Camp Woody at Fifty (The Reunion Celebration)

 

Introduction:

Camp Woody celebrated its Fiftieth Anniversary in August 2006 with a weekend celebration that was blessed with great weather and enthusiastic participants representing every decade of its existence.  As chairperson of the reunion, I was delighted by the turnout and by the spirit of that weekend.  It simply turned out great!  The following scrapbook features photos taken by Joel North, Mat Freeman, and Ryan Boudreau.  Un-credited photos were taken by me. For the most part, the photos will tell the story, but I’ll add text and commentary whenever it’s appropriate.

 

The Reunion Logo, used on the web page and all correspondence, was patterned after the maps and hand-printed signs that Marianne Boko made at camp in the 1960s and 70s.

 

IN MEMORIAM: The Grand Ladies of the Reunion, my Mom Joyce Smith (left) and Wanda Fields, had a wonderful time visiting with each other.  Mrs. Fields was one of the pioneers of camping at Abercrombie and Long Island in the early 1950s, and it was a real pleasure to welcome her back to camp.  This was a rare moment when they were alone.  Everyone wanted to talk to these two, who shared so much history between them.  Wanda Fields recently published a book on the Kodiak cattle industry titled Now it Can Be Told.  Both of these wonderful ladies were taken from us before the next summer came.

 

In Memoriam: Joyce Smith

Although we did not know it at the time, this grand reunion was to be the last big event of the last summer of my Mom Joyce Smith’s life.  So the reunion was a fitting sendoff for one of the chief architects of Camp Woody at its beginning, a tireless worker who guided its development through most of its first three decades.  Mom Joyce was the keynote speaker at our final service, and although her body was tired, she spoke of Camp Woody’s past and future with a fire and passion that none of us who were there will ever forget.  The reunion was an event she had been eagerly anticipating, and as we suspected, she only lasted a few weeks beyond it, slipping peacefully on to her reward surrounded by friends in her little office in Ouzinkie in late August, 2006.  She went Home on her own terms: in her house in Ouzinkie, attended by people who loved her.

 

In Memoriam: Wanda Fields

The Reunion was also the last time many of us got to see another grand lady from the pioneer days of Kodiak: Wanda Fields.  She was such a delight to be around, and it was a blessing to have gotten reacquainted with her.  All the old-timers (for example, those who grew up in the Mission in the 1950s and were the first wave of campers) were honored to spend time with her.  Wanda Fields’ recently published book, Now it Can Be Told: Stories of Alaskan Pioneer Ranchers, recounts the amazing story of cattle ranchers on Kodiak Island, and the Fields family’s pivotal role in that circle of spunky pioneers. It also features photos of the Fields’ involvement with the Mission, my parents, and camping on Long Island (which morphed into Camp Woody in 1956).    

 

Note to all the others who attended:  The photos in this article are the best of what I have.  If you send me more, I will make a volume two of this article, because we all have so many memories to share of that remarkable weekend.        –Timothy Smith, web author

 

This is the poster that I made for the reunion, which my brother Kelly and I plastered all over town.

 

Mat Freeman’s original design (left) became our beautiful sweatshirts for the reunion.  It was Mat’s idea to include the Evangel, used for the first 25 years of camping, in the design.  This pleased the old-timers like me greatly.

 

A former camper in my cabin for at least three years in the 1970s, Mat Freeman towers over me now.  He’s a church leader, camp board member, and respected teacher in Kodiak.  What a privilege to have his handiwork as a part of the Camp Woody Reunion.

 

Preparing for the Celebration:

The weeks leading up to the reunion were hectic for me for several reasons: I was serving as a chaplain at camp for part of the time, Kelly and I were taking turns caring for my Mom, who was having serious health issues, and I was trying to arrange for sweatshirts, publicity and staffing, all at the same time.  But somehow it all came together.  The camp board was very supportive. They let us use the camp for the entire week before the reunion, which helped immensely.  This also gave the out of town and out of state guests a place to stay if they came in a day or two early.  I was especially glad that Marianne Boko, who had spent about twenty seasons on camp staff, her daughter Gaby and Gaby’s husband Bob, had a chance to be on Woody and enjoy the surroundings a few days early.  I hadn’t seen Marianne and Gaby since 1975, and that was a great reunion just for us.  Here are some of the photos of our little reunion before the reunion.

Bob Beerman, Gabie’s husband (right) visits with Larry LeDoux on his boat as he takes them to Woody.  Larry served many years at camp as a counselor in the 1970s.

 

At the helm of Larry’s boat is Sarah Adams, while her dad Bruce looks on.  Bruce served as a counselor in the mid-70s, and has since helped me with many music projects.  We still perform many of the songs we did at camp.

