A Hero in Everyone’s Eyes
Posted by: Birch Rock Camp
Faster than a speeding bullet in Lake McWain, able to leap tall cabins in a single bound—that was Pete Haas. A hero in everyone’s eyes, Pete is remembered as the consummate Birch Rocker, a true gentleman, champion swimmer and proud United States Marine. He embodied our ethos, Help the Other Fellow, 365 days a year. Pete flew Marine helicopters until his tragic death in a training accident in 1982.
And so 40 years ago, the Lt. Peter B. Haas Campership Fund was created to keep his spirit alive for Birch Rockers who knew and loved him, and for all those campers to come.
Pete is legendary for his charisma, can-do attitude and rollicking approach to motivating campers and staff. Inspired by his pride in his Superman tee shirt, Pete started the hallowed BRC tradition of choosing an exemplary boy each day to don the coveted Supercamper shirt.
Everybody knew when Pete commanded the waterfront—his voice created a thundering reverberation up the hillside from the lake. If you were one of the lucky lads to be part of his morning swim class you would hear him bellow: “Ok, you handsome brutes, let’s get fired up with some calisthenics and show ‘em all what you got! It’s time to take off into the waters, as swimming is a serious business. Let’s go for the gusto!”
Born and raised in Mountain Lakes, New Jersey, young Pete took to Birch Rock Camp like a loon to Lake McWain. He masterfully rose through the ranks from camper to counselor to waterfront director. After graduating from Thiel College in
Greenville, PA, Pete entered the Marine Corps. Each summer when he got off active duty, Pete would spend his military leave volunteering at Birch Rock. “This place is like a fantasy island,” he would quip. “You can be anyone you want to be and do anything you want to do with a little imagination.”
Pete had a genius for connecting with people of all ages and backgrounds, and in his brief life he exemplified the BRC maxim Shake a Hand, Make a Friend. Pete would always send out dozens of holiday cards with summer camp pictures attached. If it was your birthday, a long-distance call would be dialed “person to person” to ensure you knew the connection was complete and personalized (young people: ask a senior about how telephones used to work in the old days!).
When we think of Pete, we reflect on the profound goodness of the human spirit. His selflessness and love of camp and country made him a superhero in our eyes. Countless Birch Rockers and friends have contributed prodigious sums to the Lt. Peter B. Haas Campership Fund, which provides financial assistance to a quarter of our campers each summer.
With your gift in honor of Pete, Birch Rock will keep following his example, giving campers awesome experiences that build character, confidence and love of community.
In the spirit of Help The Other Fellow,