Episode 4 -Jim & Judy Mohr

Episode 4 -Jim & Judy Mohr

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Stoney Lake Reflections Show Notes

Episode: 04 Jim & Judy Mohr

I Sat down with Jim and Judy in August of 2017 at their home in Ann Arbor to catch up with what they are doing now as well as discuss their reflections.  As you can imagine they were as welcoming as ever, even though it had been around 16 years since our last face to face meeting.  (Don’t let that happen to you with your camp friends).  The great news is, as it happens with most camp folks, we picked right up where we left off!

Our reunion started with Jim & Judy welcoming me and Jen into their home.  When making plans to visit, they had invited us to dine with them after recording our chat.  An invitation we could not turn down.  And  boy was I glad we didn’t have conflicting plans.  Upon entering their lovely home, it quickly became apparent Judy had stareted cooking some tomato sauce for that night’s dinner.  The smell of simmering tomatos and spices certainly set the stage for a great evening to come.  This was an interview session that was NOT going to run over!

Before we started recording I had to check if their home bathroom was labeled ‘Jim’s’ and to great dissapointment, it is not!  I also needed to satisfy a childhjood musing that he must have a dozen fish tanks filled with critters…No on that too! (Not even a turtle pit…however sandhill cranes were present for our arrival!  I commented on their view from the house and it was mentioned that they purchased their house from Clark Ewing when Clark and Marilyn moved to their current abode.  So that cemented it, enough discussion was not being captured, so time to start the show.


What I have to say:

Jim & Judy were very much parental figures for me and countless others.  Their roles as ‘in loco parentis’ were not cemented because of their age in relation to younger staff, but with their stage in life, Storer experiences, and willingness not to only support campers, but support the staff.  It was a knowing look, a reassuring glance, and a quick chat during some long days that helped many of us to dig a little deeper to make the Storer magic happen.  They were a couple that had seen it all at camp, which were once in our shoes.  With their experience came great wisdom and calm, almost silent leadership for us ‘young kids’ on staff.  It was quite wondrous in the 1990s to have Jim & Judy as true examples of what we were there for.  It was amazing to think, we were fortunate enough to work along side with these two ‘legends’ that preceded us (at that time) by a few decades.   It was such a solid example of respecting what had come before us; it gave many of us a phenomenal touchstone to the past and present with hope for the future.  And when it came for final campfires, Judy & Jim gave us a great dose of the historical and traditional import of the proceedings.  On our tough days, they gave us strength.  On great days they contributed (sometime caused) and shared in the laughter.


Show Notes:


–           Judy loves Christmas and does it ‘Big’…includes a cookie party that’s been ongoing 50+ years!

–           Jim donates time to a Kiwanis Nature Center (Yes, OUR Father Nature is seeing another nature center!)

–           Both enjoy traveling in their camper van visiting National Parks (30+ so far)

–           They have also visited 49 States (Hawaii is on the list this year!)

–           The highest ‘unofficial’ honor they both hold at camp

–           Judy highlights her first summer at Girl’s Camp in ‘68

–           Married in 1965

–           Judy started at Storer in ‘57 in high school; Jim started in ‘60

–           What the girls camp was like (hint: primitive)

–           Judy details how she started as staff and offers the real reason she was hired by Clark.

–           Judy details her many, many positions starting with counselor and some exciting times as a trip leader

Jim reflects on the great volunteers throughout the years


Biographical Highlights



32 years as Storer staff beginning in 1960, plus he is still involved as a volunteer in the Lands for Learning project
Positions: Counselor, Ranger Director, Waterfront Director, Naturalist, Trip Leader, Hay Baler, Maintenance,Consultant for Lands for Learning
Doc Miller – Yes
Favorite motto – Service
Song – “Our Best”

Favorite Camp area – South Fen


35 summers beginning in 1957
Positions: Counselor, Village Director Kitchen Girl, Health Director, Girls’ Camp Director,  Registration (in office), Trip Leader
Doc Miller – Yes
Favorite motto – the third – Humility
Song – I loved Greg McKee’s “Hang on the Bell Nellie” and “Calendar Girl”, plus “Happiness is Girls’ Camp” and “Mary’s Boy Child” sung by Rodney Farrar
Camp area – Lewis and Clark on the north side, my first cabin as a counselor

Last summer worked  as paid staff was 1993.