 

Marianne and Gabie pose on a log at the far end of Sawmill beach.  They had not been back to Camp Woody since 1975, when Gabie was very young.

 

Marianne Boko, the source of so many wonderful photos (see the articles on Camp Woody in the 50s through the 1970s) and one of my mentors in photography, waits patiently on the old dock for a shot of the bald eagles that hang out there.  A new digital camera has replaced her old Pentax Spotmatic SLR.

 

Bob and Gabie try to get dry by the dining hall wood stove after a damp hike across Woody, while Marianne looks on.  Gabie and Bob later nearly got stuck trying to climb over (rather than around) Garraboon Point, but that just added to the memorable experiences of the trip!

 

Friday Night:

Clearly on Kodiak time, most of the guests arrived at Camp Woody a little late, as various boats and skiffs waited for just one more person.  But we got going with a great evening meal which ended with a cake celebrating camp’s birthday.  The ages of the campers ranged from toddler to octogenarian, and the multigenerational family made for a big change from the usual camping-season crowd. Everyone got a cabin, and everyone’s gear got stashed, and camp tasks got done quickly.  That’s because almost every adult there had been a frequent camper or had been on staff, and everyone knew the routines.

 

Most unusual arrival (for anyone else but them): the North boys, Andrew and Joel, arrive from Kodiak by kayak.  Drew helps out every summer with the cooking at the Kodiak Baptist Mission.  Joel is full time staff at the Mission, working with the after school programs in the schools, and running various outdoor adventures for kids as part of the summer day camp.

 

The Martens found out about the reunion by accident.  They had a wonderful time, and it was an honor to get to know them.

 

One family, Dana and Lynnette Martins and their enthusiastic kids, had found the camp reunion quite by accident.  She had been on the camp staff in the 1980s, and found out about the reunion from the proprietor of the bed and breakfast they were planning to stay in.  He insisted that they go to Woody for a night to participate in the reunion. They got one of the cabins in the trees all to themselves, and seemed to enjoy their time at Woody more than anyone else!

 

The first evening’s dishes were dealt with especially swiftly, because that meal marked the inauguration of the new high-efficiency dishwasher.  Ty and Jon, the husbands of the Questa and Karen cooking team, had a blast breaking in the new machine, hauling out sparkling, dry racks of dishes almost as fast as they had put them in.  What a change from the old system! After dinner, we went to the recreation hall/chapel for some PowerPoint photos of camp in the 1950s and 60s, with plenty of embarrassing snapshots of the oldsters as youngsters. 

 

Surrounded by eager kids, Ty cuts the Reunion birthday cake after Friday supper, with Questa and Karen in the background. 

 

Joyce (center) listens intently to Zelanna Copsey as my sister Robin (left) and her husband Al (right) look at photos from Nadina’s collection (near right). Joel North photo

 

We went down to the beach for a campfire as the sun set. All but the youngest kids (and Mom, who was too tired) enjoyed the songs and the conversation around the roaring fire started by Nathan Lambert, veteran of ten seasons on staff. Then Jared Young reminded me about our secret stash of fireworks left over from the Fourth of July.  He and some young friends quickly recovered it from its hiding place in the craft building, and the kids wasted no time in setting them off.  I say kids, but Jon and Ty were right in the middle of it!  About that time, magic happened.  Around the corner of Near Island came the Kennecott, the Alaska Marine System ferry that’s too big for the Kodiak channel.  As we saw it approaching, everyone had the same idea: to light off all the remaining fireworks as it passed.  The timing was about perfect, as the majority of our remaining rockets and fountains erupted just as the ship was abreast of the beach.  They acknowledged us with a loud burst of the foghorn.  Wonder what they thought was going on?  The tourists on deck were probably impressed with the sendoff that Kodiak gives to the ferry.  Come back in fifty years and we’ll try another display for you! The photo I took just doesn’t capture the amazing sight of the brightly-lit Kennecott, framed against the dark islands, greeted by bright explosions of color.  We couldn’t have planned that in a million years.

 

My photo doesn’t really capture the spectacle of the fireworks we set off as the Kennecott passed us.  A few seconds after the last explosion, they honked the foghorn once.

 

Lindsay and Nathan Lambert pose as close as they dare to the campfire (which Nathan started).  It was a delight to get to know them and hear stories of Camp Woody in the years after I left it. Mat Freeman photo

 

Joel North snapped this photo of me preparing for the Saturday morning music.

