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2024 Field Trial Obituaries

In Memoriam

May 27, 2024

Notices Received In May

Remembering Wayne Fruchey
By David A. Fletcher
I was saddened when I learned of the death of Wayne Fruchey. It was well after his funeral that I learned of his passing, and it made me remember all the great attributes of this wonderful grouse Trial personality.

I met Wayne in 1970. Ken McLaughlin, secretary of the Lake States Grouse Championship, invited me to report on that event for the American Field. I had recently moved to Michigan from Chicago but had to get directions to the Gladwin Grounds; once there, I rode to witness Wayne running a dog named Ghost Train. He was an older dog this time down and did not challenge the winners, but you could see his grouse dog skills as he searched the best cover and came around in front like the veteran he was. Wayne and I were only six months apart in birthdays; Wayne born in the first half of 1935, and I the latter part of 1934. As we got older, we always talked about how each other was making it. I nominated Wayne to the Field Trial Hall of Fame, as did others, but the grouse world was small in number, and he was never elected; nevertheless, he was a very worthy candidate.

I am sure Wayne was a founder of the Beaverton Grouse Dog Club and, for over half a century, was one of that Club's stalwarts and a leader and benefactor to the rest of the grouse dog world. If work was needed for grounds, club or course issues, or any other problem, Wayne was there. Wayne's great grouse dog, Ghost Train, was not only a winner at grouse trials, including a win at the Grand National in 1969, but he virtually established a line of breeding that was foremost among cover dogs over the years. Ghost Train had a remarkable influence on grouse trial bloodlines. He won 19 field trials placements and produced 57 winners, with a total of 326 wins. Remarkable for a dog whose producing years were over 40 years ago.

Wayne's family has carried on the great task of putting on grouse trials. Son Tom has been Secretary and President of the Grand National Grouse Championship for many years, and nephew Roger Johnson has also been a tireless worker for the Beaverton Club and many other grouse woods activities.

One thing must be said before I close this article about grouse dogs. They have to run in the woods, no horseback scouting; they must come around by their own doing, stay under judgment, be nimble, and race through heavy tree stands and thick cover. They have to handle one of the toughest and touchiest birds to get pointed, the ruffed grouse. Generally speaking, the winners are very good bird dogs. Wayne Fruchey came from a grouse dog family, grandparents, parents Art and Mae, and Mae cooked lunches in Alibi Hall for a host of years. Wayne gave his all to grouse trials for the better part of seven generations.

Notices Received In April

Dean R. Crabbs
1942-2024

Dean R. Crabbs

Dean Raymond Crabbs, 82, passed away peacefully with his family by his side Friday evening, March 15, 2024, after a long battle with Parkinson's disease.
He was born March 8, 1942, in Warren, the son of the late Thurman D. Crabbs and Regina M. Crabbs Hermann.
He was a 1960 graduate of Braceville High School and a graduate of the University of Michigan with a degree in forestry. After college, Dean joined the U. S. Air Force, attaining the rank of captain. He spent his career as a law enforcement officer with the Federal Bureau of Investigation. He then worked at the Bureau of Land Management in Alaska as the SAC, running the law enforcement for the state, retiring in 1995.
Dean pursued a dream to navigate his own boat down the inside passage of Alaska and did so for several summers with many friends. Dean grew roots in Vale, Oregon, where he found a new love for hunting upland birds, which led him into the pointing dog world.
He married Diane Goracke on July 7, 2007, and they shared 17 years of marriage together. During their journey together, they joined the German Shorthaired Pointer Club of Idaho and began trialing their dog, Jake. Jake went on to win many awards, but his most coveted was runner-up in the National Shooting Dog Championship in Booneville, Arkansas. The NGSPA became a huge part of both Dean's and Diane's lives, and they made many lifelong friends. Dean ran the NGSPA National for nine years solo before a committee was created. He served on the board of directors for over seven years. He was honored in 2023 when he was inducted into the Field Trial Hall of Fame.
Dean is survived by his wife, Diane; one son, Scott of Etna; and one brother, Albert (Terri) Crabbs of Fowler. He also leaves behind his beloved German shorthaired pointers, BJ, Buster, and Dusty, who will continue to keep the couch warm for him.
Condolences may be sent to the family at P.O. Box 3016, Alpine, WY 83128.
Memorial donations may be made, in Dean's name, to Bird Dog Hall of Fame, P.O. Box 774, Grand Junction, TN 38039.

