It is regrettable that Dave Hoekstra’s wonderful article about Jim Phillips, the Fox [“Who Was That Masked Man?” December 7], referred to him simply as a member of a voyageur “club,” when in fact, he was a special participant in the 300th anniversary reenactment of the 3,000 mile voyage of Louis Jolliet, wherein he discovered and explored the upper Mississippi and the rich lands of Illinois.
I was a member of the Illinois Tricentennial Commission and conceived the idea of authentically retracing the journey. I chose Jim Phillips to play the role of Pierre Porteret, one of the five voyageurs Jolliet had hired to accompany him. His task was to describe what they observed in the landscape as they passed through 300 years before and how it had changed since. The group gave a program before audiences in over 180 communities along the route and as one Tribune article put it, “they gave the Midwest its greatest history lesson ever!” The seven men and one boy, each assuming the identity of one of the original party, did an outstanding job. Had they not taken the time and made the effort to reenact Jolliet and Marquette’s voyage, the tricentennial observance would have slipped by unnoticed.
Most of the JM participants were out of town during the first memorial service for Jim and it was decided to do our own remembrance, hence the November 25 service. Jim reached thousands of persons with his message in his role as a voyageur working for Louis Jolliet during that four-month-long voyage in 1973. I am sorry that the author referred to one of Jim’s greatest roles as just being a member of a voyageur club.
Ralph C. Frese
Chicagoland Canoe Base, Inc.