 

 

Saturday:

The morning weather was a bit “iffy” on Saturday, but we had a great breakfast and then a short devotion time.  I called together a staff meeting (actually, anyone who was free to come, because the whole camp was made up of old staffers) and we decided to head on out on a hike for lunch on the beach. The weather began to clear even before we set off. The best beach that could be reached by truck was Scout Beach, below the old FAA station.  The oldest and youngest were plopped onto the flatbed truck, while the rest of us hiked there by various routes.  No need to plan too specifically for this crowd; everyone found a multitude of things to do on the way and once we got there.  The Harper-Young cooking team provided a great cookout lunch, and everyone enjoyed the company of a once in a lifetime collection of Woody people.

Nancy and Elaine (who was a camper back in the 70s) enjoy one of camp’s canoes on Tanignak Lake.

 

Helen and Nadina enjoy Tanignak Lake.  I think everybody felt like a youngster that weekend! (Both are Mat Freeman photos)

 

I appreciated greatly the privilege of getting to know the Lamberts and the Bowmans, staffers who had been so much a part of the Woody legacy during the two decades after I worked there.  Our friend and frequent visitor from the summer of 1975, Joe Ritchie and his wife Darlene, made the trip from New Mexico for the reunion, and it was wonderful to renew our friendship.  My dear friend Bruce, who had served at Woody in the 1970s and had been one of my best friends ever since, brought his daughter Sarah up to the reunion to serve as video archivist.  But I was especially blessed by my “camp girls,” Zelanna, Nadina and Helen, who had been campers during the earliest years, when I had been just a camp brat. They came from as far away as Nevada and Florida to be there. They were so fun to be around, carrying on like a group of Junior High girls!  Woody has a way of doing that to people.  And everyone was honored to spend time with my Mom, Joyce Smith, whose years of service to the camp had helped to build it and shape its destiny. 

 

Lunch on the beach gave opportunity for Nadina, Helen and Zelanna to do more visiting with Joyce and Wanda.  Ryan Boudreau, our tour guide to the Arch after lunch, is in the striped sweater, while Nathan, Lindsay and Amber chat in the background.

 

Lunch on the beach, with a fine finish of s’mores!

 

Mrs. Fields, Mrs. Bowman and Mrs. Zimmer (with Claire Harper) enjoy an after-lunch chat.  (Both are Joel North photos)

 

Bruce Adams interviews Joyce Smith after lunch (Mat Freeman photo)

 

The Bowmans, camp directors in the 1980s, were happy to meet the staff from the years before and after their service, and to reconnect with old Woody friends.

 

The Reunion was fun for kids of all ages!  Here, some of the youngest hitch a ride back to camp after lunch, while Jarod Young (he who remembered our stash of fireworks the previous night) helps load the truck.  Bonnie Callahan, daughter of Diedre Bailey, longtime camp cook, brought her kids, who fit right in with all the other youngster Harpers and Martens etc.  Camp was certainly always multigenerational for me; I was only three when Camp Woody began!

 

After lunch, my fellow 2006 staff member Ryan Boudreau (he of barbed wire fame in the other 2006 articles) and his brother Curtis volunteered to take anyone interested on a tour of the Natural Arch. Ryan may have had an ulterior motive because of a secret he had hiding nearby. (Those brothers had several secret homemade thrill rides in various parts of the island, which they had hidden there over the years, including a real buoy swing over a cliff on a hill behind the Chaffin’s cabin.)  They had stashed a net in the treetops near the Natural Arch, and of course we wanted to visit that, too. The net made for a unique trampoline, high above the forest floor, within feet of a steep cliff.  Not for the faint of heart, but perfect for the Boudreau brothers and other equally adventurous types! 

 

Curtis Boudreau and Drew North try the net, hidden in the treetops above the Arch.  The camp staff has been known to try to sleep there between camps, but the first person to roll over wakes everyone else, so it’s not a great idea! (Joel’s photo)

 

Joe and Darlene Ritchey check out the little beach on the back side of the Arch.

 

We scrambled down the cliff below the tree net, using an old ladder that had been stashed there, reaching the little beach that runs beside the Natural Arch.  It’s a beautiful beach, and the Arch is always quietly stunning as Woody Island’s most unusual natural feature.  We were quietly enjoying the scenery when I remarked that we used to have fun there jumping up and down on the trunks of the trees that had slipped off the cliff.  That’s when I noticed that right in front of me was a splendid sample, its long trunk worn silver by its time in the surf, but still plenty supple. We all spent the next who knows how long trying to stay on the log as others pulled it up and down.  It was spontaneous, hilarious and a ton of fun, as the photo montage will attest!

