Friday, February 27, 2015

Pocohontas cabin 3, 1968 or '69

Jere Schwait Sirkis was in cabin 3 in Pokey in 1968 or 1969. Cindy Drucker is top row second from the left, and Laura Ettleman is top second from the right.  Jere hself took the photo with her brownie camera.  Its the only photo she has from back then, although perhaps she'll send us CIT and FCC photos from later.

Everett Lake

This is Everett Lake, the legendary long-time Food Service Director ("Cook," we mostly called the position) of the 1970s. The photo was taken by Carolyn Shelburne at the December 1973 celebration of Paula Brown (Halbe's sister) and Tom Holland, at the Castle. (I believe this was the party after their wedding ceremony. I'm not certain of that.)

Thursday, February 26, 2015

1973 behind the old dining hall

From left: Al Filreis, Peggy Hope, Marie Hess and Doug Tompkins. That summer I was the "third cook" in the Boys' Dining Hall (working for Food Service Director Everett Lake). Peggy was "second cook" and "dessert chef." Doug was the LIT Director (LITs worked in the kitchen for two weeks and spent two weeks living in cabins). Marie Hess worked all summer with Everett in the Boys' Dining Hall (that summer Marie Kremer was head cook in the Girls' Dining Hall) and then in the evenings cooked in and ran the Staff Lounge in Pigeon Lodge. This photos was taken behind the old Boys' Dining Hall in the mid-afternoon - after all the lunch mess was cleared and in the brief lull before it was time to get back to work for dinner. That's Marie's ubiquitous Jeep Wagon. Doug was the original photobomber - never took a serious photo in his life, for sure.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Jim Marion, long-time Environmental Ed & Conference Director, has died

I'm very sad and sorry to be passing along the news that Jim Marion has died. Jim was Frost Valley second Environmental Education Director (after Bill Devlin) and Jim served for many year in that capacity, also at times serving as the Conference Director in addition. In sum, he directed pretty much all the non-summer programs at Frost Valley, hired and supported his staff with tremendous vivacity and kindness and good humor. Hundreds of former FV staffers worked for Jim and loved him. He was extremely hard working and always generous. He had a wicked sense of humor and he loved practical jokes.

Jim and Cheryl have lived in Grahamsville for many years. Cheryl worked at Frost Valley, too - first in the kitchen and then in the office. After Marie Kremer, long-time office manager, retired, Cheryl was our office manage. Jim and Cheryl's daughters, Christina and Renee, came of age at Frost Valley and both worked on the staff for a time. Cheryl's younger brother, Foster Portzline, also worked both summer camp and environmental education/conference.

Below is the obituary for Jim Marion posted today in the Times Herald-Record:

December 5, 1947 - February 22, 2015 -
Grahamsville, NY

James Ivan Marion, 67, of Grahamsville, NY passed away Sunday, February 22, 2015 in the comfort of his home with his family. James was born in Cortland, NY on December 5, 1947 to Ivan and Eleanor Marion. James is survived by his wife of 47 years, Cheryl Portzline Marion; his daughters: Christina Marion (Agustin Martinez) of Hilton Head SC, and Renee Viningre and husband Lejon Viningre of Napanoch, NY; and his grandson and buddy, Nathaniel Viningre whose life he most enjoyed being apart of. James is also survived by his father, Ivan Marion of Bradenton, FL and his sister, Connie Rejman of Venice Center, NY. He was predeceased by his mother, Eleanor Marion. He will be missed and has been a special part in the lives of many nieces, nephews, aunts, and in-laws. James was a graduate of Cornell University and received his Masters in Environmental Education at SUNY Plattsburgh. He worked for the Sullivan County Cooperative Extension as a 4-H agent, and the Frost Valley YMCA as the Director of Environmental Education. James worked for the New York State Department of Corrections as the Natural Resource Director where he designed and established composting and recycling programs as well as managing the farms for all New York State Correctional Facilities. He was an outgoing and personable friend to many. James took pride in his achievements and participation in various organizations. He served on the Sullivan County Cornell Cooperative Extension Board, Tri-Valley Central School Board, NYS Outdoor Education Association, and the John Burroughs Woodchuck Lodge Historical Site. In 1994 James was named the National Recycler of the Year. He will be remembered for his wealth of knowledge, admiration of nature, and his friendly personality as well as being a great dancer. Celebration of his life will be private. Donations may be made to the Islesford Congregational Church, PO Box 111, Islesford, ME 04646 or the charity of one's choice.

