Kieve and Wavus are places where lifelong, unconditional friendships are created. It’s been that way for nearly 100 years. As I sat down to write this spring’s letter to you all, it occurred to me that a letter I just wrote to one of my best friends, a Kieve alum, on the occasion of his 60th birthday could have been written by any one of the 15,000 or so of you who are reading this. At the risk of embarrassing him, here goes:
Jimmy James Brownie Brown, I first met you in June of 1969. You were 12 and the middle of 3 brothers who cut a wide swath through Kieve with your swagger and athletic prowess. You boys were bulletproof, fun, and full of energy. We all wanted to be with you and be like you.
Over the next few years we grew along parallel paths for 10 months annually, the Brown boys in Philly and I north of Boston, but we all could hardly wait to get back to the shores of Damariscotta Lake each June. That school thing sure did get in the way of what we really wanted and needed! Our summers were spent out in the woods and in/on the water. One adventure after another. Laugh after laugh. Some tough times developing grit and character followed by sunsets and celebrations. Little did we know that these unconditional friendships would form the bedrock of our existence and last for the rest of our days on this glorious Earth.
Eventually we were tapped to be Kieve counselors and leaders. We had learned from the best and now it was our time. As fun as it was being campers, serving as counselors was exponentially more fulfilling. Getting paid to take kids down the Allagash or up Katahdin while they looked up to us like dads was too good to be true. There was no task too tall for us to competently and confidently tackle. I vividly remember the chaos at General Swim back on July 9, 1974 when you saved the day. Bob Bishop writes in the Kieve Annual “Afternoon swim was enlivened by the appearance of a northern water snake which Jim Brown captured, receiving much advice from a somewhat hesitant audience.” We were battle tested and we passed. We could be counted on and we knew it. Mix in a steady diet of Beach Boys and late night revelry at the Red Farmhouse and it was impossible to wipe the wide grins from our faces.
When our Kieve time was sadly over, many years went by without seeing one another. Decades actually, while we accomplished our primary mission in life: raising our families. During that time, Dick and Nancy turned Kieve into a non-profit and when the Board passed the hat to preserve this place forever, Bill and Charlly were some of the first to invest heavily in Kieve’s future. Once again the Brown family led by example. Nick and Tucker’s camper years brought us briefly back together but then the Brown Dog was gone again, though not forgotten.
In 2012, 38 years after your last counselor year, our lives would once again merge, this time full on. How lucky are we to live on the lake together every summer, “working” side by side at our beloved Kieve, surrounded by so many of the knuckleheads we’ve known forever, our wives, kids, and 4 legged friends? Our primary mission now is to notice the awe-inspiring beauty all around us, to share our bounty and love, and to do our best to ensure that Kieve-Wavus continues to thrive. You’re now even the Treasurer of our Board of Trustees! And the well-beaten path between Maine and Ft. Lauderdale helps sustain us through the dark, cold winters.
Brownie, you are such a happy fellow who lives each moment as if it’s your last, and you’d give anyone the shirt off your back if they asked (mostly because you like to show off that bronzed, hairless, V shaped chest). It’s pure joy being by your and Terri’s side. Thank you for making the world a better place. Happy 60th and Let the Adventures Continue!
The Kieve and Wavus experiences haven’t changed much over the past century so I have no doubt that many of you campers will be writing similar letters to your cabin mates 50 years from now when they turn 60. We can’t wait to see you all on The Lake this summer!
Henry R. Kennedy, Executive Director
Executive Director, Kieve-Wavus Education, Inc.