GRAND Magazine- Winter 2020 - 32

legacy

A Goodbye to celebrate the best parts of life.

unlike today, there weren't any "designated stops" along
"I went online and found they do make canoe coffins," I the way. I went down the river first in a boat to see where
the kids and canoes could pull over. I met with state forest
said, laughing.
The job that launched my camp trajectory as a 16-year- rangers and local farmers to get permission for places
where campers could stop and camp overnight.
old was as a dishwasher for the Boys Club in Chicago
(it was still just the boys club in 1943). I was still in high
You can find anything on the Internet.
school. The camp baker saw my work ethic and invited
Michael did a little research and found that there were
me to be his assistant. I was up at 4 am to start the ovens.
actually four different models of canoe coffins. One of
Then when I was older, I worked on the waterfront, and
them allowed you to sit in it.
finally camping. I saw value for both the children and
"Put me in that one, with my paddle," I said. "While
adults.
I joined Camp Chi in 1955 when it first opened to boys, you're at it, put in a small reflector oven and all of the
ingredients for my famous pineapple upside down cake.
as a Unit Head overseeing four cabins. From Unit Head I
moved up to Program Director, then Assistant Director and Dehydrated, of course."
"And don't forget to throw in the star maps so I can find
eventually Director of Camp Chi. In 1980 I became General
Margaret (of blessed memory) to be my bow person."
Director of JCC.

"... I feel strongly about this.
The Holocaust saw enough
burning of Jewish bodies. "
With this conversation I could let them know that
under any circumstances do not have me cremated.
Because of my Jewish heritage and visits to see the
concentration camps in the 1980's, I feel strongly
about this. The Holocaust saw enough burning of
Jewish bodies.

Reasons to Celebrate.

But other than that, I look forward to giving you
ideas for celebration. If I decide everyone should have
a shot of Old Granddad and tell stories...well, you can
do it then, but let's do it now, too.
This conversation may have started with death. But
Are you sure you're not upset, dad?
What camping has meant to my life.
After a good chuckle together, we talked more. "Are you it's an invitation to talk about life, and how to celeCamping is part of me forever - it's a magical land. And
brate a long life, well lived, and well loved.
sure you're not upset that I brought this up, dad?"
I love the story camp tells about the times. In the years of
"Of course not," I assured him. In fact he had been so
Camp Chi, in the 1930's when it was a girl only camp, they
wore uniforms. The idea was to give the girls a respite from helpful when my wife Margaret passed away. Then he
tenement living - get them fresh air, good food and their asked about what he should say in the ceremony. "I'm not
Jerry Witkovsky, Author of The
ready to help you write the ceremony," I answered.
own bed. It was an army cot, but that still was something
Grandest Love and a longtime social work professional,
"But in 10 years I can, when I'm 101.
special, as many were likely sharing a bed with siblings at
grandparenting activist,
home.
and passionate grandpa,
I got more serious about the benefits of camp after
author Jerry Witkovsky
It's not morbid. It's happy.
offers fresh approaches to
finishing my Master of Social Work degree. I led camper
I let my son know this was not about facing
help grandparents enter
trips on canoes starting in Minnesota in Superior National my death. It was more about how to celebrate my
their grandchild's world,
Forest. There I was honored with a paddle with my name
life while I'm still alive. And it's a good conversato leave values, not just valuables and create
a living legacy. Jerry shares more about the
on it, a paddle that Michael (the aforementioned son the
tion to alleviate stress when, someday, I will die.
Grandparent-Grandchild Connection School
psychiatrist) now owns.
My children will know what I want. You don't want
Program and encourages grandparents to
When I became Director of Camp Chi I launched canoe to be having a conversation like this in the middle
unleash their creativity and unique gifts to
tripping down the Wisconsin River. That was a "start-up"
transform their family at
of a crisis. It's better this way.
www.grandparentsunleashed.com.
if I ever saw one. They didn't even own any canoes. And,
32 GRAND

JAN., FEB. & MAR. 2020


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GRAND Magazine- Winter 2020

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of GRAND Magazine- Winter 2020

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GRAND Magazine- Winter 2020 - Contents
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