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100 Years Ago: The Elwells

Graeme Noseworthy — October 29, 2021


100 years ago, Oscar and Frances Elwell arrived at YMCA Camp Takodah. Together, they transformed our organization from an encampment of a dozen campers and staff into one of the most celebrated Y camps in New England. The property and programs we enjoy today were shaped and molded from their combined century of service and lasting dedication to the power of community fundraising.

In the summer of 1921, the Board of Directors started searching for a new “Country Secretary” after Victor Smith announced he was standing down. They soon found a young, charismatic Springfield College graduate with a Bachelor of Humanics Degree and a reputation for hard work and solid values.

The vote was cast that July — and Oscar was named as the 4th Secretary (Executive Director) of the Cheshire County YMCA. He started on September 1st, 1921. Frances, his partner, both personally and professionally, came as well and we quickly realized we were investing in a couple who would lead a relentless march of progress and growth.

Oscar endorsed and continued developing the vision that Elgin Jones (long-time board member) and Daniel Lorentz (2nd Secretary) had for Takodah. Although the association had suffered in the wake of World War I, Oscar was focused, grounded, and levelheaded. He drove the Y onward and upward working tirelessly to build an outstanding, recognized, and celebrated camping program for boys and girls. Oscar proclaimed “Takodah’s success was not measured by dollars but measured by its impact on the lives of children.” Oscar and Frances became a team and together they spread YMCA services throughout Cheshire County for 50 years.

The rest, as they say, is history.

To learn more about the Elwells and their combined 100 years of service to our Y, you can watch the following Takodah History Talk:

You can also read Oscar’s very first report to the Board as shown below.

Notice that he says “I have been on the job since August 29th” even though he didn’t technically start until September 1st. That was Oscar’s way of showing he was off and running before anyone even knew he was at the starting line. That attitude never changed.