Episode 3 – Mary Mennel

Episode 3 – Mary Mennel

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Enjoy our last of three episodes with Mary!

Stoney Lake Reflections Show Notes

Episode: 03 Mary Mennel



  • Staff housing and living in the “THE ‘A’ Frame” later known as ‘Mary’s A Frame’ (even after she left)
  • The importance of selecting the right staff and what qualities to look for
  • Special and favorite traditions
  • Co-Leading Storer’s first European Biker in 1977
  • Leading other venture out trips
  • Favorite place and activity at camp
  • Mary & Mona
  • Secret to Mary’s success
  • In celebration of Mary… ‘Oh Lord it’s hard to be humble’- I push her to accept some praise 😉


Mary Mennel Trip Leader


Mary Mennel; Andrew Smith ’77


Bassem el-Hibri ’77 European Bike Trip ‘Karanvansari’


Mary Mennel and trip enjoys some zippy

Mary gets the group ready with Bassem

Mary Mennel, Bassem el-Hibri

This is probably the first time I met Mary (although captured on film I don’t remember



‘Our Best’ composed by Grant Colfax Tullar (1869-1950). Lyrics by Salathiel C. Kirk, pub.1912 Public Domain. Performed by a friend of Stoney Lake Reflections, Kelly Beecher – Bassist with Monterey Chamber Orchestra

‘Rise And Shine And Give God The Glory’ (piano) performed by: Ben Abelovski; Standard YouTube License

‘Stoney Lake Reflections’ Sing-out
Performed by Singer/Songwriter Cori Strell:
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©2017 Stoney Lake Reflections in Association with GoldenTime Marketing

Native Americans in the Great Lakes Region

Native Americans in the Great Lakes Region

Many of you recognize the Native American tribal names of Miami, Potawatomi and Ottawa. All three tribes were celebrated at Storer grouping the three youngest camper groups on the South Side. Going beyond the names, I wanted to provide a more detailed and slightly more scholarly account of the Native Peoples we learned about while at Camp Storer.

I reached out to Randall Schaetzl, Professor, Department of Geography, Environment, and Spatial Sciencesat Michigan State University and he graciously gave me permission to re-publish this article detailing the Native Americans in the Great Lakes Region. I hope you enjoy!

 Native Americans in the Great Lakes Region

The first inhabitants of the Great Lakes basin arrived about 10,000 years ago. They had crossed the land bridge from Asia or perhaps had reached South America across the Pacific Ocean. Six thousand years ago, descendants of the first settlers were using copper from the southern shore of Lake Superior and had established hunting and fishing communities throughout the Great Lakes basin.

One of the ways that the Indians would manipulate copper was with “hammer stones.”  These hammer stone were found near prehistoric copper diggings in the Keweenaw Pennisula.  They are prehistoric tools used 3000-5000 years ago.  The Indian “miners” would build a fire over the copper vein which would heat the rock around the copper. After heating they would pour cold water on it to crack the rock. Then they would pound out the copper with rock hammers and stone chisels. These hammers usually had a handle attached to them.  Some hammers were held with the hands and were not grooved.  When they broke they tossed them aside. Grooves were put in the hammers with smaller stones.  The hammers are found today, underground, anywhere from 6″ to 3′.  It is hard work digging for them. The copper was shaped into spear points, arrow heads, knives, harpoons, and jewelry.

The native people occupied widely scattered villages and grew corn, squash, beans and tobacco, and harvesting wild rice. The state’s indigenous people’s–its first true farmers–supported themselves through a combination of hunting and gathering and simple agricultural techniques. Their modest plots produced corn, beans, peas, squash, and pumpkins. However, the Indians used only a portion of their holdings for crops and so caused few lasting changes in the countryside. They moved once or twice in a generation, when the resources in an area became exhausted (GLERL 1995).  Those not in villages were scattered throughout the beautiful but inhospitable pine forests of the north. Villages were relatively impermanent and, except in two or three very populous areas, widely separated from one another. The crude and primitive means of subsistence that the Indians had at their disposal seriously limited the number that a given area could support. The greatest concentration of population coincided almost perfectly with the area of deciduous forest. Maple and birch were the two most valuable trees: the first for its sugar, the latter for housing material and canoes. Other sources of food supply, such as game, wild apples, plants, and berries, as well as land suitable for agriculture, were more likely to be found in the deciduous than in the coniferous forest lands.

