We all have one of those leaders who made a lasting difference in our lives at Takodah.
They’re usually larger than life. They could lead like no one else could lead, sing like no one else could sing, smile like no smile you had ever seen before, and give you one of those hugs you could only find at Camp. You often think of them when their name inevitably comes up as you reminisce about your time spent along the shores of Cass Pond.
For me, that leader was Bill Jarvis.
I clearly remember “Billy” from the 1980s when I was a camper. Of course, there are many others who remember him walking the paths and fields of Takodah long before and after that time. He was my cabin leader, division head, class instructor, swim teacher, and so much more. And all of this was among many other roles and responsibilities around camp, including Assistant Chef, that Bill stepped up to take on year after year. I’m sure I’m not alone in saying that Bill was one of those familiar faces that I would look for each time I drove down May Lane as a session was getting started. You just couldn’t wait to talk to him or shake his hand and get that warm Takodah welcome.
To those of us who knew him well, Bill was more than a staff member: he was a celebrity.
That’s because Bill was a commanding presence that always got your attention. No matter where he was or what he was doing, his light shined bright. He had a voice – if you ever heard it, you can probably close your eyes and hear it now – that echoed throughout the Dining Hall when he would sing songs in such a way that made everyone want to sing along. He would engage you in conversations that could last for hours. He marched to the beat of his own drum, but it was a beat that made you stand up and move.
There was no program or place on our campus that Bill didn’t leave his mark. From the cabins to the kitchen, from the Waterfront to Hobby Nook, and from the tennis courts to the Point, we carry on what Bill helped to build. He absolutely loved, lived, and breathed Takodah. It was more than a gathering of friends. For him, it was a family. Camp was a place of safety, sanctuary, and solemn reflection throughout the majority of his life, whether he was near or far. He wore his Takodah gear with reverent pride and he worked (and most certainly played) as hard as he could. When he visited us, long after his days on staff were over, he would roll in like a gathering storm. Meaning, there was never any doubt that he was there. And even if you didn’t remember Bill, you could rest assured that Bill remembered you.
It was obvious. You could see it in his gaze. You could feel it in his handshake. You could hear it in his words. He knew. He always knew.
Bill was also a key player in the development of our Mini Camp program. I was lucky enough to volunteer as a co-leader with Bill (and the late, great Peter DeMoya) in Mini Cabin 19 in 2011. It was a week-long whirlwind of knowledge, stories, history, tips, tricks, laughs, tears, and so much more. He mentored me, motivated me, taught me, pushed me, and helped me to get reacquainted with traditions that I had not been a part of in over 20 years. In the decade since, Bill was that friend I would call from time to time when I needed to speak to someone who would listen and then give me unfiltered feedback, honest advice, and a no-frills way to setting me straight. I guarantee many of you reading this had similar experiences with him.
That’s what Bill did throughout his life. He gave. He shared. He loved. He cared. He had a heart of silver, green, and gold.
And suddenly, he was gone. William Richard Jarvis passed away on Wednesday, March 16th, in Fort Myers, Florida. He was only 54 years old. He had so much light left to shine, so much advice left to give, and so much love left to share. Our community has truly lost a legend. Our Bell has fallen silent.
But he wouldn’t want us to grieve his loss for too long. Bill would want us to get up, get moving, and celebrate his memory by passing on the potential to be something wonderful to a whole new generation of Takodians. So, the next time you take hold of a birch round candle, feel the felt of an aging CT in your hand, or pause to imagine the warmth of the Richmond sun, please take a moment to be thankful for those camp friends who, like Bill, made a similar difference in your life. He would surely love to know that what he shared with us is reflected in others who can channel the power of the place we all take for our home.
God bless you, Billy. I hope you’re singing “Flea Fly” and “Princess Pat” loud and proud on the other side of eternity. For there’s no doubt that you were always ready to help others at some cost to yourself.
Rest well knowing that you shall be missed but never, ever forgotten.
P.S.: please visit our Alumni Group on Facebook to see and share stories and photographs of Billy. Our alumni are also coming together to create a Remembrance Fund to honor his legacy. Details and ways to support the fund will be announced soon.
- Personal collection of Mike Hoefer
- Personal collection of J. Graeme Noseworthy
- Takodah YMCA Archives