Gary Cichy, 52, died when a car hit the machine he was working for NICOR and it fell on him Monday. The Hinckley man was one of the greatest fish carvers.
Taxidermist Doug Petrousek of Douglas Taxidermy, who employed Mr. Cichy at one point sent this photo, ``Stuffed to the Gills,'' which won Cichy Best of Show at the 2009 National Caricature Carving Competition.
Mr. Cichy was that kind of guy, something special as an artist. He won multiple honors at the World Fish Carving Competition in May.
What makes that strange is Mr. Cichy had to be talked into entering carving competitions by Illinois Outdoor Hall of Famer and a fellow fish carver, Don Dubin of Lincolnwood.
Mr. Cichy was one of the best at capturing the outdoor world with artfulness and craft. He will be missed. In multiple formats, I value the artistic integrity and craftmanship he brought to his work.
On a tangential level, I wish there were more who concentrated on bringing art and craft to endeavors in the outdoors.
Doug sent this note:
``I'm writing to you with the tragic and very sad news of the death of my best friend Gary Cichy. You may recall a nice article you did on Gary's fish carvings in the Sun times a few years ago. Gary had a booth at the Tri-Esox Muskie Show were I photographed you and Gary together. I hope you remember him.''
I remember him, and would check his booth at the Chicago Musky Show.
``More than all that, Gary was a good man. He was a hard worker, he fished hard and loved his art. He was a tremendously creative guy. It would be great if you could give him a mention in your column. He would have liked that. . . . He was my friend and I will miss him.''
What impressed me about Mr. Cichy when I did a story on him in January, 2006 was his artistic curiosity.
He kept a room of other's work. He said,
``I love to collect other artwork that other guys do, not just fish, but the birds. Go to some of these bird carving shows, and it looks like they are going to fly away.''
When I did the story, Mr. Cichy was 49 and coming off a battle with cancer of the lymph nodes.
Back then, he said,
``There was a little span, I thought 49 was going to be it. I see things a lot differently now. I enjoy fishing more, totally different now. When you go fishing now, you don't go to just catch a fish, but enjoy the smells and sounds.''
That's good advice all around.