Alan B. Ordway, age 73 (February 9, 1940 – April 24, 2013) passed away at home due to complications from adrenal cancer. “Uncle Al”, as he was known, was owner and director of Winona Camps for Boys for 45 years. On Saturday, August 17, 2013 a memorial service was held at Gould Academy in Bethel Maine for him. It was a great event honoring a man who was larger than life in so many ways. To all of you who attended, watched online, sang a Winona song, prepared written remarks, parked cars and cooked the food – thank you. Check out Winona’s YouTube channel (winonacampsmaine) for some of the video clips from that day. Below are just some of the many touching letters we have received.
Ben Farrell (Wi 2006-2009, 2011-2013) Winona is a special place. A place that you have created for boys to be boys and for people like myself to work for you, with your vision that one day they will become great young men. I have learnt so much about myself while on the shores of Moose Pond and it has had a direct impact on my life at home, here in the UK.
Anthony “Tony” Sroka (Wi 1980-1986) My earliest fond memory with you was bringing trash cans of slop from the dining hall to the pigs at the farmhouse – best of all – on the back of the fire engine. What a thing for a young boy. I remember how exciting it always was to have “Uncle Al” announce my birthday at dinner during camp. Less obvious and way more important is to thank you for who you are and all the men you led to instill the things a boy learned at camp. Who knew that a canoe trip or Sloyd somehow taught you way more than a j. stroke or about a table saw. It taught you how to be a great person. Lessons that still contribute to who I am today.
Gregory “Nick” Rich (Wi 1999-2004, 2007-2010) I still remember your advice in my first staff orientation about praise in public; give corrections in private.
Maximilian von Spiegel (Wi 1993-1995) I remember Uncle Al as one of the most influential persons in my life. I came from a very sheltered family background and coming to Winona was my first trip without having my family around. The transition was certainly quite rough with a lot of homesickness, but I soon found myself immersed in and welcomed by the wonderfully compassionate atmosphere that characterize Winona. Looking back I realize that these few weeks at Moose Pond clearly mark the beginning of my personal independence and growth into adulthood. Apart from all the wonderful individual experiences at Winona, I will be forever grateful to Uncle Al for dedicating his life to providing such a unique experience to young campers from all around the world.
Eduardo Perez Sandoval (Wi 1982-1985) It was so sad to hear Uncle Al has passed away. We have just received the sad news and we are shocked because it was (and he will keep being) a beloved person for us. It was for me, 25 years ago when I was a camper, and it was for my son Eduardo (Wi 2012-2013) since the first moment they met last summer. He was the kind of person you can rely, and in which you trust to put your son’s education in his hands. We will keep the most beautiful memory of his exceptional person, hoping he is resting in peace and having him in all our prayers. For you, his beloved family, our biggest hug and, our most sincere condolences and all our strength. The most beautiful way to remember him is to continue with his great Camp, and I´m sure now is in the best hands.
Michael Harrist (Wi 1997, 1998, 2000-2013) Uncle Al was beautiful in so many ways. I will miss his understanding and guidance. I will miss his summer handshakes before departing for the forests of Northern Maine. I will miss his autumn handshakes that sent me out into the forests of life. To have his blessing always put the wind at one’s back.
Sarah Peterson (Uncle Al’s niece) I’ve always been proud to boast that you are my actual Uncle. But really, I am even more proud that so many people have loved your avuncular way and all that is your life’s work. One of the loveliest legacies I can think of…that is the gentle and smiling kindness of Newell Ordway, [Uncle Al’s father]. I could always see his spirit in your actions and demeanor. It is a warm and constant way that reminds me of my mother’s Maine heritage, of the joy of getting out for a walk in the woods or a day on the lake, and of taking a morning ski run down the mountain to fill the lungs and spirit. And finally… it’s that way of rubbing two big paws together at the end of a good day with the anticipation of something more good to come.
Jeffrey “Bubba” Dropkin (Wi 1983-1986, 2002-2013) Your trust in young people is amazing. You find the best in us, and your ever presence guides us to excel.
Tina Vasconcelles (Wi parent 2005-2013) We just wanted you to know what an incredible impact you have had on our boys. You have made them into the men they are today. They so look up to you and respect you for all that you have done to make Winona their favorite place in the world. But you also taught them how to respect others, how to work hard, how to have fun (without electronics) and how to appreciate nature’s beauty. Thank you so much for being a part of their lives.
Jennifer Kravitz (Wi 2003, 2004, 2006, 2007) My summers working at Winona were amazing times that I continue to reference in conversations with Winona folks and the uninitiated. Winona is such a special place, and this is because of you and Aunt Michelle. You created a haven from the hustle and bustle of the world, a place where boys have the space and time to be boys – to get muddy, to experiment with different activities, to be leaders, and to find themselves.
Kathy Thibodeaux (Wi parent 2007-2013) We are all deeply saddened by Uncle Al’s passing. I have such fond memories of him. Recalling our first meeting, probably 20 years ago, he graciously welcomed my visit–this woman who married into the Cobb/Thibodeaux family. It was my first trip to Maine for a friend’s wedding, and Uncle Al showed me all around camp, and proudly pointed out where various Thibodeaux and Cobb family members had achievements posted on the walls in the Wiggies. I feel so very fortunate to have known Uncle Al, and I know that he helped to facilitate a smooth transition of camp administration to Spencer and Laura. Winona is in good hands, and it will always be touched by the special charm that Uncle Al infused in the operation.
Bob “Tweedy” Dill (Wi 1969-1976, 1993, 1995, 2001-2008, 2010-2013) In 1969, a 14 year old kid came to Senior Winona. Raw, insecure and immature. That summer especially, and over the course of the next couple of years, you changed my life and enabled me to be who I am today. I remember breaking some rules at camp and being called in front of “Uncle Al” in knee-knocking terror, expecting … well expecting something very different from the gentle compassion and help that I received. You taught me in that moment that errors in judgment are not final, but that I was still accountable for my decisions. I’d never been treated that way before and it was enlightening. I remember being on Lake Aziscohos and discovering that shoes were a really valuable thing to wear in the water! You introduced me to the local hospital and then drove hours back to camp! But you didn’t get mad; instead you made sure that the rest of the kids on the trip were OK while taking care of me. You have been a role model for me for the last 43 years because of who you are and how you lived each day at camp – the home where I saw you the most. Through camp, the training you established there and the counselors you brought in, I learned the value of humor, honoring hard work irrespective of competition, teamwork, compassion and began to develop judgment. This is a foundation that stood me through the rest of high school, college and my business career. I have called Winona home for over 4 decades because of what you created and ensured was always there. Your family and Winona will always have a permanent place in my heart.
Carlos Aguilera (Wi 2002) I attended camp in 2002. I was young, out of school and didn’t really know what to do with life. After about 2 weeks, Uncle Al and I started to meet together (somewhat regularly) to chat about life, direction and the meaning of it all. I knew Uncle Al had had many of these conversations before, probably with loads of young men before me. His wisdom was evident. He fully understood what it was to group up, face challenges and to deal with really hard stuff. I have grown up shaped by the wisdom Uncle Al shared with me all those years ago, and I will never forget his gentle approach, his listening ear and the wonderful deep sound of his comforting voice. His memory lives on not just with those who knew him intimately as husband, father and friend, but also in the lives of many around the world who were blessed to come to contact with him by the shores of Moose Pond. Winona will always be special because it is a wonderful and stunningly beautiful place to be; but also because it was shaped by a wonderful man. May you rest in peace Uncle Al!