A majority of Indian settlements were along waterways, as in the St. Joseph and Saginaw River valleys–then the two most populous areas. Water provided an easy means of transportation and, in fish, a plentiful supply of food. Some settlements along the Lake Michigan and Lake Superior shores were regularly occupied in summer and abandoned for more sheltered positions in winter.

When Etienne Brule’, the first white man to set foot on Michigan soil, landed at the site of Sault Ste. Marie in 1620 (see image below), the population of Michigan was about 15,000. The southern half of the Lower Peninsula accounted for about 12,000.  Others have estimated that the population of Native Americans in the Great Lakes was between 60,000 and 117,000 in the 16th century, when Europeans began their search for a passage to the Orient through the Great Lakes. Some estimate that 10% of all the Indians north of the Mexico border lived in Michigan, at the time of first contact with Europeans.   Etienne Brule is the first European to see Lake Huron

Native American Indians were the first to use the many resources of the Great Lakes basin. Abundant game, fertile soils and plentiful water enabled the early development of hunting, subsistence agriculture and fishing. The lakes and tributaries provided convenient transportation by canoe, and trade among groups flourished.  By about A.D. 100, Native American inhabitants of the Upper Peninsula (Ojibwes) were using improved fishing techniques and had adopted the use of ceramics. They gradually developed a way of life based on seasonal fishing which the Chippewas/Ojibwes still followed when they met the first European visitors to the area. Scattered fragments of stone tools and pottery mark the location of some of these prehistoric lakeshore encampments.

                                                Source: Unknown

The above picture shows Native American Indians at a camp on Mackinac Island in 1870.   The picture is a bit misleading, however, since most Native Americans in the Great Lakes region lived in hogans or wigwams like the one shown below, not in teepees.

                                                                     Source: Unknown

Today, evidence of these ancient cultures is meager.  Some of the paleo-Indians left burial and other ceremonial mounds behind, like these in SW Lower Michigan.   (Note the gravel pit in the foreground.)

                                               Source:  Pictorial History of Michigan:  The Early Years, George S. May, 1967.

Archeologists often find their projectile points and arrowheads, indicating sites where they hunted or camped for extensive periods of time.  But for the most part, evidence of Native American cultures in Michigan is not great.

                                                        Source:  Pictorial History of Michigan:  The Early Years, George S. May, 1967.

Native Americans lived and traveled primarily along water routes and water bodies.   Thus, as of about 1670, much of the dry inland areas of Michigan were essentially unoccupied (see map below).  Inland Michigan was used almost exclusively for travel, not to live.  It was a place to cross, not to live.

The Woodland Indian Tribes of the Great Lakes area and throughout the eastern and southern part of the United States were farmers. In the fall and winter they hunted and trapped, moving in small family groups to winter hunting camps. Beaver, muskrat, raccoon, deer, elk, bison and black bear were taken for the meat and hides. In the spring, the Indians made maple sugar in large quantities. It was a staple in their diet. They also harvested nuts, berries, wild plums, wild cherries, and pawpaws. Wild rice was gathered around the Great Lakes. Corn, beans, squash, and pumpkin were widely grown in North America, north of Mexico. Besides multi-colored Indian corn the Indians developed varieties of eight and ten-row corn. Beans grown by the Indians included the kidney bean, navy or pea bean, pinto, great northern marrow, and yellow eye bean. The Indians planted corn and beans in the small mounds of soil and often pumpkins, squash, or melons in the space between.   Many other vegetables were grown by the Indians: turnips, cabbage, parsnips, sweet potatoes, yams and “Irish” potatoes, onions and leeks. Watermelon and muskmelon were introduced into North America in the 17th century and were being grown in the interior within a few years.  The nature and extent of Indian agriculture are revealed in the observations of George Will, a soldier in General Anthony Wayne’s campaign against the Indians along the Auglaize and Maumee Rivers (Ohio) in the summer of 1794. “Here are vegetables of every kind in abundance,” Will wrote, “And we have marched four or five miles in cornfields down the Oglaize [sic], and there is not less than one thousand acres of corn around the town.”