 

The fallen tree became a makeshift amusement ride as we all tried to stay on without getting bucked off. (Photos are from my film camera and Joel’s digital)

 

We all finally made it back to camp in time for supper, collecting from various corners of Woody Island with a hundred stories to tell.  That supper Kelly and I tried to sing a couple of songs around the tables, like we had in the 60s and 70s, but that wasn’t the mood anyone was in.  We were there to fellowship, and the dining hall was filled with happy conversation.  We decided not to try to interrupt.  After a remarkable summer on staff, the reunion for me was more about celebrating the present than trying to relive some nostalgic past.  Camp Woody is clearly a current event. Even the oldest former campers caught that immediately, getting right into the spirit of things. I was especially happy to see Larry Le Doux at the dinner table, another of the dedicated staff from my era in the 1970s, as well as Felecia McFarland and Mat Freeman, who had been favorite campers in those days and are now enthusiastic adult supporters of Camp Woody.

 

Kelly, Bruce (in red) and I tried singing around the dinner tables, but we gave up so we could spend more time visiting.  Mat Freeman, Larry LeDoux (looking away) and Sarah Adams are in the foreground.

 

Mat (left) and Larry chat with some of the young people at supper (Joel’s photo)

 

 

After supper we again watched some PowerPoint slides, including my time on staff in the 1970s and all I had collected of the years when I was not there.  Nathan Lambert had many albums full of photos, and unfortunately I was just able to glance at a few of them (and none were available to me when I made the PowerPoint).  How do you cram half a century of human experiences into a weekend?  Well, you can’t!  But we all did have some wonderful time sharing across the years and generations with each other.

 

More songs, more memories…the second night of the reunion was even more spectacular than the first, but we had no more fireworks, so we sang a few songs, talked about what makes Camp Woody work after all these years, shared a few horror stories of times when things just didn’t go right, and enjoyed the  fire, friendship and spectacular scenery until late that evening.

 

That evening we had another campfire (no way to repeat the drama of the previous night).  We sat around the fire swapping stories of our many experiences at camp.  Nathan had a lot of questions about how things had been done in the old days, and I heard a lot of cool stories about the years after I left.  I was struck by the fact that some things work now that didn’t then, and some things we did routinely back in the day would not be meaningful if we tried them nowadays.  I was also struck by the fact that there are two unchangeable truths about Camp Woody: the island is always beautiful, and God loves to move there every summer!  The conversations kept going as we all slowly walked back to camp, and continued long into the night in the various cabins.  There was just so much to share!

 

Sunday:

The weather was spectacular on Sunday morning, and as usual, the food at breakfast was fantastic.  But the main event of the morning was the closing service that we had in the recreation hall.  All four of the 2006 counseling staff members that were still in Kodiak managed to make it over for that service, and it was a great honor to have their help.  I showed a PowerPoint of photos we had taken that summer, and we all talked about what it is like to serve at Camp Woody now.  It was very meaningful to all of the old-timers to see proof of camp as a living, vibrant, present reality.  Evan John Jones, who served ten years on staff in the 80s and 90s, spoke about the camp and its legacy. “What did you come to see?” he asked.  He said that the thing to notice this weekend was that Camp Woody is not a fifty year-old youth camp on a cool island, but is a place where people come to know Jesus Christ and begin a lifetime walk with Him.  Do we see the incredible, eternal spiritual legacy of that place?  Camp is merely a conduit for the power and love of God that has flowed through it for half a century.

 

My brother Kelly (left) and I lead a few songs on Sunday morning.

 

Tim and the remaining 2006 lady staff try to teach the Camp Woody song (which was a hilarious failure) and we all got a chance to share the way Camp Woody is today.

 

“What did you come to see?”  Evan John Jones shares at the Sunday service, explaining that it’s the Spirit of God and not the scenery that has made Camp Woody a life-changing place.  After the service, he led us on one of his famous history walks.  He may well know more about Woody Island history than anyone else alive.

 

 

Joyce Smith delivers her last sermon, while I hold her microphone and try to keep from crying.  It was a memorable moment for everyone in attendance.  “What God chooses to do cannot fail!” (Joel’s photo)

 

Then Mom Joyce got up to speak.  Tired out from all the excitement, and barely able to walk that morning, she stood holding her walker as I held the microphone for her.  As she spoke, her eyes shone and her voice was strong as she shared what God had done.  She spoke of the struggles of the early years, of losing a site for a summer camp and the miracle of getting the camp property just weeks before the opening season of 1956.  She spoke of the continuing miracles of the following decades.  And she stated that Camp Woody was living proof that “What God chooses to do cannot fail!”  I stood fighting back the tears; we all knew what she represented, as one of the last of Camp Woody’s pioneers, and one of its chief visionaries and architects.  I also knew, as the rest of the family did, that this was probably her last summer on earth.  Thankfully, her last sermon was videotaped, but even without it, none of us who were there will soon forget the passion she showed in her eyes, and the powerful words she spoke from her heart.  It was, as we expected, the high point of the reunion.  She went to be with her Lord just three weeks later.

