June 10, 2015 by Doug Webster
On June 6, a service of celebration of Jane Wardwell Roberts’ life was held at the Fitzwilliam Inn in Fitzwilliam, NH. There were approximately 150 of Jane’s family and friends in attendance, including the Camp Otter contingent: Peter Dustin, Laurie Hoffarth Milligan, Larry and Lynn Rublee, Mark Sanderson, Jim Boguslawski, and Marion Rogers.
The service was held in a large dining area of the Inn in the town where Jane and husband Ken Roberts spent many of their later years. The gathering was light in mood and very informal. There were three speakers, each representing a circle in Jane’s life. Larry spoke for Camp Otter. His remarks are included below.
After the service the Otter contingent drove to Brattleboro, VT for a short visit with Park Huber. Park seems to be putting into practice the life lessons learned at camp, living a simple, contemplative life, at peace with nature. He is a gentle soul and a recognized expert on the life and writings of Henry David Thoreau.
Larry’s remarks at Jane’s service:
I spent 11 summers at Camp Otter, starting in 1957 at age 11.
It’s not easy to think about Camp Otter without thinking about Jane and vise-versa.
Camp Otter was a summer camp 150 miles north of Toronto, near a small town called Dorset. The camp existed from 1910 to 1970. It was bare-bones; no running water, no electricity. It charged parents $250 for an eight week camp season – not a money maker to be sure. There were never more than 60 people at camp, counselors, campers and staff included. Canoe trips were a major activity. The rustic nature of the camp, the life lessons learned, and the values it imparted were the result of educational leadership of which Jane was an integral part.
Jane had worked with the camp directors, Rachel and Charlie Rogers, at another camp and came to Camp Otter in the mid-1950’s. During her 15 summers at Camp Otter Jane wore a number of hats, all of them floppy! I believe she started out as the craft counselor, but soon became a part of most decisions affecting camp life. One of her major roles was to plan, organize and outfit canoe trips. She did all this with consummate efficiency…down to the level of hand-stitching quart-size provision bags for sugar, cocoa, etc. This, before the age of Zip-Lock plastic baggies and freeze-dried food, of course.
Jane seemed to have just the right blend of no-nonsense, subtle sense of humor, and twinkle-in-the-eye self-confidence that made her a great teacher and mentor. You always knew where you stood with Jane even if you misbehaved, yet she was always forgiving. When you Google the word “character” up pops a picture of Jane. Yet she seemed as practical as it is possible to be.
Camp Otter was a close family and Jane was one of several mothers we were all lucky enough to share.
At the Camp Otter reunion last fall, Jane was in her element as she sat one afternoon on a bench in front of Robinson’s General Store, an institution in Dorset. A number of former campers came and sat with her, chatted and reminisced about camp. Jane was in her element as evidenced by that infectious, mischievous smile we all remember.
When it came time to walk from the community center over to the last campfire area, I offered to escort Jane. We walked slowly, Jane a little unsteady on the unfamiliar terrain in the dark. We talked about camp and the reunion, and what it all meant. When we arrived at the campfire, I realized that Jane had escorted me; she was my steadier and she was my support. It was a moment I’ll always remember. And it was so Jane.
As Camp Otter alumni we are so grateful for knowing Jane and having her part of our lives at a time when her wisdom and guidance had real effect.