Camp Echo Lake Throwback Thursday - JP Begly

Here Comes The Bride

Written by JP Begly

People usually say “it’s something in the water.” Nope, in this case they don’t mean the turtles or the muskrats; they mean love. Those who have been a part of camp the longest can tell you about example after example of people meeting at camp, becoming friends, and ultimately falling in love. Maybe it is simply a coincidence, a notion that we only believe to be true because of how much fun we have during our summers spent in Warrensburg. But I don’t think so. I think camp always has been, and will always remain, a place that’s fundamentally a little magical.
My fondest memories are of my time spent at Camp Echo Lake because camp has provided me with many of the things in life that I hold most dear. Without a doubt, the best of these things is my wife, Allison.
I wasn’t friends with Allison when we were campers. We didn’t go to activities together; we didn’t go on the same trek trips; we didn’t eat at the same green picnic table in the grove during snack. I never played her in ping pong in the A&R, never offered her my canteen snack, and never asked her to the end-of-camp dance. Come to think of it, I don’t believe Allison and I ever even had a conversation.
Although we are the same age, Allison and I were not in the same group. Having grown up at camp, I was always in a group one age level up. When we reached the Senior Village, our social groups overlapped more, but even so, we never hung out.
I was still a skinny, shy boy from upstate New York with an unfortunate haircut (word to the wise – don’t go with the buzzcut if you have a slightly pointy noggin).  I wasn’t great at chatting with the ladies, let alone one that looked like Allison. Our time would have to wait…
The summer after my LIT year, I returned to work as a basketball activity specialist. Back in those days (I’ve always wanted to say that!), you were not required to take a few summers off before returning to work on the Echo Lake staff. I was 17 years old at the time, and I quickly discovered that it was a little awkward hanging out with the rest of the staff, the majority of whom were 20-22 yrs old.
I started to spend more time with the LITs, particularly Allison. I remember thinking that she had pretty hair and I liked her t-shirts (It’s the little things, folks). Luckily for me, Allison didn’t think I was half-bad either. Over the summer, what started as a look across the flagpole at lineup turned into a real friendship, and we both decided at the end of camp that we wanted to continue our relationship.
We continued our relationship through high school and college as we attended McGill University together. Each year, for as long as we could, we’d come back to Echo Lake as staff members to have a blast spending the summer with the campers and our friends.
When I decided to ask Allison to marry me, it didn’t take long to finalize a plan. Camp had been such a huge part of our past, so it only seemed right that the “big question” should be popped at Echo Lake.
Allison and I, along with some of our best friends that we met at Echo Lake, came up to visit on a Friday in early August.  It was one of the weekends when many alumni visit camp, so our arrival was not overly suspicious (compulsively rubbing the pocket of my pants to make sure that the ring had not fallen out…that may have been a bit suspicious).
Tony Stein was in on the plan, and at the end of the service, he invited all of the alumni up onto the stage to sing the camp songs. In the middle of one of the songs, the piano player began to play “Here Comes the Bride.”  I grabbed Allison’s hand, walked to the front of the amphitheater stage, got down on one knee, and asked her to marry me in front of 700 campers and staff. After she said “yes,” champagne was popped and snack on the hill was served.  I heard that the Frosh boys were so excited/over-stimulated that they were unable to sleep for the entire night. A successful evening for all!
Almost two years later, we were back at camp for our wedding. Many of the guests were connected to Echo Lake in some way, so the weekend felt like a big camp reunion. We had a campfire, hiked Hackensack, visited a particular legendary Warrensburg establishment and played basketball and softball games. No swim lessons though (sorry Terry).
The ceremony was held on the beach on a beautiful Adirondack day. Our great friend, and current Camp Echo Lake Operations Director, John Pezzolla, officiated the wedding. The reception was held at the lodge.  We had a big bonfire by the lake, and everyone had a great time celebrating throughout the night. It really was the perfect location for the perfect day!
Echo Lake was a special place to my family before I was even born. My parents met at camp as counselors in the 1970s.  Morry Stein was like a father to my dad, Glenn, and the Stein family has always been so kind and generous to us throughout the years.
I’m happy that Allison and I can call Camp Echo Lake our second home.  Maybe someday, my sons and daughters will be as fortunate as I was, and will be able to stand during the first evening program of the summer, under the stars and the pines, as Tony reads aloud:
“…not only did their grandma and grandpa meet at camp…their mom and dad met at camp, got engaged at camp, and also got MARRIED at Camp Echo Lake.”

Click below to watch the video of the proposal