 

After such a moving experience, the reunion closed out with a meal out on the picnic benches, with salmon, burgers and other delicacies cooked by Ty and Jon.  There were many more conversations, many exchanges of addresses, and then it was time to go home.  It was a splendid celebration of a remarkable place, made special by all the wonderful people who have made Camp Woody their own.

 

 

Jon Young mans the barbeque while Karen looks on.  The food was delicious, the relationship of the Youngs and the Harpers was a delight to watch, and the Reunion’s food service was just about the best I’ve ever seen on Woody.  I was especially lucky, because the Youngs and the Harpers worked at camp in 2007 also, and I got to develop an even deeper friendship with them.  People like these are what make Camp Woody great after all these years!

 

Ron and Mabel Quilliam, camp directors (end of table) chat with the Bowmans while Darlene and Joe Ritchey listen in.

 

In Memoriam: Beryl Torsen (right, who was the dean of camp cooks for over twenty years, and is also featured in the articles Baker Cottage Orphanage and Camp Woody in the 70s) chats with Zelanna Copsey (left) while her husband Bill Torsen looks on.  Since the Reunion, Beryl has also left us.  (Mat Freeman photo)

 

 

Ryan Boudreaux snapped this tree top photo with my camera…

 

…just as this photo was being taken.  Joyce is flanked (left to right) by Zelanna, Nadina and Helen, campers from the first year of Camp Woody!

 

 

The Smith family: Tim, Kelly, Robin La Monte, and Joyce, part of the first three decades of Camp Woody (Joel North photo)

 

Epilogue and Challenge:  Support Camp Woody’s Continuing Ministry!

The Reunion is over.  Fifty years have passed, and the next fifty have begun. Camp Woody will continue, God willing, and will be a blessed place as long as those who guide it allow the power of God to flow.  As one who has been a part of Camp Woody in its earliest past and in its present, I know that is exactly what will happen.  This is not mere sentimentality.  If you wish to be a part of the continuing legacy of Camp Woody, please consider one or more of these options!

Construction Volunteer: they always could use a volunteer (including construction and repair duties before each season). 

Donation:  You can send a generous donation by check to their mailing address, or by means of the secure PayPal link that you find in each camp article. Funds go directly to the Camp Woody account, and Tanignak.com has no access to or knowledge of any transaction. See the link just above the "written by" and site links below.

Staff Volunteer: There’s lots of need each year for cooks, counselors, managers, chaplains, directors and the like.  Contact the Camp Woody board if you feel the call!

Prayer: And of course you can pray.  This is undoubtedly the best task of all.  There have been countless stories of blessing during Camp Woody’s first half-century, and I’m sure all of them involved someone praying for that ministry. I will never forget the couple in Kodiak, many years ago, who had a vision of a great spiritual battle being waged over Camp Woody, and spent the entire spring in prayer for the camp.  The resulting season was one of our most spiritually rewarding, and I still hear from people who were touched forever by what happened to them at camp that particular summer. You probably know similar stories.  We get what we pray for, so pray for a deep and powerful move of God at Camp Woody whenever it comes to mind. 

Personal Thanks:  Thank you to the Camp Board for keeping Camp Woody running for all these years.  Thank you for letting me be a part of camp after a couple of decades away; it is possible to resurrect fossils after all.  And if you enjoyed this web article, or if you caught a mistake, remember I love hearing from you!  (links are below)  --Timothy Smith, Camp Woody 1956-1977, 1998, 2006, 2007 and…?

 

The Reunion kids listen to one of my stories on the Saturday of the Reunion.  It was a great honor to be the director of the Fiftieth Anniversary Reunion of Camp Woody.  I’m planning on attending the Seventy-Fifth!

 

 

PayPal Link to Donate to Camp Woody:

Written by Timothy Smith, web author. See the About Me page for more information. Always feel free to send me comments, suggestions or corrected information about this article or any of the articles on this site. (Write to: Tanignak@aol.com) This article and website is © 2008 Timothy L. Smith, Tanignak Productions, 14282 Tuolumne Court, Fontana, California, 92336 (909) 428 3472. Images in this article are my photos or are credited to the photographers. This material may be used for non-commercial purposes, with attribution. Please email me with any specific requests. You are welcome to link to this site.

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