I write to you today to celebrate the life of a true Camp Dudley legend, William Henry Moore Vanneman, Sr., Camper #3560, who passed away April 26 in Winchester Hospital, Massachusetts. He was 102 years old.
You will not be surprised to hear that Bill, who had Dudley on his mind every day for the past 88 years, was still thinking Dudley to the end. According to his family members, who were with him these past few days, “He woke up, looked at us, said, ‘The Other Fellow First,’ smiled, and then fell back asleep. We are very sure that he was ‘amidst mountains and streams.’”
Bill came to Dudley for the first time in 1923, staying until 1926, and then returning to Camp in 1933 as a Leader. His two sons, #8674 Bill Jr., of Lexington, MA, and #8972 Reeve “Ting” Vanneman of Washington, D.C., were campers during the 1950-60s. Two grandsons, Matt Vanneman #16474 and James Vanneman #17174, were at Dudley in the 1990s. A great-granddaughter, Emma Kiesling #20972, attended Camp Kiniya from 2008 to 2010. Bill’s blood ran a very deep “Dudley blue.”
The son of Charles Reeve and Mercy Moore Vanneman, Bill grew up in Albany, N.Y. He first came to Dudley when his dad, a civil engineer, was persuaded by his friend “Chief” Beckman, to provide help in grading Dudley’s main campus. This work took place in the early 1920s and, a few years later, he did work on Dudley’s water supply at Stacy Brook. Fortunately for Dudley, young Bill tagged along and, in 1923, began a relationship with Dudley that was to last nearly 90 years.
Bill graduated from the Albany Academy, and then Cornell University, where his dad had graduated with the class of 1903. As Bill put it, “My dad started bending the twig fairly early” in the direction of Cornell. Bill studied English and Economics, rowed JV crew, was a member of the Kappa Alpha fraternity, graduated in 1931, and gently encouraged sons Bill Jr. and Ting to head in the same direction, which they did. Following graduation, Bill earned an MBA from Harvard Business School, served the country during WWII as a Lieutenant Commander in the Navy, and then joined Matthew Bender and Company, one of the leading legal publishers in the U.S., where he was senior vice president.
He and his precious first wife, Rosamond (“Arbee”), were married, lived in Old Greenwich, CT and had two sons, five grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren. She passed away in 1990 after 52 years of marriage. His second wife, Happy, passed away in 1995 after three years of marriage.
Bill’s dedication to Cornell was reflected in the creation of the Bill Vanneman ’31 Outstanding Class Leader Award, awarded annually to Class officers for unusual dedication and service to Cornell. Bill was the first recipient, having served his class for more than 70 years.
As one of the legends of Dudley, Bill was always willing to share a story with a younger alum. He told me about one of his first jobs at Dudley as Chief’s Office Manager in the early ’30s – a summer position of much prestige for a Leader as Chief’s right-hand man. He recalled a night when he and fellow Leader Allyn Budington #3626, had stayed up very late to try to balance the books. Bill said, “At about midnight, Chief came into the office, looked at us suspiciously for a moment, and said, ‘The only guys I know that stay up this late are dog-nappers. Knock it off men, and get some sleep.’”
Bill was notorious for always giving credit to others, never seeking recognition for himself. He reminded us that Chief would say, “Do everything with honor, nothing for honor.” He was named the Camp Dudley Association Man of the Year in 1998, Dudley’s highest recognition. On his 100th birthday, then Director Andy Bisselle presented him with “The Keys to the Dudley Gates.”
When Dudley announced the expansion of its Mission and the plan for girls camping and leadership opportunities, Bill was one of the most enthusiastic supporters of the idea. In 2008, at the age of 99, Bill wanted to “do something helpful for the new girls’ Camp.” Wearing a CD Kiniya hat, Bill and his family went to Colchester for a celebration recognizing their sponsorship of the first new cabin at Kiniya, one of the most pressing priorities of the Camp.
As Kiniya Director Marnie McDonagh recalls, “At the ceremony, Bill listened to the Kiniya girls’ chorus sing, One Light. At the end of the ceremony, the Vanneman Cabin bunkmates presented a hand-made thank you card to Bill, and a single rose to each family member.”
“How old are you girls?” Bill asked.
“Nine,” they replied in unison.
Bill paused, and then said to the delight of the crowd, “Well, there’s a lot to be said for being 99 … They give you lots of parties and, almost always, a new hat!” He continued, “I can tell already that the Dudley-Kiniya ‘Other Fellow First’ motto is being lived out and experienced by many young women. This gives us all great hope for the future.”
The Vanneman Cabin at Kiniya, dedicated July, 2008, has a plaque that reads:
Later, when Andy Bisselle pressed Bill on what else was good about being 99, Bill thought again and said, “You don’t have much in the way of peer pressure.”
Bill loved Cape Cod and his retirement to South Yarmouth. A model of “The Other Fellow First,” he continued to get great joy out of delivering newspapers each morning to his friends at the Thirwood Place Community. D’Anne Hurd, a Dudley parent and Board Member, drove down to the Cape one day to meet Bill, and reported, “I had the honor of spending an hour with Bill Vanneman, Sr., age 100. Bill told me that he remembered my father, Ken Hurd. To say that I was blown away is an understatement. One thing that Bill said which was so moving was that he felt ‘The Other Fellow First’ was such an incredibly powerful phrase, that it encapsulated all of what the Christian religion was trying to teach us but in such simple, straight forward language. I told him about our hopes of sharing Dudley’s ideals and beliefs at Kiniya. He pointed out to me that he was especially happy that there was a girls’ Camp now at Dudley because he had only girls as great-grandchildren, not boys! He was completely optimistic about its future,” said D’Anne.
Bill is survived by his two sons, Bill Jr. #8674 and his wife Irene, Reeve “Ting” #8972 and his wife Jane, by two grandsons Matt Vanneman #16474 and James Vanneman #17174 and their mother Jill Jacovitz; three granddaughters, Kara Klein and her husband Ken Klein, Michelle Vanneman and her husband Chad Yoder, Julie Vanneman and her husband Scott Kiesling; and by the lights of his later life, his eight great grandchildren ages 2-14, all of whom adored him dearly.
Once in a very long time, a Dudleyite comes along who can be thought of as, “Mr. Dudley”… in short, an ambassador for the Camp and a reflection of all for which it stands. That would be Bill. Let us all pause, for a moment, to remember Bill Vanneman, Sr. #3560.
Matt Storey #13804, Director
A service will be held on Tuesday, May 3 at 1:30 pm at the First Congregational Church, Old Greenwich, Connecticut. In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to Camp Dudley YMCA or Cornell University. Bill, Jr. can be reached at 2 Berwick Road, Lexington, MA 02420, and Ting can be reached at 3071 Ordway Street, NW, Washington, D.C. 20008.