Carl Lefler
1943-2024
Submitted by Dwight Smith

Carl Lefler and Gerald Tracy

Carl Lefler, owner of Rocky River Kennels, passed away on March 5, 2024. He is survived by his wife of 58 years, Sue Lefler, and two children, a daughter, Sharon Sneed, and a son, Luther, plus several grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
Carl grew up in the village of Georgeville, near Concord, North Carolina. He was an avid quail hunter, but like many other quail hunters, he turned to pointing dog field trials later in life.
He purchased two pointer puppies in the early '80s and turned them over to John Ray Kimbrell for early development.
When Gerald Tracy moved part of his winter training headquarters to nearby Chesterfield, South Carolina, and later to Norwood, North Carolina, Carl put the two pups with Gerald. Those two pups were multi-winners, Rocky River Buck and Lucky Country Boy. Lefler was hooked. He began breeding and starting pointers, using the kennel name of Rocky River Kennels.
Over the years, Carl bred and started lots of young pointers. He sent most of them to Gerald Tracy and then George Tracy to campaign in field trials.
Rocky River Master, Rocky River Loaded, and Rocky River Bandit are just a few of the pointers he and his wife Sue started in field trials. Most times the prospects were sold to owners who left them in the Tracy strings.
Later, Carl sent prospects to several trainers/handlers. He soon became a close friend of Phil Stevenson, the Virginia professional, and at his death, he had interest in two derbies in Stevenson's string.
It should be noted that Sue Lefler played an important part in breeding, whelping, developing, and caring for the puppies born in Rocky River Kennels.
Tommy Kimrey, an Albemarle, North Carolina amateur field trialer, was also an important cog in the Rocky River Kennel organization.
Carl started in construction as a laborer and worked his way to operator of all equipment and supervisor of road projects. He ended his career as a manager and consultant of the equipment division, where he had worked for all his career days.
The best way to sum up Carl Lefler's life might be the following, copied from his obituary printed by Saint Martin Lutheran Church of Concord, North Carolina.
"It was a great treat for the children, grandchildren and later great-grandchildren playing with the many puppies he raised over the years. It always brought a smile to his face. His knowledge and expert eye for a champion bird dog showed up at many field trials. So many wonderful friends evolved as a result of those trials. So many memories...that will always be with us."
He was my friend, and as the obituary says, so many memories.

Notices Received In March

James ("Jim") William Spencer
June 24, 1947-March 16, 2024
Submitted by Robert Thomas

James W. Spencer

Jim, the oldest of four siblings, was born in Pensacola, Florida, on June 24, 1947, to Jonnie Evans Spencer and Angeline Mathis Spencer, but Milton was his home. Jim graduated from Milton High School and later obtained his bachelor's degree from Troy State University. Upon graduation from high school, Jim became a proud member of the United States Marine Corps Force Recon. While Jim chose not to re-enlist after his initial three-year period, he was a Marine for life and could be found proudly sporting a Marine Recon hat or shirt daily. Upon return to civilian life, Jim met Jane Lacy; they were married, and Laura, his only daughter, was born.

Jim worked for the Fish and Wildlife Commission and then for the Santa Rosa County Sheriff's Office, where he remained for 34 years. Jim didn't always make things easy for himself and actively fought for what he believed was right. There was no greater champion for the truth than Jim. Jim's absolute refusal to overlook any perceived injustice cost him his job more than once. He fought for that, too, and was ultimately reinstated on no less than three occasions. Those who loved Jim knew that they had no greater advocate in their corner. Jim had a very strong sense of right and wrong. That "right" might have only been "Jim's right," but with Jim, there was no other choice. He was brutally honest and left no room for compromise.

