1/30/2013 7:50:00 PM Teaches firearms safety for more than 40 years
by Sue Sullivan
For more than 40 years, beginning October 13, 1972, Cannon Falls resident Bob Schlekewy has served as a firearms safety instructor in the Cannon Falls area, putting in at least 70 hours per season. His volunteer achievement noted, he was presented an award on January 28, by Regional Training Officer Dan McBroom of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.
"During the 1970s and '80s I had three classes of gun safety going," explained Schlekewy. About nine years ago Schlekewy relinquished the head position to Ken Tennessen of Cannon Falls. However, he still conducts on-line and home study classes as well as Conceal and Carry classes.
"They call him Grandpa Bob," said Tennessen. "He's like a father or grandfather in the classes having taught the fathers and grandfathers of some of the current kids."
Twenty-five years ago classes were taught at the Cannon Falls Schools after the school day, and 16 mm film was the primary medium supporting his classes.
Over the years Schlekewy has weathered substantial changes in operation. Now, with no guns allowed on school premises, training is done at the Sportsmen's Club and DVD training films are easier to project than the 16 mm film of yesteryear. Schlekewy has also noticed that 35-38 percent of his classes are female. Twenty years ago there were no girls in these classes.
Back in the day, it was primarily dads who enrolled their sons to learn gun safety - "and there was some fooling around," said Schlekewy. The students are more disciplined now and fully half of the parents stay during classes. Added Tennessen, "Some parents and grandparents are actually taking the classes right along with the young people."
Because the State requires a DNR Firearms Safety Certification before a game license may be purchased for those born after 1979, information concerning their class is printed on the student driver's license.
In the past 25 years, family dynamics have changed and that too has had an impact on the classes. "Kids can't always make it to all the classes so I have make-up classes when schedules conflict. I have always enjoyed working with kids," declared Schlekewy. He hopes to continue teaching for another year - until he's 75.
Married to wife Judy, the Schlekewy's boast a son and a daughter. Bob worked at the Koch Refinery as a unit operator and pipefitter until retiring in 2006. That is where he and Tennessen met in 1976.
Dedicated to gun safety, Schlekewy's genesis was a farm in South Dakota. In 1947 at the age or eight of nine, he bought his first Stevens shotgun for $7.50 which included two boxes of shells. "I still have it!" he proudly exclaimed.
During the first or second class, he brings it in to demonstrate that when taken care of properly, a firearm can last a very long time.