the red trail
T H E
O N T E O R A
A L U M N I
A S S O C I A T I O N
N E W S L E T T E R
THE RED TRAIL
Dec. 1, 2013
Volume 13, Issue 2
In Memory of Russ Rensch Jr., One of
Scouting’s Most Vigorous Advocates
SAVE THE DATES
Fall Alumni Weekend
Fall Alumni Weekend
60th Anniversary Reunion
*The dates for 2014-2016
therefore are subject to
change, although it is
highly likely that they will
This issue of the Red Trail is dedicated in memory of Russell Rensch Jr.
(April 8, 1941 - Nov. 16, 2013), a true
Scout who devoted the significant
majority of his life to enabling Onteora Scout Reservation, broader
Scouting in Nassau County, and
Scouting across America to prosper.
His family’s decision to let him rest
in peace while wearing
his Class A uniform,
including his Order of
the Arrow Vigil
Honor sash, indicates
the considerable affinity Russ had with the
spirit of Scouting in
life and reminds us of
the benevolent ways
of Scouting that Russ
As an indication of
the strength of Russ’
commitment to the
Boy Scouts of America, among the hundreds of individuals
who attended his
wake, the majority
were in Class A uniform.
“All in Nassau County Scouting
would say he was dedicated to the
Scouting movement and ideals of
brotherhood espoused in the Oath
and Law,” said Eric Anderson, council
commissioner of the Theodore Roosevelt Council and member of the
Among Russ’ contributions to the
Scouting program were his many years
of staffing at Onteora as a commissioner
and in numerous other capacities. The
Onteora Alumni Association recognized
Russ as a Legend of Onteora in 2009,
and his father, Russell Rensch Sr., was
posthumously awarded this honor in
“I can’t begin to tell
you how much Russ
influenced me as both
program director and
camp director of OSR,”
said Dominic Kent,
member of the Onteora
Staff. “He would come
up for a week to volunteer and that week was
always better for his
As an Onteora commissioner, Russ enjoyed
interacting with the
troops and helping make
their experiences at Onteora all the more productive.
Russ also generously
donated numerous items to Onteora
over the years to enhance the summer
camp program, said Joseph Bacchi,
member of the Onteora staff.
He lived his life enjoying his family
and friends, music, a good meal, and of
course Scouting, Bacchi said.
“Whenever he spoke of these things
(Continued on page 2)
THE RED TRAIL
The OAA Board
Bill Cotter - Chairman
Steve Shull - Vice Chairman
Billy Graham - Treasurer
Bill Throop - Secretary
Howie Perlman - Registrar
OSR Camp Director
Red Trail Editor
his face would light up and his voice had
a special vibrancy. He loved his family
and friends, calling them frequently to
see how they were doing,” Bacchi said.
“He took the time to let them know he
was thinking of them and that they were
special in his life.”
His efforts to help troops succeed
through serving as a commissioner were
implemented not just during summer
camp but throughout the entire year.
Among the various commissioner roles
Russ had over the years was serving as
the roundtable commissioner for the
Rough Rider district.
prime examples of this is that Russ was
among the Scouts of the Theodore Roosevelt Council who most frequently ventured to Philmont Scout Ranch, trekking
across the New Mexican wilderness with
crews of fellow adventurous Scouts.
He proudly wore Philmont’s Arrowhead Award patch on May 11, 2012,
during the 60th anniversary ceremony of
Troop 157, the troop based in East
Meadow with which Russ had been a
member since 1953, just one year after
the troop’s founding. Russ had at one
time been the Scoutmaster of the troop,
and he had remained actively involved in
working with its Scouts to such an exA Lifetime of Service
tent that during the ceremony, Troop
157 recognized him as an Honorary EaRuss was recognized as a Vigil Honor gle Scout for Dedicated Service. His
member of the Order of the Arrow on
corresponding nameplate with this desJuly 19, 1969, and was an associate lodge ignation was affixed to an ongoing
advisor of the Theodore Roosevelt
plaque with nameplates for Troop 157’s
Council’s Buckskin Lodge. In this lead- Honor Roll of Eagle Scouts.
ership capacity with the Order of the
Russ’ paramount service to the Scouts
Arrow, he was not just a mentor to
of Nassau County was as well recogmany, but an Elangomat, which is the
nized when he earned the Silver Beaver
Lenape word for friend, said Michael
Award, the highest honor with which a
Raia, member of the Onteora Alumni
BSA council can recognize an adult volAssociation Board.
