The region lost a champion for the Chesapeake Bay in November 2020, when Allan Quant of Lewisburg, PA, succumbed to cancer after a courageous, multiyear fight. His beloved Susquehanna River will seem more empty without his wise, endearing presence.
A veteran of the Bucknell University Outing Club, Allan spent two years at the Nantahala Outdoor Center in North Carolina mastering skills as a paddler, guide and wilderness sage.
In 1978, he started a mechanical services business called Ironwood, but in his spare time ran forest trails and competed in local biking, canoeing and running races. In 1987, Allan and his dear friend, John Capwell, won the U.S. Canoe Association’s National Championship in marathon canoeing.
In 1992, Allan landed the role of providing on-the-water safety for the second annual Susquehanna River Sojourn — a weeklong, paddle-and-camp adventure for people of all ages and skill levels with stops along the way for educational talks and tours. Thus began 24 years of providing safety services for scores of these river awareness trips on multiple rivers. Through sojourns and shorter trips, Allan introduced thousands of paddlers to the enjoyment of waterways from Canada to Florida.
Sometimes the significance, the exquisiteness, of a thing is only realized in its absence. The first Susquehanna Sojourn in 1991 met its objective, but organizers discovered an urgent need to address safety and, more so, help participants figure out how to make their vessels go downstream. An experienced hand in paddling logistics was sorely needed. The details of moving more than 100 people — with varied levels of paddling and camping expertise — from point to point on the East Coast’s largest river were mind-boggling. Add in meals, education and dignitary events, and you need a water-savvy magician.
During the latter days of the first sojourn, a most serendipitous recommendation came forth: “You need Allan Quant.” Soon, the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay, the organizer of the voyage, would discover that Allan wasn’t merely the magician they hoped for, but a one-of-a-kind riverine wizard.
The next year, Allan and Betsy Quant led the sojourn on the West Branch of the Susquehanna. With their deep experience, problem-solving mindset and good-natured but firm leadership, they educated and motivated the sojourners. The event improved. A tradition began that lasted for more than two decades and, as is said, the rest is history.
Coordinating these events afforded the pleasure of working closely with Allan. He exercised a calm that permeated a group and a jolly, can-do attitude that encouraged even the most recalcitrant curmudgeon to try a little harder. His knowledge of the outdoors ran deeper than the depths of the Bay, and his abilities to instruct were nothing short of collegiate. Taller than 6 feet, 5 inches, his lean, towering presence amplified these qualities. He was a giant, literally and figuratively.
Allan served on the Citizens Advisory Committee to the Chesapeake Bay Program and developed a successful local outfitting business, Canoe Susquehanna, serving students and recreationalists with signature care and patience while carrying on other personal and professional ventures.
In 2018, under a pavilion on a rainy day at the Loyalsock River sojourn, Allan and Betsy announced they were selling their outfitting business and retiring from leading trips. Allan needed to focus on cancer treatments.
ven then, acknowledging the cessation of his lifetime’s river work, Allan had a positive attitude and shared belly laughs about the trips of the past and what they meant to all of those involved. Somehow what he was facing didn’t take away from the joy and significance of his calling — to connect thousands to our waterways and discover the joys of paddling.
Like the brave captain at his core, Allan weathered a storm of treatments and relentless peaks and valleys in his battle against cancer. Despite his tenacity, he eventually acceded.
No one knows what journey awaits the departed, but Allan’s adventures while in our presence inspired and uplifted. They showed places worth protecting and the many wonders of a watershed. Only in his absence do we begin to realize the full contributions of his life so well-lived.
At a virtual remembrance last fall, friends gathered and shared their recollections, revealing tale after tale of Allan’s profound humanity: a neighbor who helped his neighbors; a farmer who cherished his land; a husband and father who loved his family; and yes, a man who adored rivers.
It’s not too far a stretch to imagine that the rivers, too, reciprocated his affection. The surfaces seem different without the strong, nimble, strokes of a most magnanimous grinning explorer. Rivers remember. And grateful hearts never forget.
Cindy Adams Dunn is secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. Brook Lenker is executive director of the FracTracker Alliance. Both served with the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay and in other capacities organizing Susquehanna Sojourns and encouraging river stewardship activities. In these roles, they developed a lasting friendship with Allan Quant and his family.
The views expressed by opinion columnists are not necessarily those of the Bay Journal.