By DIANE R. CHODAN
OBSERVER Staff Writer
CASSADAGA - Those who regularly travel on Route 60 near Cassadaga may have noticed a new sign on the Camp Gross property. Alona Forbes, a member of the Camp Gross Foundation Board of Directors who has a special love of camping and great respect for Ed Hamlet, decided to finance a new sign for the property in his memory.
OBSERVER Photo by Diane R. Chodan
Pictured is the new sign for Camp Gross, on Route 60 near Cassadaga. The sign was donated by Alona Forbes to honor Ed Hamlet, longtime president of the Camp Gross Foundation. Coming together to celebrate the installation of the sign were officers of the Camp Gross Foundation Board of Directors as well as members of the Hamlet family. Back row, from left: Marti Webster, Camp Gross treasurer; Rich Whitver, vice-president; Sally Lawson, secretary; Chuck Chasler, president; and Edwin Hamlet, grandson; middle row: Eva Tytka, great-granddaughter; Alona Forbes, Camp Gross Board member and donor of the sign; and Jack Forbes (Alona’s grandson). In front is Jim Tytka holding Chloe Tytka, another of Ed’s great-granddaughters.
Hamlet was a driving force in creating the Camp Gross Foundation, which was founded in 1987 when the Boy Scouts decided they could no longer maintain the Camp Gross property. He served as board president until his death in 2011.
Forbes enjoyed her experiences as a camper at the former Girl Scout Camp Wood-E-Lo-Hi and later as a counselor/staff member and bugler at Camp-in-the-Woods, the YMCA camp on Bear Lake.
"Both of these camps were unfortunately closed," she said. "Ed Hamlet had the vision to preserve this scenic location for all youngsters to enjoy with year round activities.
"His determination to keep this beautiful camp site available for use not only by Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts but by school groups, private organizations and now the Dunkirk High School Junior ROTC program has provided youth and their adult chaperones the opportunity to enjoy outdoor nature activities. Each summer hundreds of boys and girls attend day camp sponsored by the City of Dunkirk," she added.
Forbes' grandchildren have attended the day camp and, just as their grandmother, are enthusiastic campers. One of her grandchildren, Jack Forbes, accompanied her to camp to celebrate the installation of the sign.
"Ed Hamlet was a role model for me and many others as he continued his active position at the camp in spite of physical limitations," Forbes commented.
Larisa Aldrich, the day camp director and another member of the board of directors, came up with the idea of the phrase on the sign "a hamlet for fun" as a way to honor Ed. She remembers Ed for coming to camp and teaching the campers some traditional camp songs as well as for his hands-on approach to maintenance of the property.
Marti Webster, the board treasurer, helped Forbes make the sign a reality. She helped research where the sign could be produced and accompanied Forbes to meetings with Steve Pavlot from Expressions who brought the vision of the sign to reality. The sign is hung higher and is larger than the sign that previously marked the site. This sign should not be buried by the snow. The previous sign, created by Jim Tofil and Ray Pauszek many years ago is still in excellent condition and has been relocated inside the camp.
Edwin Hamlet, Ed's grandson, James Tytka, grandson-in-law, and Ed's great-granddaughters Eva and Chloe Tytka represented the Hamlet family. Edwin and James extended personal thanks to Forbes for her donation as well as thanking other board members for their dedication to the camp that meant so much to Ed.
Eva, like her great-grandfather, carried a basket of apples and offered them to those present with a smile. Ed was known for bringing apples to meetings of the many organizations in which he was involved. Eva was very close to her great-grandfather.
Summing up her reasons for donating the sign, Forbes said, "In memorializing Ed, I wanted him to always be remembered for the caring and humble way he fulfilled his dream of maintaining Camp Gross as a site for others to enjoy a camping experience. Thus, the idea for a new sign in honor of him became my tribute to Ed. He will forever be in the eyes and hearts of all who travel on Route 60 past the camp."
The camp property is open year round. To make arrangements to use the camp or to volunteer for work days to maintain the property, contact Ranger Tim Cobb at 595-2171.
Community support of the camp is continually needed to maintain the property so that camping experiences can be provided for our local youngsters. The address for direct donations is: Camp Gross Foundation, 70 Leming St., Dunkirk 14048. The Camp Gross Foundation is also a United Way Agency.
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