|Skipper during her last trip to
Canoe Island, September 2012
Marge Wintersteen, better known as Skipper during her 10 years as CIFC camp director, 1980-1989, passed away on April 29 in Olympia, WA. Although Canoe Island has lost a long and cherished friend, our memories of her will continue.
After a few years of personally running the camp he founded in 1969, Dr Warren Austin convinced Marge, who was a Girl Scout camp director, to take on the summer duties and professionalize the camp.
"Marge solidified Dr. Austin’s dream into a fully functional summer camp with sound business practices and staff training,” said Bill Westlake, the camp caretaker for 31 years. ‘When she retired at the end of the decade the camp consistently hosted 25 to 30 campers and was on a track to financial stability. She did this with grace, humor and wisdom.”
“ ‘Have I got a job for you!’ I don’t know how many people Skipper said this to, but I know she said it to me at least four times for jobs that ranged from kitchen assistant to program director,” said Anne Eggers. “The most important thing was that Skipper was a really good boss. For many of us she was our best boss, the one you compare every other one to. Skipper didn’t tell us out loud all of her leadership rules but she lived them. I work every day to keep them in mind.” Her first rule, according to Anne, was “The kids come first, then you, then me.”
|Skipper, left, with Bunny and Dr. Austin
and Marie Pierre Koban in 1985
Debbie Mellom, who was also a camper and counselor, remembers her fondly. “I attended French Camp for three or four years prior to Skipper's arrival. In those earlier days, the camper groups were small, maybe 14 -16 campers per session. We felt we were in a unique, special place. Not only did we speak French, we sipped wine at Bon Voyage dinners. We had goats, then llamas, then a red phone booth. We weren't like other camps.
“I did not plan to return to Canoe Island when Skipper stepped in full time. She came from those "other" camps. I was concerned Canoe Island would no longer be unique; we'd have too many campers squeezed into Gus le Bus and herded around like cattle singing Kumbaya.
“How wrong I was. I did return as a counselor in 1980, and even though Skipper quickly put a kibosh on the wine, French Camp continued to grow and thrive, still unique, better than ever. She encouraged and advised and befriended so many of us -- truly it seemed she had us all figured out -- I smile to think about the reach of her influence,” said Debbie.