I spent 6 summers as a camper at Camp Marshall and 2 summers as a
staff member ending in 1976. And I thought I would never see Camp Marshall or Flathead lake again. I told myself if I did go back, it would all be changed and I would not recognize anything or anyone. In 2011, 35 years later and thanks to my old friend David Stevens, I went back to camp for an Alumni Weekend.
My heart beat faster as we came over the hill south of Polson, and got that first glimpse of the lake - just like it did when I was a camper. The anticipation grew as we turned off 93 onto the Melita Island Road down to camp, past the lake houses and cabins - and there it was - Camp Marshall. Yes there were changes, the old cabins from the 70's were gone (a good thing) - a few new buildings and a new path to the chapel.
What hasn't changed is the feeling of peace I get just being there. People I had not seen for over 35 years were friends again. And the friendships seemed not to notice the passing years. And it's true that not all of my friends from 35 years ago were there. Camp made me thankful we had that time so many years ago, rather than sad that we were not all together again.
It’s now been 46 years since I was a camper/staff member, and those words are as true to me as they were eleven years ago. Carol Sisk and Rachelle Williams, both asked me to write something about what Camp Marshall has meant to me, and as World Class Procrastinator – I’m finally getting around to doing just that.
What Camp Marshall means to me: the short answer is “It’s the People”.
I remember a conversation I had with Julie Sisler years ago about whether the land is sacred or do the people who come to the place make it sacred. Was the land sacred and drew us there so we could create fellowships, or did the fellowships we created make the place sacred? The answer is: It doesn’t matter. The place, 41524 Melita Island Road, Polson MT, will always be special to me. It is a place of peace, a place of love, it’s the place I go to in my mind when I meditate to let go of the day to day worries of modern life. But my journey has lead me to believe that Camp Marshall is more than just a physical place – it’s the people.
Back in the day when I was a camper, we spent the mornings in classes being taught by the priest who had been assigned that week. I’m sure there were some very valuable lessons being taught – but I remember absolutely nothing from those classes. I went to the classes, because that was the price you had to pay to be with your friends! We were “Christian” so we went to communion and evening prayer, easy peasy, and got to hang out on lake during the afternoons. The classes didn’t teach me about fellowship and love – it was the people.
The gang; David Stevens, Bob Nebres, Bill Neuhardt, Bob Honeychurch, and Dave Porter…
The staff: Chris Berger, Kerry Neuhardt, Jamie Vickers, Carol Ripley (Sisk), Ann Ripley, and so many more…
The priests that changed my life: Rev John Vickers and Rev Charles Mitchell...
Playing guitar with: Linda Bandelier, Kerry Neuhardt, and John Gilliam
I remember the people...
So if you want to know what I think the 75th Anniversary of Camp Marshall should be about - it's the people.
To learn more about the Celebrate Camp Marshall weekend: CLICK HERE