"If I were to name the three most precious resources of life, I should say books, friends, and nature.... - John Burroughs

Arrangements were under the direction of Colonial-Bryant Funeral Home and Cremation Service, for further information please call 845-434-7363 or visit


Rick Cobb, prompted by the mention above of practical jokes, recalls as follows:

During one winter event at Frost Valley, Al and I came up with the idea to sign Jim up with as many military recruiters as possible.  We'd go to supermarkets, pick up magazines by the binder, and shake them to see what postcards fell out; we filled out navy, air force, army, coast guard, and other similar
organizations' postcards asking to send Jim Marion at Frost Valley information on their programs.  Yes, feel free to call!

After a few months, it was time for summer camp!  During orientation, Al and I were standing in the dining hall and just happened to overhear Cheryl Marion telling someone about how Jim was receiving all this information and phone calls from recruiters; we looked at the ceiling as we strained both to hear the story as well as suppress our laughter.  All of a sudden, we caught Cheryl's eye; her eyes narrowed a bit as she studied the two of us.  She then asked with a sense of suspicion in her voice: "Do you two happen to know anything about this?" 

"What?  Us?  Don't know what you're talking about!  Hey, Al, we better get to the pot sink; duty calls!" In a flash, we disappeared!

Saturday, February 14, 2015

memorial service for Marie Hess

I just now returned from the beautiful memorial service for Marie Hess. Here are some photos of photos on display at the service - including early photos of Carl and Marie together than I had not seen. In the final photo you see most of the Frost Valley people who were able to come to the service, although not, alas, including John Giannotti and Keara Giannotti who had to leave just before we snapped this group shot. That's of course Bonnie Hess Hirschmann between Frank Rutan and Jenny Brown Bickart.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Marie Hess has passed away

I'm deeply sorry to report this sad Frost Valley news: Marie Hess has passed away. Here is what her daughter Bonnie wrote to me late last night: "Mom passed away gently on 2/9 with many of us around her. She loved life and touched so many people. I know we will miss her terribly." I will post details (about a memorial service, etc.) later today or tomorrow.

Stan Treadway remembers: This is really hard news to bear.  I think we all have extra special memories of Marie.  Her photo should appear in the margin next to the American Heritage Dictionary's definition of 'work ethic'!  When one worked with Marie, you had to 'bring it', bring your best stuff if you expected to work next to her.  And even if you were having an off day and had trouble keeping up, she'd ask what's wrong and come over and give you a hug on the shoulder to make things all better.  I am tearing up as I write because we have lost a rock in the FV foundation that sends a shudder through the 'family' of alums who knew her.  I feel so very fortunate to have been able to observe her in all the various roles she fulfilled during summer camp, environmental ed., conference weekends, and family camp.  In a word the woman was awesome to behold.  What energy to behold, and such spirit for that Valley.

Kathy King Steinwedel: Marie was my boss the first summer I worked at Frost Valley. I spent every summer there with my family, but the summer I was 14 she called our home and asked my mother if I could please come help her in the Laundry. Now, honestly, at 14 I was not too enthused about washing strangers socks and undies. I didn't even want to do it at home.... I am SO glad I went. Marie and Carl promised to watch out for me, and I always knew it. We kept a list of the crazy things we washed. Who knew campers and counselors kept these things in their pants pockets? One day I was leaning into a washer and Marie came up with some freshly washed marbles and she tossed them on the floor. I can still hear her say, "Kathy, you've lost your marbles!" I learned a lot from her that summer. To work hard, always. To be kind and generous. To be a little silly. And, finally, to fold mounds of laundry as fast as possible! I am so very glad That Marie chose to come to my Maryland wedding with Halbe and Jane. As I got older, I looked for her holiday cards each year. Reading her letter always made me smile. My day today was dimmer, sadder, knowing Marie was gone. I feel blessed to have known her.

Wendy Brown on behalf of herself and Jeff Brown: Jeff & I are reminiscing this morning about Hessie's volunteer spirit. She had a heart for mentoring young people and creating a team effort. Her leadership and willingness to give back are part of every memory we have. I have no doubt that she and Jane are catching up right now on all the FV news!

