Ralph Frese at the site of the former Hofmann Dam in Riverside on Oct. 26. Photo by David Pierini/Staff Photographer

Ralph Frese, who operated the Chicagoland Canoe Base store on Chicago’s Northwest Side and was known as “Mr. Canoe” for his dedication to conservation and history of rivers throughout North America, died Monday. He was 86 years old.

The Chicago Sun-Times has his obituary here.

Mr. Frese didn’t have a direct connection with Riverside, but he was on hand along the north bank of the Des Plaines River in Riverside on Oct. 26, when Gov. Pat Quinn came to town to mark the completion of the Hofmann Dan removal project and announce that the state would seek to remove 16 more dams on various rivers in the state in coming years.

Quinn specifically singled out Mr. Frese at that event, saluting him as a “tireless advocate” for and timeless paddler” of Illinois rivers for more than 70 years.

“You really, certainly led the effort for canoeing, paddling, kayaking and we thank you for your commitment,” Quinn said.

Frese was also praised by Marc Miller, the director of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, for Frese’s work as a mentor to him and others in the state.