“He was a friendly face to all he enWhile the legacy of his service as a
countered, with his counting days to
leader among leaders shall continue to
Christmas, to his passion for patches,”
empower Scouts for years to come,
Raia said. “He will be missed.”
those who knew him shall cherish the
The Buckskin Lodge in 2007 prememories of his friendship.
sented Russ with the Order of the Ar“I’ve known Russ my entire Scouting
row Founder’s Award, which recognizes life, over 40 years, and my son had the
individuals who have devoted outhonor of meeting him in September for
standing service to their lodge.
the first time,” said Peter Carioscia,
As a member of the Theodore Roose- member of the Onteora Staff. “I bet
velt Council’s Sagamore Service Troop,
Russ is trading patches with the angels.”
an organization that like the Buckskin
Indeed, perhaps Russ also is having
Lodge has a membership of Scouts who laughs with folks such as Robert Badenpersonify service, Russ specialized in
Powell, Theodore Roosevelt, E. Urner
survival camping and offered instruction Goodman, and Dan Beard.
in these intrepid skills to troops that
“He has gone home and is with that
wanted to enhance their camping experi- one great Scout of all great Scouts,” said
Peter Visconti, member of the Onteora
His certification by the Sagamores as staff.
a survival camping specialist was wellRuss’ vigilant commitment to working
earned, as Russ was an adroit enthusiast with Scouts in their paths to becoming
of challenging camping. One of the
strong leaders shall forever be remem-
VOLUME 13, ISSUE 2
bered, said Michael Dioguardi, member of the Onteora staff.
“His influence, genuine modest character, and impeccable work
ethic has had a profound impact on my life and the lives of many
other Scouts,” Dioguardi said. “His legacy will continue to live on
through the lives that he helped shape. He was a veteran, a Scout,
a leader, and a friend.”
Thanks to all of the members who participated in the
election for the OAA Board. I’m flattered to be serving
as your new chairman and appreciate your ongoing support. The rest of the board joins me in this, as we’re all
excited about the future of Onteora Scout Reservation.
Onteora has a remarkable history, having served tens
of thousands of campers since the first days of the old
Explorer Base Camp. Since it first opened it exploded in
size, becoming, I have been told, the third largest Boy
Scout camp after Philmont and Ten Mile River. Then,
sadly, with the overall decline in Scouting numbers following the baby-boomer days, it joined a growing roster
of closed camps in 1991, seemingly forever.
In 1997, though, Onteora did something no other Boy
Scout camp has done – it reopened. A purely volunteer
effort, it was driven by alumni from the camp who knew
how important it is for the Scouts of Nassau County to
have a well-rounded Scouting program. Think about that:
Onteora is open today because alumni and courageous
volunteers devoted the time and considerable effort to do
what many others said could not be done. The next time
you enter the Long House – and now, at long last, the
reopened Council House – remember their efforts and
give them a hearty “Bully!”
It’s interesting to think about why Onteora, among all
the Boy Scout camps that were closed with the intention
of discontinuing summer camp operations, is the only
Boy Scout camp to have been reopened.
Many other camps in the same area as Onteora, such
as Indian Ridge and Beech Mountain, are long gone with
hardly anything to mark their passage. Camps are continuing to close across the country, but so far, we’ve been
able to buck that trend and Onteora remains alive. Why
are we succeeding and others have failed? Many reasons,
I’m sure, but our alumni support is a major factor.
(Continued on page 4)
THE RED TRAIL
(Continued from page 3)
Alumni continue to volunteer at camp, have helped
train the new staff each year, promoted camp at troop
meetings, and, of course, written checks to fund improvements. Every effort is greatly appreciated. Just letting people know that Onteora is alive and is open will
help encourage increased campership.
