thrived on demonstrating correct techniques and responsible use of an outdoorsman’s tools. This led him to help found the Missouri River Outdoor Expo at Ponca State Park that attracts thousands each year.
The 2012 Expo will be extra special, thanks to a major improvement to Ponca State Park performed in Eric’s name.
The Eric Wiebe Shooting Complex features all-weather ranges for pellet gun, archery, muzzle-loader, .22 rifle, shotgun and slingshot.
Zach and I tried out the various ranges last weekend, during the dedication for the complex, which was covered by the local news.
The day was emotional but also beautiful. Many of Eric’s friends and other family members traveled long distances to be part of the event.
Although I did not get to know my cousin well in life, it is clear that he touched many lives.
His legacy makes me even more proud to be a Wiebe.