By Tony Lockhart
At the end of January over 400 people, including scores of Menogynites, gathered to celebrate and remember the life of Robert “Skip” Wilke who passed away on December 31 at age 79. Skip was the longest serving Director of Menogyn, holding that position from 1968-1982. All told his association with Camp stretched for over 50 years including his time as director, board member, cheerleader and volunteer. Thousands of campers and hundreds of staff members were impacted by his model of humility and service.
Skip first visited Menogyn in the 1950’s while on the staff of Camp Widjiwagan, and arrived for his initial visit as the director in January of 1968 after snowshoeing down West Bearskin from the Clearwater landing. During his time as director, Menogyn introduced regular and long-trip programming for girls, added a backpacking program, launched Femmes du Nord, Waputiks, and Wahkanees (joining the existing Hommes du Nord tradition.) He helped to greatly expand the number of session campers. He oversaw the acquisition of the property on the south side of Bearskin where the Welcome Center and Brown’s landing now sit. During his years the “new” dining hall and the boathouse were constructed.
However, Skip’s true gift was in the enduring relationships he developed and the spirit of community he built around him. At his memorial, former Femmes and Wahkanees guide CJ Jacobson, finished her observations of 40 years of friendship with these comments: “When I think of Skip, I think of generosity – I’ve been to many banquets and dinners with Skip over the past decades, and I’ve never seen him fill his plate before he was sure that everyone had gotten a share. Skip LIVED service to others, demonstrated integrity, didn’t deviate from his values. Skip wasn’t about to share inner feelings in emotional outpourings ending in group hugs – but we felt love, the caring, his honesty. This morning I’ve had the extraordinary honor of sharing some of my stories about Skip with you. I know that each of us came here today because we each have a Skip story. Each one of us could step up here and share a story about Skip our brother, our uncle, our mentor, our friend, our comrade. There’s an old English word I love, actually three words strung together. Merry-go-sorry. I feel merry-go-sorry about this gathering today. We each have a Skip story, a memory, something to celebrate about having known Skip. And he is feeling delight right now in the way we have come to celebrate through our grief, to share with one another how Skip touched our lives. We’re here, all merry-go-sorry, to celebrate that we have been lucky enough to have loved Skip.”
There is a plaque hanging in the Dining Hall to help us remember what Skip meant to Camp. Recognizing his 50 years of service, it reads “A generous and tireless friend of Menogyn, who when confronted with a challenge or request for help, always replies “No Problem.”
Star-Tribune article about Skip here
CJ Jacobson complete eulogy here