The Onteora Alumni Association is an ongoing part
of keeping Onteora alive, and not just a place for old
happy memories. Some of those memories are very
amazing, though! And for me, every visit to camp adds
to those memories.
I hope you’re able to get to camp again soon and add
Best wishes for 2014 – for you, your families, and of
Legends of Onteora - 2013
Each year, the Onteora Alumni Association honors
individuals for their service to Scouting and Onteora by
naming them “Legends of Onteora.” Nominations are
submitted by alumni, voted on by the OAA Board, and
honored at the annual reunion campfire.
This year the board selected three Legends:
global liaison to Scouting programs.
He received the Vigil Honor in 1985 and was honored
with the name “He Who Exemplifies God’s Law.” He
received the Silver Antelope Award in 2004 and the Silver
Buffalo Award in 2012. The National Catholic Committee on Scouting honored Bishop Robert with its Brother
Barnabas Founders Award and its first-in-class Silver
Saint George Award in 1998.
Matt Conlon related having heard the bishop speak at
a National Conference and he stated that he seriously
questioned what he was doing at Onteora as Catholic
chaplain while still in seminary school. He credits the
Onteora experience with his lifelong service to Scouting.
Fred was on waterfront staff from 1972 to 1976, serving as director from 1974 to 1976. He has a dynamic personality and a sort of Pied Piper quality about him;
Scouts loved to be in his presence and fellow staffers
highly regarded him. He achieved Vigil Honor and served
on the ceremonial team and numerous other OA committees. Fred returned to staff as a volunteer in 2000,
when he served as waterfront co-director.
Previously honored as Legends of Onteora are:
2002 – Ken Heim, Leland Tuttle, Dave Barkstedt, Rick
Balla, Jim Kent
2003 – Bill Donaghy Sr., Glenn Gabbard
2004 – Les Cox
Glenn epitomizes the volunteer spirit of Onteora. He
regularly attends the spring work weekends and more
often than not can be found on weekends throughout the
summer keeping facilities repaired and running.
His wife and both of his sons as well have served Onteora through various staff capacities.
Glenn served as the lodge advisor of the Order of the
Arrow’s Buckskin Lodge from June 2007 to August 2013.
Prior to that he served as the Theodore Roosevelt Council’s director of high adventure.
2005 – Al Ehl, Joe Grupp, Dick Horn, Sturges Shields
Bishop Robert Gueglimone
2010 – Tony Joseponis, Bob Oldmixon Jr., Bob Pearles,
Kasper Schei, Jim Van Tassell
Bishop Gueglimone served as Onteora’s Catholic
chaplain from 1974 until 1977. He and Reverend Ben
Bartel were OSR’s “God Squad.” As a priest, he served in
succession as the Scout Chaplain for the Diocese of
Rockville Centre, then New York State and finally the
National Catholic Committee on Scouting. After that he
spent eight years as the chaplain of the International
Catholic Conference on Scouting and the Holy See’s
2006 – Eric Anderson, Jimmy Hammond, Bill Cotter,
2007 – Ken South, Jim Shields, Ralph Foster
2008 – Marc Ryan, Chris Wiezckowski, Steve Shull, Reverend Ben Bartel
2009 – Don Smith, Joe Laratondo, Russ Rensch Jr., Don
Heiberg, Tony Marren, Niles Fairbain
2011/2012 – Grady Aronstamm, S. Ben Barley, Bob
Cancro, Dick Franz, Tom Haldeman, Dick Hunter Sr.,
Pete Jacobs, Bob Oldmixon Sr., Paul Plate, Tom Quick,
Russ Rensch Sr., Don White
VOLUME 13, ISSUE 2
The Council House Lives Again!
By Bill Cotter
For recent generations of Scouts, the Council House
had been silent and forlorn, scarcely alluding to the wonderful history it had as Onteora’s second dining hall.
The Council House opened in 1960 to serve the
Chief’s Section of a growing and busy camp. For the next
15 years it served as the primary dining hall for thousands
of Scouts during summer camp and also was extensively
used during Operation Igloo, Order of the Arrow weekends, and other camping events.