When the first French explorers pushed into Michigan, early in the 17th century, the country was inhabited by Indians of Algonquin stock. This family embraced a large number of tribes in the northeastern section of the continent, whose language apparently sprang from the same mother tongue. It was Algonquins who greeted Jacques Cartier, as his ships ascended the St. Lawrence. The first British colonists found Algonquin Indians hunting and fishing along the coasts and inlets of Virginia. It was Algonquins who, under the great tree at Kensington, made the covenant of peace with William Penn, and when French Jesuits and fur traders explored the Wabash and the Ohio, they found their valleys tenanted by the same far-extended race. In the 1700’s travelers might have found Algonquins pitching their bark lodges along the beach at Mackinac, spearing fish among the rapids of St. Mary’s River, or skimming the waves of Lake Superior in their canoes.
The Algonquin had resided in Michigan for at least a century before the coming of the whites. Who preceded them, no one knows, although certain archeological finds suggest the bearers of the Hopewell culture, which is now extinct.

                                                                         Source:  Pictorial History of Michigan:  The Early Years, George S. May,   1967.

The chief tribes in the Michigan region in the late 1700’s were the Chippewa, or Ojibwa, occupying the eastern part of the Lower Peninsula and most of the UP; the Ottawa, in the western part of the Lower Peninsula; and the Potawatomi, occupying a strip across the southern part. None of these tribes, apparently, had exclusive possession of the section it occupied. The Saginaw Valley, in the very midst of the Chippewa terrain, was the stronghold of the Sauk. The Mascoutin had a precarious hold on the Grand River Valley, until the Ottawa, having driven them from the Straits of Mackinac, subsequently drove them beyond the borders of the present State. The Miami, in the relatively populous St. Joseph River Valley, shared a similar fate at the hands of the Potawatomi. Other subtribes that once dwelt in the southwestern part of the State were the Eel River, the Piankashaw, and the Wea, while the Menominee, established in the wild-rice country of Wisconsin, included a part of the Upper Peninsula in their domain.

The Algonquin peoples and their descendants were an agricultural people and depended more upon producing vegetables than upon hunting. In Michigan, corn was the staple foodstuff, although wild rice, which was common throughout the State in mud-bottom lakes and sluggish streams, tended to take precedence in the northwestern, especially around Green Bay. Corn was often planted in the midst of the forest–the trees having been killed by girdling, to admit the sunlight–together with squash, tobacco, and kidney beans.
Corn was stored for the winter in cribs–similar to those of the present-day American farmer–and in pits (caches) in the ground. Corn, like the land itself, was the property of the family or clan. So deeply ingrained was this notion of communal ownership of land that, when later the Indians agreed to “sell” it to the whites–oftentimes several thousand acres for a barrel or two of whiskey–they assumed they were simply granting permission for joint use and occupation of the land. It was beyond their comprehension that land could be fenced-off as private property.

To the Europeans, the Indians owed, in addition to spirituous liquors and tuberculosis, the extension of the practice of scalping. Taking the scalp lock of vanquished foes had long been a rite among virtually all North American tribes; but, because it was a difficult operation with crude stone knives, it was, perforce, held within limits. Europeans brought steel knives and offered bounties for scalps especially during the War of 1812, when Chippewa sided with the British. Thus, in much the same way that the Michigan Indians were transformed from an agricultural to a nomadic hunting people by the European demand for furs, they were transformed from a peaceful to a warlike race by the French and English demand for scalps.

The basic political unit of the Indians was the tribe, consisting of people speaking the same dialect, occupying contiguous territory, and having a feeling of relationship with one another. The chief was elected to hold office until he died or the electorate became dissatisfied with his leadership and chose another. Often a son was chosen to succeed his father. Besides the chief, there were other dignitaries, notably the priests, and advisory council of minor chiefs, and sometimes a special war chief.
Within the Indian community it was customary for the women to do the gardening, cooking, and housekeeping; and the men engaged in hunting, fishing, tool making, and, when necessary fighting. Medicine was the exclusive province of the priesthood, who also officiated at burials. These consisted either of interment near the village, without a marker or with houses of bark and wood over the graves, or of interment in mounds, large and small.

