Gather 'round the (Virtual) Campfire:
Stories from Camp Read's Past
Celebration of Life:
Robert J. Newton
November 21, 1935 - February 27, 2023
On Saturday May 13, 2023, family, friends, fellow Horicon and Chestertown volunteer firemen, and Camp Read Association (CRA) members gathered at the Brant Lake Cemetery to say "so long" to a man we all respect and love. It was a bright sunny day with a gentle breeze in the air. A large ceremonial American Flag suspended from a Horicon FD ladder truck swung softly in the breeze.
Despite the breeze, the black flies were in full force but this did not stop all assembled from listening to the kind words spoken by the Funeral Director, Erica. She expressed to all that even though she had never met Bob, she knew what kind of man he was by listening to everyone’s stories and by the large turnout of people who came to pay tribute to Bob. He was so loved and respected by all. Of course, Bob’s expressions helped paint a picture of the “character” he was as well. Erica ended with one of Bob’s sayings: “Off like a dirty shirt”.
Bob’s oldest daughter Greta, read a very touching poem:
He is Gone
You can shed tears that he is gone, or you can smile because he lived.
You can close your eyes and pray that he’ll come back or you can open your eyes and see all that he’s left.
Your heart will be empty because you can’t see him, or you can be full of love you shared.
You can turn your back on tomorrow and live yesterday, or you can be happy for tomorrow because of yesterday.
You can remember him only that he is gone, or you can cherish his memory and let it live on.
You can cry and close your mind, be empty and turn your back.
Or you can do what he’d want:
Smile, open your eyes, love and go on.
Greta ended with one of Bob’s sayings: “let’s get going, daylight is a burning”.
All were invited to break bread at Newton Hall in Buckskin, Camp Read. As we drove up the camp road we could see a large American Flag hung from the boom of a cement pumper truck located on the Waubeeka Lake dam. A fitting tribute by his Grandson Craig to Bob’s dedication to family, camp, community, and nation.
Approximately 150 people attended, with CRA Members numbering around 35. Greg Pitonza led the Noon Meal Grace and our “celebration” started. As we ate, all reminisced about times being on staff and working with Bob. It made for recalling fond memories, funny stories, and reverent reflections of a man who set the right example and helped guide many onto the trail of life.
Past CRA President, Tom Dietz, welcomed all on behalf of the Newton Family. He spoke about how he met Bob in July 1969 when Bob first started as Ranger, and how he thought Bob had the best job in the world but that it would be no easy task maintaining the Camp. Bob “rose” to the challenge and did an outstanding job over the next 28 years.
In June 1989, the CRA held its third Five-Year Reunion at Camp. Bob was a big help with all the reunions and supported the Camp Read traditions of solid teamwork, hard work, and dedication to the camp, campers and staff. When the formal CRA organization was formed in February of 1990, Bob was asked to be our Board Advisor to ensure, among other things, that the Camp traditions would be maintained.
Tom served on the Tomahawk Staff in the mid-sixties so he did not have the pleasure of working with Bob while on Staff. However, he worked with Bob on the Eager Beaver work weekends and as a member of the Properties and Maintenance Committee. They worked on many a sign and other projects together. One such project put Tom in the bucket of a front end loader to repair the Bird on the top of the Camp Waubeeka sign. Bob said “now hold on” as he raised the bucket up with Tom, tools, bird and all, keeping the bucket level the entire time. Bob was an expert at running all the equipment at camp.
You’ve heard the expression that “behind every good man is an even better woman”. Well, that was true of Bob and Gert. They were a great team, and along with taking care of camp, they raised four wonderful children. Their family also graciously included all the scouts, scouters, and staff that came to Camp Read. Bob and Gert were fine role models, friends and “parents” to us all.
Bob was a good judge of character and knew who he could rely on, and who needed a little “mentoring”. He also had a keen sense of nature. It had rained all day with heavy downpours at times on the Eager Beaver work weekend in June of 1998. A larger than usual crowd attended because the Buckskin Dining Hall was to be dedicated to Bob and Gert that Saturday evening. As all gathered at retreat in front of the Dining Hall, the rain subsided. Bob was looking off towards the North West sky and the ominous gray clouds. Tom said to Bob: “You really do have a way with nature. You got the rain to stop just in time for retreat.” With that Bob replies: “Yeah, but you better not wait too long." True to Bob’s word, the rain started up again as we entered the now dedicated Newton Hall.
Tom recalled how Bob continued his role as mentor, leader and teacher, even as he was not himself in the later years. From time to time, many of the “Read Boys” went “over the mountain”, as Gert would say, to visit Bob in Ticonderoga. These included: Greg Pitonza, Bill Daley, Denis Pisanello, Ron Green, Rich Lutomski, Bill Brucker, Tim Haag and Tom just to name a few. On one visit they met Greta on their way out. Greta let us know the nurses told her that although Bob would act up a bit occasionally, whenever the “Read Boys” came to visit, Bob would straighten right up and be “Ranger Bob” again. He showed us that our visits did make a difference. He was a teacher to the end.
Craig House spoke next and recalls the many hours spent with his Grandpa. He taught him many things including how to use tools and hunt, to always be honest and have a good work ethic, to do his best and to live by the Scout Oath & Law. Bob encouraged Craig to work hard and get his Eagle Scout Award. Craig is so thankful for his Grandpa’s love, lessons, and direction. “It is one of the main reasons I am who I am today”. And yes, Craig is very proud to be an Eagle Scout!
Sherry, Bob & Gert's fourth child, had a few stories to tell. Dad had an interview with Joe Cooke for the Ranger job at Camp Read. Mom, Dad and us four kids rode up the camp road to the Central Office. Mom tells us kids to behave as we sit in the car and wait because it’s important that dad gets this job. Well a little time passes and someone pushes someone and a ruckus begins in the back seat. This aggravated the heck out of Mom but no harm done, as we know, Dad got the job.
If you’ve ever wondered what the Rangers kids did while you were at camp, Sherry sheds some light on what she and her sibs used to do. Before there was Waubeeka Lake, a stream ran through a forested valley. She thinks that she, Todd, Greta and Ben were around 9, 10, 11, and 12 respectively at the time. They would float down that stream, swim, and make believe they were on the “Amazon River”. Always a nice refreshing way to spend a hot summer's afternoon.
Greg Pitonza spoke next. The following are excerpts from his memorial service speech. In addition to his feelings, these summarize the feelings of all who knew, worked with and respected Ranger Bob.
“He was a friend, teacher, mentor, and guardian angel when needed.
He was more than his title revealed.
He kept the camp properly ready and made improvements as a plumber, electrician, carpenter, mechanic, heavy equipment operator, highway foreman, and more.
Bob did all this, and did it in style with a wide range of sayings, phrases, words, all with great enthusiasm... that later became North Country Newt Vocabulary and Interpreter Strip.”
Ranger Bob meant so much to Greg that he asked Bob to be his best man at his wedding.
Thanks, Bob, for all you have given your “family”, and Camp Read. You will always be remembered and loved.
As we end an event or camp fire with Scout Vespers and Taps, we always think of all the scouters whom have gone before us to the great Scoutmaster in the sky. Bob, please know that you are at the top of that very special list.
God bless you and rest in peace!
With respect, honor, love and gratitude,
Past President, Camp Read Association
For generations, summer after summer, scouts have been making memories at Camp Read. In 2020, the pandemic may have forced regular activities to pause, but campers from years gone by are sharing their stories here in an effort to fill in the gap. Read on to get your fix of Camp Read hijinks until we can safely fill a parade ground once more!
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