Sadly, the Council House became a victim of declining
enrolment at camp, and the lights were turned off and the
kitchen went silent in 1975.
The building was used for a while as a craft lodge, but
even that use faded away. Decades of harsh weather took
their toll on the building and it slowly fell apart, getting
visibly worse as time passed. The building’s condition
degraded to such an extent that a few years ago, the
Theodore Roosevelt Council, under different leadership,
seriously considered demolishing it.
Many of us felt very differently about that plan, and we
raised money to repaint the building in the hope that this
would help slow its ongoing decline. A few years later, a
new roof was installed to further restore the building.
Then, in 2012, the TRC’s new leadership approached
the Onteora Alumni Association and asked if we would
contribute $10,000 to help rehabilitate the building.
Their plans for the building were ambitious, amounting to about $75,000 worth of work to reopen the Council House for program use. The Council House was to be
not only the location of the new Communications program area, but an additional large venue to conduct activities when it rains. Recognizing the strategic impor-
tance of reopening the Council House, the OAA Board
voted to contribute the requested $10,000.
I had the opportunity to see the Council House twice
in the Summer of 2013, and I am proud to say that the
money was well-spent. Using our donation as seed money
to initiate the project, the TRC was able to obtain several
significant grants from other organizations once they recognized that work was underway.
The crumbling foundation under the breezeway and
loading dock section of the building was dug out and rebuilt, this time with water-tight integrity as part of the
design so tents can be stored down there without rotting
away. Better yet, the upgraded foundation will keep that
section of the building from falling down! A new driveway was added to allow easier access to the basement.
Numerous other updates were made to the Council
House that were necessary for using the building. New
wiring, new electrical panels, and new exterior drainage –
all of these were done to revive a building many had declared past the point of no return. As a result, I was
thrilled to walk inside in July and see Scouts busy there
on a variety of projects. No longer merely a monument
to “the good old days,” the Council House is open again
and has helped reawaken interest in using other facilities
in that long-abandoned part of camp.
It felt great seeing the place in use again and knowing
that the TRC is working to improve it even more. It especially felt great knowing that the Onteora Alumni Association had a role in helping the Council House reopen.
My thanks to all of our members who have contributed to past projects, such as the Council House’s new
painting and roofing, and thanks so much for your dues
and donations so we could make the $10,000 contribution and help bring this wonderful legacy back to life.
THE RED TRAIL
Year-End is Here! It’s a Great Time for Tax-Deductible Gifts to OSR!
Also in 2014: a more convenient way to renew your membership with the Onteora Alumni Association
As 2013 is coming to a close, it’s a perfect time to take out the checkbook and help Onteora with tax-deductible gifts
so that we can make next year an even better year for OSR.
The Onteora Alumni Association was founded several years ago to provide past staffers and campers with a way to
connect with each other, but more importantly, as a way to help fund special projects at camp outside of the normal
spending of the Theodore Roosevelt Council. Over the years we have raised and spent a considerable amount of money
on donations of items such as canoes, sailboats and kayaks, and have helped fund construction projects such as the
mountain bike shelter, Council House renovation, and uninteresting but very necessary things like bathrooms. Some of
the contributions are quite visible, and others are just part of what people take for granted when they visit camp. All are
important parts of what keeps Onteora alive and open for the Scouts that enjoy it every summer.
The items we have funded vary quite a bit but they have one thing in common. None of them are part of the day-today operating expenses of the camp or the TRC’s offices. Instead, they can be viewed as extraordinary gifts from the
Onteora Alumni Association to add to what would have to be supplied by the TRC as a normal cost of business. We
don’t fund things like cars for council staff, or routine maintenance of a building. Everything we do is geared toward
improving the program experience.
I hope you’ll keep that in mind and will be renewing your membership with the Onteora Alumni Association for
2014. We’re introducing a new twist on membership for next year that is designed to make it more convenient for you
to keep up your membership. In past years we offered 12-month memberships, but for 2014 we’re switching to an annual membership plan. That means all memberships would theoretically start on January 1 and run through December
31, repeating that cycle in future years. We decided to make this change because many of the members have said they
weren’t renewing over confusion as to when they needed to renew their 12-month memberships.