Jim then met and married Nikki, and they had many wonderful years together. But Jim had another love besides Nikki, and she was fully on board. His passion for all things quail hunting, bird dogs, and field trials fueled him, and upon retirement from the Sheriff's Office, he fully immersed himself in the sport he had fallen in love with 40 years earlier. Jim was a true champion of the sport and worked tirelessly to create a venue on the family property, which allowed many people who might not otherwise have had a chance to participate. He trained and mentored young quail hunters and their dogs and found no greater joy than working with them in the great outdoors. He and Nikki made many wonderful friends within the sport, and his impact will be recognized for years.

Jim had another love, and it was his four grandchildren. When the girls were younger, they would take turns traveling to plantations throughout the southeast for various field trials. They often fought over whose turn it was to go camping in Georgia with Big Daddy. At home, they could often be seen riding on a four-wheeler through the property or with him while he fed the horses. As they got older, he could often be seen slipping cash to them for grades, gas, or because they were heading back to school. Big Daddy was so proud of Spencer, and Spencer was always so excited to go to Big Daddy and Nic Nick's house to swim in the pool.
Jim is preceded in death by Johnnie Evans Spencer, Angeline "Angie" Mathis Spencer, and his sister, Sarah Ellen Spencer Hobbs.

Jim is survived by his wife, Nicolette Jon Spencer; his daughter and son-in-law, Laura and Steve Coleman; his four grandchildren, Lauren, Kennedy, Caroline, and Spencer; his brother-in-law, Donald Hobbs; his sister, Carrie Spencer Nolan; his brother, Lawrence Evans "Bud" Spencer; and nieces and nephews.

A Funeral Service will be held on Saturday, March 23, at First Baptist Church, 6797 Caroline Street, Milton, Florida 32570. Visitation will be from 12 to 2 p.m., with the service at 2 p.m.
Dr. Jonathan Russell is officiating.

The family wishes to thank all of those who have reached out to Jim throughout the years as he bravely battled his cancer diagnosis. Jim fought long and hard for many years and was the beneficiary of many prayers, words of comfort, and well wishes. The family is thankful for those prayers lifted up by friends and family during that time.

Donations may be made in Jim's honor to Tunnel to Towers Foundation, 2361 Hylan Boulevard, Staten Island, NY 10306.

Notices Received In February

Harry R. Blaine (1931-2024)
Submitted by Reba Leiding

Harry Blaine

It is with a heavy heart that I write of the passing of my husband, Harry Blaine. He was a frequent field trialer in the 1970s through the 2000s but hadn't been active for a while due to declining health. He continued to follow the sport closely. I can attest that he constantly thought of his once and future dogs and recounted his field trial exploits every day.

Harry was born in 1931 in Newcastle, Pennsylvania, and grew up in Youngstown, Ohio, where he raised cocker spaniels as a youngster. His dad was a laborer and involved in the labor movement. Harry attended The Ohio State University, where he intended to become a veterinarian. He interrupted college to enlist in the Army, serving in Korea as a 2nd Lieutenant and operating an 8-inch howitzer in an artillery unit. When he returned to OSU, he got sidetracked by the law and ended up with a J.D. from Yale University Law School. He never practiced law, however, but returned to his beloved OSU and became a professor in the business school. As those who knew him can vouch, he may not have been a lawyer, but it was difficult to win an argument with him. Harry wrote Ohio's first Occupational Safety and Health regulations, which, of course, the state did not implement, and he also wrote many research grants.

It was on one of those research projects that I met Harry--yes, a workplace romance. He was a Hemingway-esque figure in his safari shirts and many-pocketed vests. He would leave town on Fridays for weekend field trials and disappear for days at a time for championships. He regaled us with tales of his field trial adventures. Early on, Harry owned two winning dogs, Counterstrike and Countercharge, with trainer Gene Uhlman. Later, he had dogs with trainer George Tracy, most notably Foxfire's Rhea in the 1980s. Recently, he co-owned dogs with Karen Conroy in Georgia, who ran them in local trials. In the 2010s, he also owned field-bred cocker spaniels, including Field Champion Columbias Macey (Master Hunting Advanced), with Ohio trainer Jim Karlovec.