The Indians of Michigan were housed in dome-shaped bark- or mat-covered lodges in winter, and in rectangular bark houses in summer. Among the Chippewa, the summer residence was the conical skin or bark-covered tepee, popularly associated with Indians in general. Homes were furnished with wood and bark vessels, some splint basketry, woven bags for storage, reed and cedar-bark mats, and copper tools and utensils; a hole in the roof permitted egress of smoke from the cooking fire. Native pottery was of a primitive order, as was work in wood, stone, and bone.

The men wore leggings, breechcloths, and sleeved shirts–all made of animal skins; while the women wore skirts and jackets of the same material. Moccasins were soft-soled, with drooping flaps. Robes of skin served for additional protection during cold weather and as blankets at night.

Besides mining copper, the natives quarried stone to a certain extent, although a great deal of the stone for arrowheads and spearheads came from other areas, chiefly Ohio. Some was imported from beyond the Rocky Mountains. Michigan cherts and flints are generally drab in color, course-grained , and often marred by fossils, blemishes, and flaws. The richest source of supply was around Saginaw Bay. Heavy stones for axes were plentiful along the banks of streams and lakes. A gray stone, from which pipes were made, is reported to have been quarried in the vicinity of Keweenaw Bay.

The attitudes toward the Indians have changed greatly since the 1800’s.   The text below is taken from an 1880 history text, in which the Indians in south-central Michigan were being characterized:

Of the character of the Indians of this region: “They were hospitable, honest, and friendly, although always reserved until well acquainted; never obtrusive unless under the influence of their most deadly enemy, intoxicating drink. None of these spoke a word of English, and they evinced no desire to learn it….I believe they were as virtuous and guileless a people as I have ever lived among, previous to their great destruction in 1834 by the cholera, and again their almost extermination during the summer of 1837 by the (to them) most dreaded disease, smallpox, which was brought to Chesaning from Saginaw, – they fully believing that one of the Saginaw Indians had been purposely inoculated by a doctor there, the belief arising from the fact that an Indian had been vaccinated by the doctor, probably after his exposure to the disease, and the man died of smallpox. The Indians always dreaded vaccination from fear and suspicion of the operation.

“The Asiatic cholera in 1834 seemed to be all over and was certainly atmospheric, as it attacked Indians along the Shiawassee and other rivers, producing convulsions, cramps, and death after a few hours. This began to break up the Indians at their various villages. The white settlements becoming general, and many persons selling them whisky (then easily purchased at the distilleries for twenty-five cents per gallon), soon told fearfully on them. When smallpox broke out in 1837 they fled to the woods by families, but not until some one of the family broke out with the disease and died. Thus whole villages and bands were decimated, and during the summer and fall many were left without a burial at the camps in the woods, and were devoured by wolves. I visited the village of Che-as-sin-ning – now Chesaning – and saw in the summer-camps several bodies partially covered up, and not a living soul could I find, except one old squaw, who was convalescent. Most of the adults attacked died, but it is a remarkable fact that no white person ever took the disease from them, although in many instances the poor, emaciated creatures visited white families while covered with pustules. Thus passed away those once proud owners of the land, leaving a sickly, depressed, and eventually a begging, debased remnant of a race that a few years before scorned a mean act, and among whom a theft was scarcely ever known. I do not think I possess any morbid sentimentality for Indians. I simply wish to represent them as we found them. What they are now is easily seen by the few wretched specimens around us.”

Parts of the text above have been paraphrased from C.M. Davis’ Readings in the Geography of Michigan (1964) and from:  https://www.ohiohistory.org/learn/american-indian-relations/american-indian-edu-resources and from HISTORY OF SHIAWASSEE AND CLINTON COUNTIES, MICHIGAN (1880) by D.W. Ensign & Co.
Reprinted with permission by: Randall Schaetzl (2007), Professor
Department of Geography, Environment, and Spatial Sciences
Michigan State University

Related Story: Native American Influence at Storer



Interesting Links:


Native American Treaties: Their Ongoing Importance to Michigan Resident:https://www.cmich.edu/library/clarke/ResearchResources/Native_American_Material/Treaty_Rights/Pages/default.aspx

Going Back to Camp at Fifty

Going Back to Camp at Fifty

Stoney Lake Reflections is happy to fetaure some guest blog authors as we all have our own reflections to share.

