Lorne Bowering. It is news that brings grief and gratitude. Lorne was a towering figure in my adolescent life. The director of YMCA Camp Elphinstone for thirty five years, he taught me and so many other boys about responsibility, service and leadership.
Looking back, it is hard to believe that Lorne was just thirty-three when I first went to Elphinstone in 1967. In my mind he always seemed so grown up and experienced and wise. He had the capacity to ride herd on a camp of a hundred and twenty boys along with an at times unruly staff of counsellors while at the same time making personal connections with each one of us. He seemed to really enjoy us. Which, of course, he did. He enjoyed giving us a chance to try our wings as young men. He enjoyed watching us grow up.
When I was fifteen Lorne gave me my first job. He did it by writing me a letter and including with it a contract, offering me $100 to be a junior counsellor for nine weeks in the summer of 1969 (with one day off a week). I remember the excitement of opening that letter and discovering that Lorne thought me worthy of a place on his staff. Then, in the middle of the summer, Lorne fired a regular counsellor and asked me to take on my own cabin group. He didn't say anything about an increase in pay and I didn't ask for one. I was just thrilled to have the chance. On the final day of camp, when the campers had all left for home, Lorne handed us each an envelope with our pay for the summer. I opened mine to find $250. It was a big day.
I worked for three more years at Elphinstone. Each year Lorne gave me, along with others, more responsibility. In my last two years I was one of the four unit leaders, accountable to Lorne for a group of cabins and their counsellors. Two winters, while I was attending UBC, he hired me to run winter programs at the camp and for campers in Vancouver. Through it all I have such fond memories of Lorne's gentleness, his warm smile and sense of humour, and of his creativity and innovative mind. Lorne ran a tight ship but it didn't feel that way. It felt like fun.
A few years ago I looked up Lorne's phone number, called him and arranged to take him to lunch. It was so good to be able to meet him again, as an adult, and to thank him for all that he had done for me. I wish I had known that in recent years he was suffering with ALS. I wish there had been one more chance to say thank-you. But I suppose that this is what this post is all about. Thank-you Lorne.