Remember I said that theoretically all memberships would start on January 1? Well, a lot of us have memberships
that run sometime into next year, so what shall be done about this transition year?
We have two options. First, you can just sign up for a full 2014 annual membership and treat the balance of your current membership as an extra gift to the Onteora Alumni Association (hint, hint). You also can prorate the number of
months remaining on your current membership and pay the remaining months to fill out the rest of 2014. You can find
your current membership end date at http://www.billcotter.com/onteora/oaa/2014-dues.htm
I hope you’ll all be renewing your memberships for 2014. Membership forms are available at the aforementioned web
address and on our Theodore Roosevelt Council page. If you received this newsletter in the mail, a membership form
has been included with the mailing for further convenience.
I also hope that you will help us in a very special fund raising project. Later in this issue of the Red Trail you’ll see
some exciting information about work the TRC is doing at Schiff/Wauwepex (pick whatever name gets you in the most
generous mood.) The OAA Board would like your help to fund this important work. Now I can see some of you saying
“Isn’t this the Onteora Alumni Association? Why fund a project at Schiff/Wauwepex?” The simple answer is that it plays
an important role in developing camping skills and interest with Cubs and other Scouts that helps lead them on the path
to Onteora. Stop and think about it. If Schiff/Wauwepex wasn’t there, how many Nassau County Scouts would be
heading to Onteora in future years?
Both camps are vital to the full camping program, and thus we want both to succeed.
This past year was a great success for Onteora. The camp looks great, attendance is up, and everyone seems to have
had a great time. There are many challenges ahead, and the battle is far from over, but with your continued help we are
all working to keep Onteora not just open, but one of the best camps the Boy Scouts can offer. Make that last 2013 tax
Chairman, Onteora Alumni Association
VOLUME 13, ISSUE 2
What’s New At Schiff Scout Reservation
beams and the roof and rear porch have been demolished.
Once the new roof and porch are completed, the interior
While the most significant development at Schiff Scout
will receive new insulation, walls and wiring, as well as a
Reservation (Camp Wauwepex) is the rebuilding of
new bathroom. The chapel’s renovations are to be comHickox Dining Hall, there are many additional exciting
pleted before Spring 2014.
changes and improvements occurring as well.
The Christiansen Cabin has been completely overhauled
Regarding Hickox, the kitchen foundation has been
and next up is Covey Cabin, one of the oldest structures in
poured and the concrete outline for the dining hall is set.
the camp. Covey Cabin once was the permanent resiA massive two-sided fireplace is nearly completed and the
dence of F. Howard Covey, chief scout executive of the
dual chimney flues and cinder block are reaching skyward.
Nassau County Council from 1917 to 1948. Irving SouthInsurance is paying $2.6 million of the estimated $2.8 milworth, who with Covey cofounded the Buckskins of
lion cost of the new facility. The insured value of the old
Camp Wauwepex and for many years was one the counstructure was less than $1 million, but by replacing the
cil’s assistant scout executives lived in Covey Cabin in the
structure, insurance also covers replacement costs and
mid-1970’s. The inside of the cabin has been stripped to
code upgrades. Only some add-ons such as air conditionthe bare walls. When its renovation is complete, the cabin
ing will be out-of-pocket expenses.
will have a main room, two bedrooms, and a kitchen comEfforts have begun to eradicate phragmites australis, an
plete with a new knotty pine interior. The original wide
invasive species of wetlands reed grass, from Deep Pond’s
plank floor will be sanded and refinished.
shoreline. Two sections on the eastern side of the pond,
Perhaps the highlight of my recent visit was seeing
which together have about 600 feet of shoreline, have long
Schiff alive with literally hundreds of Scouts on a lovely
been overrun by the phragmites. The New York State
autumn Sunday. Suffolk County Council used Schiff for
Department of Environmental Conservation prohibited
their annual Civil War reenactment, with almost 400
using pesticides on the reeds but is permitting us to cut
Scouts participating. The rifle range was the site of a battle
them. Weekly cutting has been ongoing. The growth cycle
royale with black powder muskets blasting over the frenis being reversed, the pond can now be circumnavigated,
zied shouting of enemy armies engaged in mortal combat.
