Phil Druker (aka Earl) died peacefully surrounded by friends in the early morning Tuesday, May 28, 2013.
He was born June 5, 1947, in Chicago, the first son of Leonard and Jean Druker. He grew up in St. Paul, Minn., not far from the Mississippi River and Minnehaha Falls. When he was very young he traveled to Seattle to visit his grade school buddy, John Ploeger (with whom he remained friends all his life). After that he always wanted to be near mountains.
When he graduated from high school, he enrolled at the University of Colorado. There, however, he proved you can have too much fun, so he finished his bachelor of arts degree in English at the College of St. Thomas in 1969.
Before he was drafted for military service, he applied for conscientious objector status. After receiving that, he served his country honorably as an orderly at Denver General Hospital, where he worked on the medical ward and the psychiatric ward. He often said it was the best job he ever had because he learned so much about people.
After completing his alternative service, he went to the University of Mexico in Mexico City to learn Spanish. Then, instead of returning to the U.S. as planned, he hitchhiked through Central and South America all the way to Tierra del Fuego. Along the way, he visited most of the main archaeological sites and taught English in Bolivia.
When he returned to the U.S. in 1974, he traveled to Idaho to visit friends on their stump farm near Cavendish, and he never left Idaho. He worked for the U.S. Forest Service and then as a logger.
He married Barb Deyo. They lived on Lower Ford's Creek, at Schmidt's Mill and then near Nezperce, where he worked for Barb's uncle on his wheat ranch. When he injured his back logging he decided to return to school and went to the University of Idaho, where he earned a master's degree in teaching English as a second language. During this time, he and Barb divorced, but they remained lifelong friends.
Jobs were scarce in 1983, when he graduated with his master of arts, but he lucked out when Washington State University opened a new language school and he was one of the first teachers hired. He taught and helped develop curriculum and along the way he began teaching technical writing. He liked teaching, but he loved the mountains and rivers more, so he spent his winters skiing the backcountry and his summers backpacking, rafting and hiking.
In 1990, he returned to UI to teach technical writing and advanced writing courses that he developed, including travel writing and environmental writing. He edited Palouse Journal and wrote occasional articles for the Lewiston Tribune's outdoor page. With his colleague Mary Clearman Blew, he edited "Forged in Fire: Essays by Idaho Writers" and "Borne on Air: Essays by Idaho Writers."
In 1994, he and Jeannie Harvey married. They traveled though much of Asia and Europe and spent winter vacations with their great friends Ian von Lindern and Margrit von Braun in Mexico or the Caribbean. They spent summers hiking, backpacking and traveling. For his 50th birthday, he spent nearly a month climbing Mount Logan (the highest mountain in Canada), and he participated in a few other climbing expeditions in Alaska and Canada. He also helped with projects on the Juneau Icefield many summers. When Jeannie's work took her to Bangladesh they often traveled to Nepal, where they did a number of treks in the Himalayas. Out of that experience he wrote "Beyond the Clouds: Trekking in the Hidden Land of Dolpo." A group of friends recently published that book.
Phil had a wide circle of friends, more friends than he deserved given his grouchiness. He had a great laugh, could tell good stories and had extensive backcountry skills. People were usually glad to put up with him, even if he was slow.
His brother Brian and his colleagues helped Phil through his struggle with prostate cancer. They kept him alive longer than anyone expected. He was hiking and skiing until the end and maintained his good humor through it all.
Phil regrets leaving Jeannie, his old friends, his young friends, his brothers and sister, and his nieces and nephews - he wished he could be with them all forever and a day. Phil, who wrote the bulk of this obituary, would like you all to remember to have a kind heart.
Contributions in his name may be directed to the Idaho Conservation League, the Latah Trail Foundation, White Pine Chapter - Idaho Native Plant Society or other conservation organizations.
There will be a party to celebrate his life in June, with details to be announced.