"Canyon Camp teaches kids about life."
Lyle Novinski, Canyon Camp Camp Director in the late 1950s and 1960, has passed away (Obituary). We mourn the loss of a mentor, friend, and fellow Canyon Camper.
Lyle instilled the Spirit of Canyon Camp with all he served and is attributed to establishing much of the traditions we see today. His legacy lived on after his time at camp not only through his many family members who served on Camp staff, but also the tremendous staff members he hired and instilled his leadership into such as Denny Pratt, Ed Laughlin, Roy Prange, Chuck Kranz Bill Determan, Ron Spielman and numerous others.
He generated future decades of leadership influence at Canyon Camp and subsequently in many communities. In 1960, during the 50th Anniversary of Scouting, Lyle returned for his final year as Camp Director and brought with him his young wife Sybil. When Lyle & Sybil departed they headed to Texas to establish Canyon Camp of the West at the University of Dallas.
Ron Spielman shared much of the above remarks as we honored the Novinski family at our
most recent reunion with the Novinski Family Spirit Scholarship. Lyle led not only his own camp staffs, but he also led those of others through the aforementioned staff members who took leadership in the years to come, and of course his sons and grandchildren who enjoyed Canyon Camp over the coming generations.
For many years, Lyle would return home to SW Wisconsin and his close mentees and friends, as well as those who looked up to him through others, would join him for hearty conversation and a good meal. Mike Beeth, Ron Spielman, Josh Ehlers, Lee Binkley, Bill Determan. He and his sons were often tremendous orators in the Dining Hall during their time at Camp or even at recent reunions (Stefan).
Friends shared among themselves favorite stories of Lyle that must live on, and deeper reflections were offered- there are many more to be capture over time, and we share a few of these briefly here today:
"Lyle was a mentor and inspiration for me throughout my life. He will be sorely missed but his spirit will live on in those he touched."
Ed Laughlin shared one of his favorite
memories of Lyle: "It was 1958. I was a
dishwasher for the first two weeks of summer season. I hated it. The dishes had to be washed by hand mainly and Wednesday night was particularly trying. The reason was that we wanted to participate in everything, but the reality was that we had to wash dishes after everything was over and that tended to be late at night. \Pinky Parker and I dragged into the kitchen well after 10 p.m. and perused the stack of huge metal baking pans and the mess in the kitchen. It was deflating. Suddenly Ski and many other staff members burst into the dining hall yelling that they were hungry and wanted food to eat. That just depressed me even more. However, he took one look at us and all the dirty dishes and exclaimed "Wait. Before we eat we have to help these poor dishwashers." He then organized everyone and proceeded to wash and clean. What would have taken us more than an hour was done in about ten minutes. I never forgot that. I learned about leadership and service and teamwork, things which led me to success in everything I ever did. That was Ski and what he was. He taught me to lead and live by example. My hero? Absolutely!!! And he did everything with such enthusiasm and spirit. That is after all the spirit of Canyon Camp we talk about so much."
Roy Prange, or "Prong" as Lyle named him, shared, "Like all of you Ski had a profound Influence on my life. It started in 1957 when he was camp director and I was a first year camper. His Campfire talks still resound in my mind. Then there was that wonderful summer of1960. I learned so much. Rest well Ski. In the Spirt to all."
Josh Ehlers, camp alumnus and historian, was asked to share his further musings. These words, or lessons as Josh described them, encapsulates Lyle in a way that captures his truest strength: that of being a teacher with his classroom being the world around him.
"Reflecting on all my correspondences and times with Lyle, what was always apparent was the fact that he was a teacher at heart. For him the classroom wasn't something confined to a building, but the natural world all around. Throughout the years of our interactions, Lyle and my relationship can very much be described as a student and teacher relationship. In every letter there was a lesson that was being taught, if you were bright enough to pick up on the idea or theme that he was trying to convey to you. The one that has guided me the most was his views of the natural world and the flow to life that exists. He would often come back to this theme when describing camp. At no point, should a trail or a path be a direct, straight route to your destination. Instead, it should meander its way along and wind around; taking you on a journey of discovery and adventure. Every step along the way should be a mystery just ahead - something new to discover. Needless to say, and sorry Lee for this one, but Lyle was not a big fan of all the mowing that happened at camp; he felt that it took some those hidden places away.
His explanation on how camp paths should be laid was about the physical geography of camp, if you dug a little deeper and looked at the life the Lyle lived, this lesson about the meandering path really can be seen as a metaphor for the life he lived and the life that we should all live. At no point does life ever let us just get directly to our end goal. It weaves us along this great journey and at every bend of the path, there is an adventure waiting for us to have. Some of those adventures are exciting and wonderful and some can be a challenge that we must learn to overcome. Much like the mysteries to be discovered hidden in the brush and grasses, you never know when some teenager will reach out across generations with a simple inquiry about times past that would eventually take a life on a new path.
Lyle's impact from his teachings have shaped the people who knew him, sending them on so many journeys of discovery. To those who didn't know him, his teachings have had a hand in shaping Camp's spirit much like the creek that flows through Canyon Camp has shaped its land. To Lyle, this flow was sacred.
To close these ramblings one last time, as Lyle and I had so many other times over the years,
Yours in Spirit- WWW,
To the entire Novinski family, we are thinking of you as we lift up Lyle's memory and continue to build upon the legacy he established. May the Great Master of all Scouts be with us until we meet again.