and native grasses are taking root. It will take several years
TRC and Schiff were happy to accommodate them.
to complete the removal of the phragmites australis, but
We all understand the importance of a vital Cub Scout
the results already are encouraging.
program. Schiff provides an excellent venue for Nassau
Schiff’s Catholic Chapel is receiving a long-overdue
County youth to enter the wonderful world of Scouting.
renovation. The interior has been gutted down to the
By Steve Shull
The groundbreaking ceremony for the new Hickox Dining Hall on May 18, 2013, was attended by more than 1,000
Scouts and friends of Scouting. Construction on the new dining hall is to be complete by March 2014.
THE RED TRAIL
Onteora Origins: Wildcat Falls
By Eric Panetta
I know it’s hard to imagine, but Onteora used to be a
very wet and muddy place. Granted, 400 million years
ago, the Earth was a very different place as well: grass did
not exist, Onteora was on a continent called Laurentia that
was south of the equator, and Earth had just entered the
Devonian Period, also known as the Age of Fish. Mud
deposits within the shallow seas covering the majority of
the planet prompted the formation of shale, which is the
most common type of bedrock in New York state and is
most infamously known for its hydrofracking potential.
In the millions of years after the Devonian Period, dirt
and layers of other rocks accumulated on top of Onteora’s
shale formation. Some of these other rocks include limestones, dolostones and conglomerates. Over the years,
however, the majority of these rocks eroded away through
natural processes, enabling shale to become Onteora’s
prominent rock type.
As water naturally falls downward with gravity, all water
within Onteora ventures toward Orchard Lake, just like
campers on a hot summer day. Above Wildcat Falls is a
small swamp that is the main source of water for Onteora’s waterfall. The water flowing downhill wears away
the rocks along the path, causing the path to become
eroded into the hillside. Shale, comprised of loose dirt
and mud, is disintegrated by the water’s flow at a relatively
fast pace in comparison to the other rock types, which are
more resistant to erosion. The resulting ‘step-like’ feature
of Wildcat Falls is created because of some areas being
quickly eroded away while other areas take hundreds or
thousands of years to do so.
After a long time, this continuous process of flowing
water created the pathway for Wildcat Falls, only requiring
a major water source, such as Onteora’s “light rain,” to
keep it flowing for years to come.
Fundraising Challenge: Help Renovate Covey Cabin at Schiff
The Theodore Roosevelt Council has asked the membership of the Onteora Alumni Association to help renovate Schiff Scout Reservation’s Covey Cabin, the former
permanent residence of Nassau County’s first chief scout
executive, F. Howard Covey.
As the OAA Board did not want to divert funds already
dedicated for improving programs and facilities at Onteora
to this project for Schiff, the board decided to promote
this worthy cause by appealing directly to the members of
the OAA for their support in this endeavor to help the
camp that among all Scout camps is Onteora’s closest ally.
The TRC needs an additional $3,000 to finish the work
now underway on Covey Cabin. The goal of the renovation is to enable the cabin to have a modernized main
room, two bedrooms and an upgraded kitchen. The original wide plank floor will be sanded and refinished.
A renovated Covey Cabin would increase Schiff’s overall usability by expanding camping and program opportunities during the summer and especially during the winter.
If each of us donate a small portion of the fundraising
goal, we could easily raise the funds. If just 30 members
donate $100 each, the fundraising would be complete, but
of course contributions of any amount are appreciated.
Everyone who donates, no matter how modest the
amount, will be recognized by the OAA and the Council.
Keep track of the fund-raising effort at http://
You can include your donation with your membership
form or send it separately to Council – please mark it as
“OAA Schiff/Wauwepex Challenge” so we can be sure to
VOLUME 13, ISSUE 2
Photos from Onteora’s 2013 Summer Camping Season!
Boy Scouts of America
Massapequa, NY 11758
Theodore Roosevelt Council
Boy Scouts of America
Massapequa, NY 11758
Phone: (516) 797-7600
We’re on the Web!
Visit us at:
Current Through: __________
Joining/Rejoining the OAA:__________