I invited Philip C. Wrzesinski to pen his reflections on what he did last summer. For anyone who dreams of ‘going back’ or wonders how has camp changed, you will be in for a great story filled with nostalgia, a heathly dose of the present and what’s really important when looking back as an Alumni.  Thanks Phil for sharing! (Truth be told, he had a draft within 8 hours of asking–Being on Pacific time, I apologize for stoking such fires in the middle of the night) – Enjoy!




Admiral Graybeard – “Nothing quite beats a summer spent sitting on a sailboat on Stoney Lake!”

They called me Admiral Graybeard. I have been called many things, some better than others.

This was the title of a lifetime. I got the chance to do something many of my peers have only secretly dreamed. I got to go back at the age of fifty and work at the summer camp where I spent the best days of my youth and most of my growing into a young adult. It wasn’t just any summer camp. I spent my summer as the Sailing Instructor on the waters of Stoney Lake at YMCA Storer Camps – a magical place to rival even the kingdom of Disney.

I have always said – and it is even written in my will – that when I pass I want to be cremated and have my ashes spread on the lake and its shores. Too much of who I am, I owe to my years as a camper and staff at Storer.

I’m still pinching myself that I had this experience. When Becky Spencer asked me last May if I could be the Sailing Instructor, it took all my self-restraint to not just blurt out, “Yes!” Fortunately, due to some changes in my life, it worked out perfectly and I could actually say yes.

It was a little surreal working with fellow staffers the same age as my own children. I worked with the child of one of my fellow trip leaders, Aimee Weeber, from the Venture-Out program back in 1990. These young bucks accepted me as one of their own. (It didn’t hurt that I proved my mettle as a deep water diver during one of the Waterfront Emergency drills during staff training. It probably also didn’t hurt that Becky Spencer had hired me herself.)

Phil at Storer 1986 – “How many of you still have all your staff pics? This was mine in 1986.”

The camp has changed since my days as a camper. I remember my first summer. 1974. Seven years old. Indian Village on the South Side. The cabin is still there, used primarily for storage. I was only there for a week and spent half of in the infirmary under the watchful eye of Georgianna Swinford while suffering from a stomach virus. I didn’t get a certificate for archery because I never once hit the target. My best friend Chris and I were the last ones standing, waiting on the Indian Waterfront Dock, wanting to swim across the lake but never getting the chance because the bell had just rung for breakfast.

It was a shock to my parents when I said I couldn’t wait to go back.

I remember being part of the Villa in 1978 when Storer was experimenting with co-ed camping. We were out in the Trailblazer Village of today. I was in the same cabin that eight summers later I would call home as a Trailblazer Counselor. Betsy’s Mess looks so much smaller now than it does in my memories when Lisa (Hall) Hilldebrand and I would battle it out to see who could do more “weeks” in one breath while singing Miss O’Shady. I think she set the record of 42 weeks that summer. At least that’s the number I remember. I can barely get to twenty these days.

Betsy’s Mess, and even the North Center Dining Hall where Mary Mennel would stand on her chair and lead the North Center Fight Song (From east to west …) are now repurposed. The Doc, as they call the old dining hall, is as beautiful a building you will ever see at a camp. Malachi, the new dining hall, is as majestic and wonderful as the Doc is beautiful and nostalgic.

Frontier Luau Phil John Chris – “Chris (Fromme) Doyle, Phil Wrzesinski, John Page, and Ann Marie (Stazenski) Krautheim rock it out at the Frontier Luau in 1986”

I could wax poetic on many of the old buildings. The trailroom, the original one I remember, was the kitchen of the original dining hall on South Side. Only the chimney remains. I spent many a night as a junior counselor hiding out there after curfew (thank you, Mike Pierce.) The trailroom many of you might remember is the green building that stood next to Bruce’s Loft where Dave Van Nuys and I spent days and nights plotting courses, packing gear, and prepping food alongside our Venture Out staff.

Like Betsy’s Mess and the North Center Dining Hall, both of those trailrooms are either gone or repurposed, too.

Do I miss those buildings? Not as much as you might think. I certainly don’t miss the white trailer at the end of staff row that I called home for two years, or the squirrels that would eat their way in through the floor under the sink.

The reason I don’t miss them became most apparent last summer.

