Keewaydin legend ‘Waboos’ Hare dies
SALISBURY — Alfred Hare, known as “Waboos” to the legions of Camp Keewaydin campers whom he befriended over the course of nine decades, died on May 3 at the Helen Porter Healthcare and Rehabilitation Center in Middlebury. He was 96.
Hare’s legacy is inextricably linked with Keewaydin, the boys’ camp on the shores of Lake Dunmore in Salisbury, which in 2009 marked its 100th birthday. Hare spent his first summer at the camp in 1923 as an 8-year-old. He would never miss another summer there for the rest of his life, and would go on to co-own the camp from 1945 to 1982. He served as its director from 1946 to 2000.
“Keewaydin and Waboos are almost synonymous,” Peter Hare, one of his sons, said on Thursday. “He just loved the place.”
Alfred Hare was born on Sept. 6, 1914, in Philadelphia, and lived most of his life in Wynnewood, Pa. After graduating from the Montgomery Country Day School in Wynnewood, he attended the University of Pennsylvania, where he graduated in 1936.
He began a teaching career shortly after college, returning to Montgomery, where he spent 32 years teaching middle-school English and history. An avid sports enthusiast, he coached football, basketball and baseball throughout his Montgomery years. His time at there was interrupted for a few years while he served in the Quartermaster Corps of the U.S. Army during World War II.
Hare was given his nickname “Waboos” during his first summer at Keewaydin. The word means “white rabbit” in the Ojibway language. The name stuck.
As a camper, he won the best athlete award in 1932. As a staffer, he ran the baseball program and organized Friday night drama productions, known at Keewaydin as “The Friday Night Frolics.”
At the end of the summer of 1945, he, along with Abbott Fenn and Harold “Slim” Curtiss, purchased Keewaydin from then-owner John H. “Speedy” Rush. Because of his active leadership in the American Camping Association, he was presented with that organization’s service award in 1990 and was dubbed the “dean” of camping.
Peter Hare said his dad’s devotion to Keewaydin and its ideals and his unbridled joy for the camping life were inspirational. He said he will be remembered for the gusto with which he led songs, his encyclopedic memory for names, and his “epic” doubles tennis matches alongside his partner Abby Fenn, who still lives in the area and will celebrate his 90th birthday later this month.
But most importantly, he said his dad will be remembered for the smiles he put on the faces of thousands of campers and the loyalty he inspired in the staff who worked for him.
“He had a talent of bringing the best out of people,” Peter Hare said.
Hare believes his dad’s longevity was at least in part derived from the love he had for Keewaydin and the many friendships he would rekindle there. He noted that his dad broke his hip in 2008 but worked aggressively toward a quick recovery in order to attend 100th anniversary festivities for Keewaydin. Even in his latter years, Waboos still came to camp, staying at what became known as the “Hare Hutch.”
“In this day and age, there aren’t many people as devoted to one institution like he was,” Pete Hare said of his dad. “Besides his family, (Keewaydin) was his life.”
Fenn has many fond memories of his longtime friend, fellow World War II veteran and former business partner.
“He was a really remarkable person,” Fenn said on Friday.
He recalled that Hare was in charge of mailing out Christmas cards to Keewaydin alums — a list that in some years exceeded 3,000. Fenn marveled that Waboos was able to write personal messages on more than one-third of the cards, with some of them going to campers he had not seen in decades.
He was also custodian of the camp songs, which he compiled in a book that he constantly updated, Fenn recalled. In his final few days, laying unresponsive in his bed, the songs still touched a chord. Family members assembled at his bedside sang some of the songs and he would squeeze their hands.
“It was the first time in days he had shown such a response,” Fenn said.
Hare was predeceased by his wife Katharine Caner Hare and is survived by his children Laurie Hare, Steve Hare and Peter Hare; six grandchildren, Jennifer Hare, Ali Hare, Sonia Hare, Max Hare, James Hare and Annina Hare; two daughters-in-law, Diane Hare and Shelly Hare; and one son-in-law Danny O’Keefe.
A memorial service to celebrate his life will be held at Keewaydin Dunmore on Aug. 28. Donations in his honor can be made to the Keewaydin Foundation to support the Waboos Hare Scholarship Fund at www.keewaydin.org.
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected]