It is with a combination of sadness, appreciation, and – paradoxically – a quiet sense of rightness that we pass along word of the death of Tom Reed, Sr., long-time director and son of one of the founders of Pemigewassett. Tom died peacefully at his house on the Hill at Camp, surrounded by his family and by friends and colleagues of many years.
Tom had been challenged by failing health for a number of months, and it was remarkably gratifying for him to be able to make it back to Pemi in June. Once here, Tom was visibly buoyed by his return to the spot and to the community that he had given so very much to over the years. He attended the last meeting of pre-season staff training and gave his wonted inspirational speech about how something as routine as a distance swim can work true wonders in the life of a boy. He enjoyed the annual 4th of July Peerade, watched several baseball and soccer games from the sidelines, and, in a manner many of you will smile to remember, bellowed from his porch on one particularly sunny morning as sleepy boys stumbled out of their cabins, “Leap out of bed with a glad cry. Let’s do some jumping jacks and then into the lake!”
Tom was where he wanted to be, with the people he loved and who loved him. He saw the 103rd season begin with energy and purpose, and the contentment and solace which that brought him may have been what allowed him to slip away. The staff had been told several days ago that Tom was poised for his next big adventure, but word was delivered to the whole community this morning at breakfast by Charlie Malcolm in a very understated but powerful way, inflected by joy for a life well lived and a mission sustained.
More will be said about Tom in other settings, and to other audiences. Let me close, though, with the text of a wonderful tribute that was paid to Tom upon his retirement as managing director at the Final Banquet of the 1987 season. It accompanied a photo montage of that very successful season. Drafted by Fred Seebeck, Rob Grabill, Lance Latham, and Dean Ellerton, it does as good a job as could be done of summarizing the many blessings Tom brought to Pemi during the six decades he had already thrown into the running of camp. Two dozen additional years spent encouraging teams, leading songs, and imparting a long life’s worth wisdom to the many who looked to him for guidance have only solidified the incomparable legacy he leaves with us all.
Representing the members of the 1987 Pemigewassett family, I present to you this symbol of our affection for you and your lifetime of devotion to Camp. You have been our leader, our supporter, our advisor, our fan, our father, and our boss. This summer you have shared your yarns and anecdotes with us; you have graced us with your love of music, be it Beethoven on CD or The Junior Camp Song in the Messhall; you have encouraged us to be prompt, well-mannered, healthy, and clean; you have enjoined us to be intense and gracious sportsmen; and you have shown us, through your dedication to your job as Director and through your good humor, that one’s work can be a labor of love. Though you and Betsy will return to “the Hill” for many years to come (we hope), we shall sorely miss your prudent judgment, your warm words of encouragement, your meticulous organization, and your charming quips and jokes. More than any one person, Tom, you are Camp Pemi – and though camp will not cease to exist upon your retirement, it will change in subtle and meaningful ways. We therefore recognize tonight the end of an era, the changing of the guard. Thank you, from the bottom of our hearts, for your unselfish and enduring love for Camp and for us all. And may God bless you and Betsy with good luck, long life, and joy.
For twenty-three years, Tom and Betsy continued to enjoy those blessings. They were the richly-deserved gifts that come to those who have themselves given so much. We will let you all know as plans evolve for remembering Tom and celebrating the great love he shared with his partner of seventy years.
“And when the battle’s over, he shall wear a crown in the New Jerusalem!”
–Tom Reed, Jr.
22 July 2010