Sure, I’ve run the gamut at camp from having my mom being on the Parent Panel, to being a counselor watching the Parent Panel, to organizing the Parent Panel as part of the leadership team, to being on the Parent Panel myself as my kids began attending camp. I’ve stayed in the new lodges several times at reunions and have dropped my boys off several summers in a row to enjoy being Outbackers on the South Side.

David Freeman and Phil – “David Freeman and I show that even hated rivals like Ohio State and Michigan become best friends at Storer Camps”

Last summer, though, as I watched Brian Frawley, Kevin Knapp, Tia Black and the rest of the leadership team whip an incredibly young group of counselors into shape, I felt the comfort of your favorite wool sweater, the one you wore even when the temperature didn’t call for it because it just felt that good.

I felt the same feeling I had back in June 1983 when John Page, Brian Crosson and I leaned on the white fence next to the weather station by the South Side flagpole, staring out at the Stoney Lake Whale, wondering if the orange light that mysteriously appeared and then disappeared was a UFO or just God telling us how magical a place we had chosen to spend our summer.

Frontier Luau with Phil Tim Greg – “We all have our favorite Greg-McKee-with-a-guitar story. Some of us were even lucky to be in the band!”

We were young and impressionable and about to make a difference in the lives of children. We were about to become the positive influence that Greg McKee told me in my interview I would be if I took this job, the same influence Sean, Chuck, Ali, John, Jim, Ty, Jeff, Tom, Biff, and Julie had on me over the years.

Thirty-four years after my first summer on staff I am sitting with my new 2017 team when John Frye stood up and delivered an incredibly moving message to these new counselors about the power of camp and how his own life’s trajectory changed dramatically the summer he spent as a Miami Villager. When he mentioned how his counselor, Ross Hammersly, had influenced his life, I felt that wool sweater again. Ross had been part of my all-star cabin back in 1984 when Charlie Brown and I had Ross, Will Harbaugh, Eric Kneuve, and Brandon Witt all in the same cabin. I still remember the look on Ross’ dad’s face when he told me to challenge Ross that summer (I hope I did, Ross, I hope I did.)

A few nights later, as we lined up by motto year for the final campfire of staff training, there were more people lining the path into the campfire singing Our Best than were walking between them. This band of young adults, heavily weighted by first-time counselors, was even more heavily weighted by former Fifth Year Campers (“Always Fifths” as I like to call them) who had grown up at camp, inspired by their counselors to want to join the ranks and lead others.

Phil Lake Michigan – “Linda Gillette took this picture of me at Warren Dunes National Park. It is still one of my favorites ever!”

That’s when it hit me. Storer Camps isn’t about buildings. It isn’t about cabins. It isn’t even about the swim dock or the archery range or the sailboats. The ropes course out by the ranch that during the summer of 1991 Sarah Orem and I checked every single nut and bolt by hand at 6:30am every single morning is long gone, replaced by a new course, climbing towers, and tree climbing. The canoes I learned to paddle back in 1975 have been replaced mostly by funyaks, kayaks, and paddle boards. The Blue Interlake is now a lovely sage green and the Catyaks have been replaced by Sunfish.

Brett Winslow, one of the Outback Counselors last summer, asked me if I might have known his dad who was a counselor back in the 70’s – Mike Winslow. The name seemed familiar, but I wasn’t sure. Then Brett said, “Oh, you might know him as Lug.”

Lug?! Lug Winslow!? Are you kidding me!? He taught me canoeing back in 1975!! Forty-two years later I taught his daughter LeAnn to be a sailing instructor.

That’s what doesn’t change. The torch that gets passed from year to year to year.

From Lug to me to Ross to John to Brett and LeAnn, Storer Camps continues to make a difference in the lives of children, in the families it serves, and in the staff who grow and mature on the banks of Stoney Lake. Heck, that timeline doesn’t even do it justice. I can point to Greg McKee and Jim Mohr and Clark Ewing as influences in my life, which can then take the legacy all the way back to Doc Miller himself. You might have Mary Mennel, Gina Whitehead, Judy Harbaugh, and Judy Mohr in your line of ascension. You might call to Abimbola Fajobi who was a green, inexperienced first-time counselor from Nigeria back in 1983 when we both started our Storer Staff journeys. No matter where you fit into the timeline of Storer, you’re part of a legacy with a far greater influence in this world than any of us could measure or even comprehend.