Harry always said field trials were a prime example of a functioning anarchy--people getting things done even though nobody was in charge. That was the way he liked it. The outdoor life, hunting, and dogs were Harry's great passions--he also was a terrible flirt, but I won't get into that. I think of him now, the sun behind him, scouting on horseback through those Elysian Fields, following some great, lightly marked dog. Style and a good race: that's what Harry loved.

Robert "Bob" Gove
Submitted by Deb Fazenabker

Restless Red Toolman (

(Pictured is Restless Red Toolman, Bob's last great champion.)

Robert "Bob" Gove (79) passed away suddenly on December 2, 2023, after struggling for many years with Alzheimer's disease.

Bob spent his youth involved in Boy Scouts, canoeing, family camping trips to Voyageurs National Park and the Quetico Provincial Park, go-cart racing, falconry, and adopting every wild critter he could capture. The family also spent many vacations with the Bradley family in Le Mars, Iowa, where Bob was born. Bob's early years were spent in Herman, Minnesota, and later grew up in Wayzata, Minnesota. He pursued a passion for biking and cross-country skiing, which he competed in competitively. He also served in the Army Reserves.

Bob's love of the outdoors led to him becoming an avid hunter of upland game birds, and he subsequently fell in love with his first Irish Setter. In 1996, he made the mistake of going to a horseback field trial. He ran while everyone else rode. His third-place ribbon got him hooked on his biggest passion - horseback field trials. He devoted constant hours to the sport, training, campaigning, and breeding Red Setters. He won nearly 20 National Red Setter Championships, several Regional Championships, and numerous Dog of the Year awards. He had two of his dogs inducted into the Field Trial Hall of Fame. He worked tirelessly to promote the sport, serving simultaneously as president of the National Red Setter Club and the Northwest Field Association. He filled every role with these organizations as needed for 50 years.

Bob's degree was in Biology, and he began his career at Hennepin County Park Reserve District (Three Rivers Park Districts), where he served for 28 years. He started as the Public Information Officer, which was perfect for utilizing his skills in photography. He moved up in the organization to Naturalist, Director, and ultimately Director of Public Safety. He instigated the mounted patrol program and was instrumental in getting field trials on the park grounds.

In 1982, he met his beloved wife Katherine when she was hired as a park ranger on the mounted patrol. Together, they formed an inseparable team, enjoying the same passion for the outdoors. Hunting, fishing, field trialing, farming, and traveling filled their days. Their favorite trip included an African safari, but other highlights included Alaska, Australia, the Amazon rain forest, the Caribbean, and the National Parks. Both shared a love for historical sites and made many trips to the Mayan ruins in Mexico and Central America.

Bob's love of the outdoors and nature was always the driving force in his life, from his career to his hobbies. He is preceded in death by his mother, Constance (Bradley) Gove, Father Robert Gove, brothers Michael, David, and Willard, and many of his beloved dog family, including Fling, Lefty, Buns, Shorty, Bella, and Binny. He is survived by his wife, Katherine Gove (nee Hartnett), and many loving extended family members.

In lieu of flowers or gifts, please consider donating to the Alzheimer's Association.

Notices Received In January

Donna Martens
By Mike Husenits, West Lebanon, Pennsylvania

As is so often the case, when one half of a loving couple from a long-time relationship passes away, the other half is not far behind. Donna Martens, age 84, passed away on December 23, 2023, in Ridgeville, Ontario, just eight months after the passing of her husband, Roger W. Martens, in March of 2023. Roger and Donna were married for 64 years.

Donna participated on the field trial circuit with Roger when they campaigned their winning string of pointers under the banner of Springtime Kennels for many years. She enjoyed the social aspect of field trialing immensely and participated in the organization and management of several well-known events. She served on the Board of Directors of the National Shooting Dog Futurity and was heavily involved in the major events of Region 13 and the New York State Bird Dog Association for several years.

Another dedicated patron of the Field Trial sport is gone; may she rest in peace.

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