Maureen Heath Kosa: I am certain that Hessie was the rock for so many of us at our "home" away from home. Her strength was an inspiration for me as a shaky adolescent who was trying to become independent. I hear her voice in my head and smile. Prayers to all of you.

Rhonda McNamara: I feel very honored and blessed to have worked with her. I deeply enjoyed hearing all of the history and stories of yester year. She was one the hardest working women I have ever met and role model to us all. Her kind and giving spirit will be missed by us all. I am sure she is already "working" the room in heaven. Till we meet again dear friend.

Jenny Amanna: Aw. God bless. I remember clearly how she would sit just so in front of laundry. My fondest memory of her is when someone in my cabin, I forget which village or year, had lice and camp made our whole cabin wash everything down to my special teddy bear that I HAD to sleep with. I never told her, and I don't know how she knew, but she washed my teddy ahead of the rest and walked it to the dining hall for me so I wouldn't have to sleep a night without it. I remember being SO stressed through the morning, thinking about sleeping without that night, and like magic she appeared with my freshly washed teddy at lunch and I was so thrilled I welled up with tears and had to excuse myself to the bathroom so no one would see me cry about Teddy. She saved me that day, and I will always remember her kindness. After that I always would make sure I got a wave and a wink from her when I passed by through the day. Rest in peace. Love and healing to the family she leaves behind.

John Giannotti: I don't have one particular story, I just have a singular indelible memory of Marie, and the word that best describes it is Acceptance. Let's face it, we weren't part of an ordinary camp. All of us, from campers to those in charge, were part of something very very special. And in order to BE very very special, you have to think WAY out of the box. Many of our ideas for programs, events, activities, interactions, etc, were pretty out there. Some were ridiculously out there. Marie was a structured, disciplined woman. She quite easily could have done without all of the nonsense we manufactured. And yet, she GOT IT! She understood how to bend and change with the times and completely accepted all of us. Now, I'm not saying she accepted EVERYTHING we did or proposed -- she was, above all, sane -- but she knew instinctively how and when to apply her magical and unrelenting support.

Melanie Brown: Dear Marie....hard working, kind, brought out the best (and the best work!) in all of us. I remember one work assignment I received from her, that I didn't really want to do. My thinking was, OK, just get it done, it'll only be this one time. Nooooo, she thought I did such a fine job, I should continue as the regular for this assignment. I think she secretly knew that I was less than enthused Marie and Carl - can't imagine Frost Valley without them.

Dave King: Shirley, Kathy, and I will rejoice in our many fond memories of her. That her passing was peaceful is a blessing. Dave       

Gail Catherine McNeil: "AL!! Counters are for glasses! Not for- AAAAAAhahahahaha!" How we loved her, and how we will always love and remember her. Cheerful and indefatigable, linens, laundry, the kitchen, and perhaps most adorably in the bad ol' pre-Wellness cheeseburger- and root-beer-float days of the staff lounge. Hessie, the one-and-only.

Peggy Hope: Both Hessie and Carl played a big part in my life and everyone else that knew them as is evidenced by all the responses.  How fitting it is for her memorial service to be on Valentine's day as she was everyone's sweet heart. She was the prototype for the energizer bunny but better and irreplaceable though she wouldn't take any credit for what she did.  There was nothing she couldn't do.  I am thrilled that they will be inducted into the hall of fame and I know they will both be there in spirit. As an "older" alumna I am so incredibly grateful to have known and worked with her and Carl and all those great pioneers of Frost Valley who were instrumental in creating a truly unique, nurturing, accepting and educational place where anyone who experiences it knows it is "home". 

Rafik Ghobrial: "Of all the people I have known, she was the best. She looked after everybody everyday of her life."

Friday, February 6, 2015

Olympics 1967

A race during the 1967 Wawayanda Olympics. The "field events" took place in the Big Tree Field. For the "track" a swath of grass was mown short. I remember running some of these races myself as a camper. The Big Tree Field - then even more than now - was full of hillocks and bumps, and it was impossible to run really fast without stumbling or going wobbly in the knees. (Photo by Geoff Hazel.)