Philip Anthony “Whale” Szczepanowski was born on September 10, 1950. He was the oldest child of Leonard and Irene (Brunton) Szczepanowski. He had three siblings Mike, Terry and Lori. He was a beloved brother, uncle, cousin, musician and friend, and beloved life partner of Suzi Mink.
Whale led a truly authentic life. He was a wilderness ranger in the Sawtooth Mountains. He led innumerable white water raft trips for those less experienced in the language of rivers. He lobbied successfully in Washington against the damming of the south fork of the Salmon River. The beauty, and power, and language of rivers was one of the great loves of his life.
Another of Whale’s great loves was music. In the 1980s and 90s he opened and operated the Guitar’s Friend in Moscow, Idaho. Whale could make and repair and play nearly any stringed instrument. While in Moscow, Whale began playing bass in the bluegrass group, the Ridge Runners. During this time he opened a second Guitar’s Friend in Boise, and played summers in Stanley with a band called Headwaters. He also played with numerous musicians in McCall. He is perhaps best known for playing bass with the Yurt Brothers for 15 years. After moving to Yachats, Oregon, he played with a group called They Went That-a-way, as well as returning to Idaho periodically to play with his old friends.
Whale was a great lover of people. He formed lifelong relationships with friends from his college days at the University of Michigan. Rick, Chris, and Craig would still get together in the spring to watch college basketball. Whale was a beloved older brother, and would frequently invest his time (not to mention his money) to travel across the country to spend time with his siblings in Michigan, Texas, and Florida. He was a beloved member of the Idaho music scene. And, of course, a beloved partner to Suzi, advisor and friend to Rhiannon, Jeremy, and Jayde, and gentle playmate to Hobie and Olivia.
Whale showed us all what it means to live a successful life. Be true to yourself. Do what you love. And touch with gentleness, love, grace, generosity, and kindness as many lives as possible. Let’s honor him by living as he did.
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