Hall of Fame inductions/Volunteer of the Year/summer luncheon

Below you will see photos taken during this past weekend—a weekend of inductions into our Hall of Fame, the awarding of our Volunteer of the Year Award, reunions of various former campers and staff, a luncheon in which participants in our summer camp program had a chance to speak about their experiences, and of course the annual summertime meeting of the Board. We inducted Charles & Marie Kremer into the Hall of Fame, and gave Judy Gottscho Eichinger our Eric Blum Volunteer of the Year award. Again, below this text you will see photos. Just below are the program notes written in honor of the Kremers and of Judy.

CHARLES AND MARIE KREMER, Hall of Fame induction

As we posthumously induct Charles and Marie Kremer into the Frost Valley Hall of Fame, we are lovingly surrounded by the Kremer family. This family, this legacy-minded community of generous, hard-working people, learned such qualities from a tough, realistic, self-starting, independent couple. Let’s face it: their seven children, who had been moved to Claryville, had essentially no choice but to grow up at Frost Valley’s camp. Yet predictably, in each case, Frost Valley soon became their own. There are as many Kremer experiences of adventure, challenge, and service to others at Frost Valley as there are individual Kremers. And it was always, all along, about family—a family that over the decades would create a vital, ongoing generational legacy, that would work with and help children at Frost Valley’s camps, that would spend time when possible in their beloved Claryville, putting roots down here, befriending neighbors, responding to the community in good times and bad.

Charles and Marie themselves of course worked at Frost Valley, famously—Charles on the maintenance crew, Marie first as a chef in the dining hall (mostly in Girls’ Camp) and then for many years as office manager—but it was never meant to stop there: each of their seven children also grew up at camp and worked at camp. Ray, starting in the early 1960s, was a Castle Boy, led Adventure trips, was a counselor, worked non-summer weekends; Michael was a “bus boy” weekends and became a camp counselor; Margaret invented and led the Catskill Explorers for Girls and eventually became the Camp Director of Camp Hird; Anne was a babysitter for Halbe & Jane Brown’s kids, was a CIT, JC, counselor, and (with Ray’s wife Meg) led the first-ever Adventure trip for girls; Charlie was a CIT, LIT, a Totem counselor, led trips, and became the Out-Trip Director; Andy went up through the villages as camper, became a counselor, led trips, worked weekends and on the maintenance crew; and, John, the youngest, joined the kitchen staff and also worked maintenance. As the Kremer children met loved ones and partners, these folks were drawn into the Frost Valley community too: Meg led trips; Joe was an Outpost VC; Will helped with the Tokyo Partnership camp; Karen worked at Arts & Crafts; and John met Jacqueline Dundorf, his future wife, at camp (serving as Sacky VC) during her six summers here. And then came the grandchildren: at last count five of Charles & Marie’s grandkids have been on the staff, including, this very summer, Garrett (a Forest counselor) and Ben (Adventure trips leader). To explain the origin of his son Garrett’s passion for being a counselor, Andy uses a classic Marie Kremer syllogism: “Garrett loved my mom. My mom loved camp. So he was going to love camp.”

The Kremer family, including the patriarch and matriarch whom we honor today, have collectively committed 112 years of time, energy, skill, dedication, and most of all honest hard work to further Frost Valley’s mission. Marie and Charles would not have had us honor them alone, for they brought a family to Claryville and they sent a family down the road to camp, and had they known of this induction would have insisted that they all be honored as one.

Marie’s family found Red Hill in Denning as, in a sense, a refuge from a hectic and difficult immigrant life in New York City. There’s a family rumor that her parents acquired fifty acres by trading for alcohol. Marie spent summers here, would make visits to the homes of country women, attended the one-room schoolhouse. She used to tell us that sometimes they had to say prayers just to get the old car up Red Hill. Later she learned secretarial skills and then worked at Bendix Corporation, where, standing in the lunch line, she met a handsome, modest  guy, Charles. Their courtship was happy and quick. The world war came. Charles had deferments but soon felt the need to serve. He fought in the 6th armored division, which landed in Normandy just after D-Day. With Patton’s army, he fought in the horrific Battle of the Bulge, was in the first group to cross the Rhine, and saw the horrors of genocide at Buchenwald. Marie joined the service, too, stationed in California, flew in a bomber plane, rode a motorcycle, and rose to the rank of corporal (outranking Charles).

Back in New Jersey, this “greatest generation” couple, not of course deeming themselves as great, started a family with Ray’s birth in 1946. Marie inherited the 50 acres in Denning. Charles fell in love with the spot. They rented a cabin from Harry Cole, and in 1954 they purchased 48 acres from Harry, right at the T where the Frost Valley Road ends. Wawayanda moved to Frost Valley in 1958 and it was obvious to Marie and Charles what to do with all these kids during the summer. Anne recently summarized what her parents thinking must have been: “Frost Valley was there, down the road. You’ve got this big family, so what are you going to do. So they shipped us to camp and they came too. Only later did they realize how really significant it was that they and we all got to have this beautiful experience.” Andy says: “It was a pragmatic solution that turned out to be a great idea.” “Let’s be honest,” Andy adds, “I learned more at Frost Valley than I learned at business school. I learned how to balance personalities and understand people’s motivations. And I learned about life. I learned what it’s like to love the work you do.”

