BIG BEND NATIONAL PARK
Passing Of VIP Bob Wirt
Catoctin National Park and Big Bend National Park join together to mark the passing of a remarkable volunteer, Robert E. “Bob” Wirt, a recipient of the Hartzog Award for his work.
Bob Wirt donated over 21,000 hours of NPS VIP service from 2000 through 2012. At Catoctin National Park, Bob served as a campground host and assisted with IT support, trail and park maintenance, cultural and natural history research. In Big Bend National Park, Bob worked on interpretive services and programs and a variety of natural science projects, including grasslands restoration projects, a water well data base and monitoring, air quality monitoring, historical research and locating unrecorded cultural sites.
As he battled cancer toward the end of his life, Bob focused his volunteer efforts on the cultural history of Big Bend National Park. Ultimately he developed a website (http://www.lifebeforetheruins.com) which traces the history of the early families in the area. Bob himself did an excellent job of expressing his feelings on the impact of that excellent idea and the massive amount of work.
“By far the most gratifying result has been the opportunity to help people connect with their roots,” he said, “such as helping them locate the home sites of their grandparents or great-grandparents, or providing information on family members they didn’t know about.”
In 2010 Bob Wirt was presented with the George B. Hartzog Award for his work at Catoctin. His co-workers in that park offered this recollection: “Bob Wirt worked tirelessly to provide for the enjoyment of visitors. Young people were particularly inspired by Bob’s special touch. The 2009 Youth Conservation Corps (YCC) kids wore red suspenders, ‘Volunteer Bob’s’ personal trademark, to show how much they appreciated his guidance and support. Describing Bob Wirt as a valuable park asset would be an understatement. His attitude, work ethic, and commitment made him an indispensable member of the Catoctin Mountain Park team.”
Co-workers at Big Bend considered Bob to be “tireless, fearless and totally committed to the Big Bend, its natural resources and cultural history.” His passions were travel, volunteering in the national parks, and conducting historical and genealogical research for the people and places of the Big Bend region of Texas, which he considered to be his second home and family. Bob truly loved Big Bend and his work here and we truly loved him for it. He will be greatly missed.