Bob’s Beloved Land
by Kim Owen, Bob and Eileen Straub’s daughter
On December 24, 1942, Robert C. Straub and Eileen R. Potts were united in marriage. Their honeymoon was spent at an old farmhouse on the property Bob’s parents, Joseph and Sara Straub, had purchased in 1934. This property overlooks the east shore of Round Lake, off County Road 350 East, northeast of Columbia City, Indiana. Within months, Bob enlisted in the Navy to serve during WWII.
While her husband was gone, Eileen spent her weekends fixing up the old farmhouse while caring for their young son. When Bob returned home after the war, he went back to work for General Electric, entering the Tool and Die Apprentice School. Bob and Eileen continued living in the little house on the farm, raising chickens, hogs, and a couple of cows. As their family grew to four children, so did their need for a larger home. In 1953, Bob and Eileen started building a home for their family about 150 yards north of the old farmhouse. Moving into the new home in 1956, Bob and Eileen spent the rest of their lives living on the farm in this modest ranch house until Bob passed, on December 17, 2015, at the age of 92, one week before their 73rd anniversary. On December 16, 2016, in the house she and Bob built, Eileen joined her beloved husband.
Bob and Eileen inherited 55 acres of the farm from his father in 1980. Some of the property had been used for grazing and for crops. The farm also included many acres of established woodlands. In a note found with Bob’s personal effects following his death, he stated, “my father bought the farm in the mid-1930s, I roamed it since then.” During his life on the farm, Bob found many Indian arrowheads and artifacts. His entire life, he was most at home in the peace of the woods, nurturing his life-long passion for woodland management, conservation practices, and wildlife protection.
Bob had a passion for building things. During the mid-1970’s, he purchased a fiberglass hull for a 32ft. Westsail cutter. Over the next several years, Bob worked in his spare time to finish the interior of his sailboat. With a toolmakers precision, he used beautiful cherry wood for interior cabinets, and ash trim - all harvested, dried, and finished with native lumber from his farm. The sailboat was christened “The Agape” and, as with everything Bob did, this beautiful Westsail was a labor of love. It was a very difficult decision for Bob to offer her up for sale, but her destiny was the sea and her beautifully detailed interior and ocean worthy exterior, brought buyers from all over the United States. She sold to the Harbor Master in Boston, who took her to sea. Bob was invited to sail with him, but age related health issues prevented him from ever boarding The Agape again.
Bob worked with the Indiana Department of Fish and Wildlife in 1988 building dams to establish wetlands, including ponds and protective nesting areas in the established woods. In July 1991, Bob and Eileen purchased a 36-acre parcel adjoining their farm to the north. In the mid-1990’s, the Straub’s decided to move forward with their love of the woodlands and planted thousands of trees on both properties. His hard work and tireless commitment to conservation practices were honored when Bob was nominated as one of the top five conservationists in Indiana. In the words of Chris Egolf, a DNR Forester that worked with Bob, “I consider it an honor to have had the opportunity to work with Bob. He was a true gentleman in every sense of the word. I admired his conservation ethics and his dedication. It is a beautiful property and certainly proof of his love for the land. Bob and Eileen were a class act.” From Tim Eizinger of the DNR, “Bob was a truly fine man and very interested in natural resource management. I would put him in the top 20 of the people I dealt with in 42 years.” These dedicated foresters were instrumental in working with Bob and Eileen to obtain a Classified and Certified Forest designation for the farms.
Eileen often accompanied Bob while he pruned the trees and cleared trails. She loved walking the trails gathering kindling for their fireplace. She often exclaimed over the beauty of the wildflowers in the spring and enjoyed the bouquets Bob would bring her. She especially loved wild raspberry season and knew where the best places were to pick….and if anyone else had been in her patch! You could count on a great slice of her wild raspberry pie on the 4th of July!
It was Bob and Eileen’s passion to keep the land and the woods protected from development, something they implemented before Bob’s passing. They researched several protection groups. Being a conservationist, believing in woodland management to promote future growth and value of the timber in his charge, they chose Wood-Land-Lakes RC&D to fulfill their final wishes. Although he passed before the finished documents were signed, his “signature” is on the property he loved, the beautiful woodlands, a serene place to feel the presence of a Higher Being, a place to wonder at nature’s miracles, a true gift to the future. Beautiful trails wander the wooded acreage taking paths past spring flowers, beautiful fall foliage, and amazing groves of native Indiana trees. In this peaceful setting, you are one with nature. This beautiful woodland, wetlands, and wildlife sanctuary gives a sense of peace and a time to reflect.
Their great-grandchildren loved to take rides with Bob and Eileen through the woods. His patience at identifying a small flower or a bug, carefully brought to him, cradled in tiny hands, was his gift to the next generation. Also his “admonitions” - never graze woodlands, thin your trees to promote the growth of a healthier woods, stay on the trails with equipment, and most importantly, bring your “girl” a bouquet of wildflowers every spring!
On the night before Bob was hospitalized, six days before his death, he took a final ride on his four-wheeler through “his trees.” He knew where each tree species was planted, and he knew when a tree was in trouble and took steps to correct it. In his later life, he offered visitors a ride through his woods. Each one who accepted his offer would return in awe of this humble man, his knowledge and his gratefulness for being allowed the opportunity to be the steward of this small piece of earth.
Bob and Eileen’s final wish has been granted - to protect forever from development this beloved land - accomplished with a conservation easement granted to Wood-Land-Lakes. Wood-Land-Lakes RC&D has been very helpful in every step of this journey and we, the family of Bob and Eileen Straub, thank them.
Wood-Land-Lakes RC&D is a non-profit, all-volunteer land trust in northern Indiana dedicated to preserving farms, farmland, woodlands, wetlands, prairies, pasture lands, and wildlife habitats with conservation easements. In order to continue to provide food and natural places for a growing world, we must preserve our farmlands and open areas today.