Missinaibi River Papa Moose – If you ever did one of the big Venture Out Trips like the Great Lakes Biker, Rocky Mountain Backpacker, or Missinaibi River Canoe Trip, you have a lifetime of memories rolled into one month of your life.

No matter whether you were a camper, a family camper, a volunteer, a counselor, or a year-round staff, you made the difference in the lives of children and that made a difference in your own life as well. You are part of a lineage that stretches 100 years back and has an unlimited future ahead.

The changes you see at camp are infrastructure. We live in a different world than 1918. Those first campers stayed in canvas tents. The cabins of the thirties and forties paled in comparison to the cabins I stayed in during my youth.

The new walking paths have made the camp more accessible to people with disabilities. The new lodges have ushered in a better era and better learning environments for the outdoor education program. The embracement of technology (an area I see growing) will give camp even more tools to reach more children and instill in them values like I’m Third.

What hasn’t changed is a Camp with a simple mission to grow the mind, body, and spirit of all who grace these shores.

Last summer, even though my beard has grayed, I saw firsthand how that mission is still solidly in place. I got to dip myself back into the timeline and be part of that mission once again, and it was every bit as magical at fifty as it was at sixteen.

Yeah, the songs and chants have changed. Yeah, they play music on Bluetooth speakers from their cell phones while walking back to the cabin for cabin cleanup. Yeah, they ride bikes and a golf cart to get across camp quickly.

Yeah, they also still teach children to stare at the stars, learn about nature, learn how to swim, sail, paddle, shoot, ride, and climb (and cook and dance and play guitar now, too!) Yeah, they also still hold devotions every night and chapels (tea times, as my dear friend Abimbola calls them) every morning. Yeah, they also still flip the “I’m Third” sign at meals. Yeah, they also still talk about the motto years. It was a thrill when my boys joined me in the ranks of “Always Fifths.”

Trips Training 1991 – “What do you do in van on a seven hour drive? Play guitar! I don’t think John Foster and I even imagined we could remember so many songs!”

YMCA Storer Camps is one hundred years old, but the mission and legacy are as fresh and healthy as the day they were created. The changes to the infrastructure (and the always present desire to change and adapt as necessary) have made sure that Storer will continue to serve God and others for years to come. I never met Doc Miller, but from the stories I’ve heard and read, I think he would be mighty pleased of the legacy he created that stands poised to last another hundred years. I think you would, too.  See you this summer at the 100th celebration!



Storer Reunion – “If you haven’t been back to Storer for a reunion, it is time. As the song says, ‘Make new friends, and keep the old. Some are silver and the others gold.”




Philip C. Wrzesinski, Admiral Graybeard
Camper, Summers 1974-1982
Summer Camp Counselor, Summers 1983-1987
Venture-Out Director, Year-round 1990-1991
Sailing Instructor/Fleet Admiral, Summer 2017

PS John Page and I always said we would know we had made it in life when we were able to give back to camp enough to have a bathroom named after us. Although I will never miss cleaning Crandall’s, Chapman’s, or Merhab’s, I do lament that the chance of having a bathroom named Page or Wrzesinski is long gone.


Please check out Phil’s Marketing for Small Businesses Blog at  www.PhilsForum.com


Rest Period Reading from the Trading Post

Do you recognize these Golden Press Classics?  Remember tearing out of the dining hall (and almost taking out the camper who was fliiping the sign) to get to the front of the trading post line?  Well, I have a safer alternative (and no need to run)…Visit the Stoney Lake Reflections Trading Post to purchase your own copies!  Used copies are available through my Amazon links!

Written for children, but handy for adults as well.  Whenever I go camping I bring these along because it’s easier to open one of these up than to find a cellular signal in the woods!  How quaint, retro & primitive! The illustrations are great and the presentation of material is easily understood.  These are truly classics for all ages!

√ Trees covers 143 species of North American Trees, all illustrated in full color!

√ Flowers includes 124 color paintings and handy maps!

√ Sky Observer’s Guide is your handy reference to the heavens above.  Its the next best thing to having Father Nature on your campout!

√ Pond Life is essential reading for life around Stony Lake!  Although not as fun, it can be used for reference for any lakes, streams, and wetlands of your choosing!




  • David 'Stoney' Stoneberg

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Storer's 100th CelebrationJune 30, 2018
The big day is here.

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