Charles and Marie Kremer taught us all to love the work we do—not only their own children, children-in-law, and grandchildren, but all of those who worked with them. They lived through the worst of times in a crazy century and despite it all made a family and moved them to a spot in the world they considered paradise, which turned out to be seven miles from a valley where they could put their practicality and their generosity to work miraculously for the benefit of others. They always did good work in their time, and when we do the same good work today we honor them in exactly the way they would have wanted.

JUDY GOTTSCHO EICHINGER, Volunteer of the Year

As Judy Gottscho Eichinger receives the Eric Blum Volunteer of the Year Award for 2019, we feel a very special convergence: the late Eric Blum, in whose memory this annual tribute has been named, was himself supported by the program Judy now leads. Eric’s decades of Frost Valley experience was made entirely possible by the Ruth Carole Gottscho Kidney Center here; and of course this is true of hundreds of young people who have been able to enjoy camp—and in Eric’s and other cases, to be of service to others as counselors and even as camp directors—notwithstanding the significant limitations imposed on them by their chronic kidney disease.

After Judy’s young sister Ruth died of renal failure in 1960, her parents, Eva and Ira Gottscho, created a foundation to support the needs and costs incurred by families dealing with kidney disease.  At the time, dialysis was a new technique and very expensive.  The foundation literally saved more than two hundred lives by providing home dialysis machines to those who otherwise couldn’t afford the expensive treatment.  In 1973, Medicare began covering most of the cost of dialysis, so the foundation decided it wanted to help children with chronic kidney disease attend summer camp. “My sister always wanted to go to camp,” Judy recalls, “and she couldn’t go. She had to stay home. She was inconsolable when I left for camp. And we really were a camp family. We believed in camps and in camping—in the transformation that happens at camp.”

Eva approached six or seven camps to find one that would be willing to enable children suffering from this disease to have a camp experience while receiving dialysis treatments. This was an unbelievable concept in the early 1970s, and, what’s more, her non-negotiable stipulation was that the children be completely mainstreamed with healthy campers. “Can’t be done,” said the leaders of those half dozen camps. “Then Halbe Brown at Frost Valley said ‘Why not?’” as Judy recalls. In a partnership with Montefiore Hospital, the Gottscho Foundation, and Frost Valley, a hemodialysis center at Frost Valley was built as an extension of Smith Lodge and kids began attending camp in the summer of 1975.

The program thrived and expanded. Young lives were changed. Treatment options continued to develop, and the Gottscho Center at camp aptly evolved, serving more kids and attracting a world-class medical staff. Research began to indicate that two weeks at camp contributed to better overall health, better compliance with medical regimes, and much better skills at forming social relationships with peers. For decades the program was an utterly remarkable success, and in itself a model of how something that had been deemed impossible could work. (In this sense it was a model for the MAC Program which came a decade later.) Not long after the new Ruth Gottscho Dialysis Center opened in the new Guenther Wellness Center—at the opening celebration of which Eva Gottscho made a memorably moving speech—Eva died, just four days short of her 96th birthday.

What would happen to this renowned program without Eva? “It was very challenging after her death,” Judy recalls. “How could I ever fill my mother’s shoes? She had been such a big presence. I felt a huge responsibility. I realized pretty quickly that I wasn’t going to be able to be my mother and I was going to have to find my own way into this. I was going to have to lead with my heart. I really do fall in love with these kids. After two or three years of difficult, unsure efforts, I realized—and really felt—that my mother had given me a gift. I’m proud to continue what she started.”

This year we mark the tenth anniversary of Judy’s leadership of the foundation, and in 2020 it will have been sixty years since her sister Ruth’s death and the formation of the foundation. Judy sees Ruth in some of the kids. She died when dialysis was still experimental. These children can live the life her sister couldn’t. “I see these kids now being able to do what Ruth was not able to do. I’m thrilled,” Judy says. So she describes the camp program as a form of familial redemption: “It feels to me like a kind of personal healing when we help prevent other families from suffering the deep sense of loss that afflicted my family.”

With this award, we formally honor Judy Gottscho Eichinger for being brave enough to turn a dreaded responsibility into a lovely, generous gift. We honor her for ten years of intense voluntary service in support of children with renal disease, who each summer realize their dreams of running across fields, seeing all the stars, making friends like every other child. We honor the selflessness she brings to a strong and remarkable vision: No child should be denied an experience at summer camp just because they suffer from a chronic illness.


Al Filreis

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