Jack Pearse: A Camping Legend Remembered

Posted on September 30, 2013 by Catherine Ross

Jack Pearse Camp Tawingo Canadian Camping Association Summer Camps Canada

Jack Pearse was celebrated by family and friends at Camp Tawingo on September 15, 2013
(photo courtesy

On Sunday September 15, 2013, hundreds of members of the camping community gathered at Camp Tawingo near Huntsville, Ontario to celebrate the remarkable life of Jack Pearse.

When grey skies and the threat of rain dictated an indoor venue rather than the outdoor chapel setting, hundreds of Camp Tawingo alumni, camping colleagues, friends and family packed the spacious Tawingo dining hall. The large crowd from toddlers to seniors listened, laughed and sang accompanied by the Boys’ Camp Band. We heard Jack’s children, grandchildren, current campers, present and former camp staff and University of Waterloo colleagues describe the many and varied accomplishment of “The Great Chief’s” eighty-seven years. From their own unique perspective, each speaker shared interesting and inspiring stories of Jack’s personal and professional life revealing his profound influence on each of them. Jack’s younger son, Mike, “the Pretty Good Chief” began, “Today we hold Council to remember, honour and celebrate the full and extraordinary life of Jack Pearse…Jack’s life mattered to all of us and to thousands of others the world over.”

Hundreds of friends and family gathered to celebrate Jack’s life

We learned that Jack founded Camp Tawingo fifty-three years ago. His marriage to his wife Helen spanned sixty-four years. His daughter, Judy, told us that two days into the start of a university term, Jack knew the name of all seventy students in his class. As a song-leader, he shared the stage with Peter and Paul (Mary was home sick!) and performed for Queen Elizabeth, Prince Philip and First Lady, Nancy Regan. Songs that he taught in the Ukraine twenty years ago are still sung today by young Russian campers.

Jack served as the President of the Ontario Camps Association, the Canadian Camping Association, the Association of Independent Camps, the Canadian Chapter of YMCA Retirees and as Chair of the International Camping Fellowship. In addressing Jack’s contribution to camping internationally, John Jorgenson shared Jack’s challenge to camping leaders “to take camping out into the world and give of ourselves freely and often.” For our own camps are strong and successful when all camps are successful. May all camps continue to grow strong as all campers strive to follow Jack’s outstanding example and keep singing Jack’s songs.

Let there always be a song, a song down in your heart
Let there always be a song a song down in your heart
When you sing you say like is good today
So keep singing till we meet again.

Past Communications Officer at Canadian Camping Association
Catherine's lifelong love of camping began in 1953 when she accompanied her mother, the new camp cook, to Camp Tanamakoon in Algonquin Park. She remained at Tan until 1978 as a camper and in several staff roles. After five years as a teacher, in 1979, Catherine and her husband George purchased Camp Mi-A-Kon-Da for girls in Parry Sound, Ontario which they owned for 20 years. Catherine has served on the Board of the Ontario Camps Association, and is Past President of the Society of Camp Directors. She is served as Communications Officer on the Board of the CCA, as is a recipient of the CCA's Ron Johnstone Lifetime Achievement Award. She is past editor of Camps Canada, published by the CCA, and the OCAsional News, the newsletter of the OCA. She is the author of four publications. Her articles on camping have appeared in numerous magazines.