Virginia "Ginny" Denton was born in southern Minnesota. She attended Macalister
College in St. Paul and majored in psychology. During college Ginny roomed with Mary Lou "Pop" Pearson, a Namanu
counselor, who talked about Camp Namanu all year long. Ginny, wanting to travel, applied for a job at camp
following graduation. She used her graduation gift money for train fare to Oregon and was Camp Craft counselor
during the summer of 1946.
|Ginny Denton, 1991|
Ginny returned to St. Paul in the fall and did child welfare work, but she had fallen in love with the mountains
and trees and wished to go back to the West Coast. She wrote to Camp Fire and was offered a job in Klamath Falls,
Oregon. Ginny spent three years as Camp Director of Camp Esther Applegate, which Camp Fire Girls co-owned with the
Klamath Falls Girl Scouts.
In 1952, Ginny returned to Namanu as Assistant Camp Director under Martha Darcy, and in 1953 she was hired as Camp
Director. She held that position for the next ten summers.
Ginny’s favorite memories are of the kids:
"I usually ended up coping with the homesick kids. The cabin counselors would do their best, but if it was a
persistent case, they would usually end up in my lap. I was really stubborn about that; I hated to give up on a
homesick camper. I always felt that if they could be helped to make an adjustment and have a happy two or three
days, their next adventure away from home would be so much better.
"I had this one youngster that was absolutely intractable; she was particularly bad at meals. She would come into
the dining room and just dissolve. So I ended up with this youngster out on the steps on the meadow side of the
Lodge. I was making all kinds of suggestions to her of what she could do. I think I said something to her about
writing a letter to her mother and she just fell apart and said, ‘Well, that is the problem.’ I said, ‘What do you
mean?’ She said, ‘Well, I was going to buy some Jergen’s lotion to take home to her and the store didn’t have any!’
"So I said, ‘I can get you some Jergen’s lotion!’ Her face cleared up, she got a big smile on her face and went
back in and ate her lunch. She was a happy camper. I got her a big bottle of Jergen’s that she brought home to her
mother, who sent me a box of candy. Those are the kind of really special memories that I have of the things that
happened with kids."
After the summer of 1962 Ginny became the Executive Director of Camp Fire in Portland, but continued to be
involved with Namanu in staff training and work weekends. Ginny credits much of Camp Namanu’s success during these
years to the many talented and hard-working people who volunteered their time to make sure the facilities at camp
were repaired, clean and up-to-date. So it was fitting that, after her retirement in March of 1989, volunteers
began planning a lodge to be built in her honor. Ginny’s Lodge, the newest building at Camp Namanu, is totally
winterized and wheelchair accessible and located at the edge of the meadow between the CIT Unit and the swimming
pool. The foundation was poured in early spring of 1991 and the building was built almost entirely through the
volunteer labor of Ben Potter, Bill Hesselman, Ed Swanda and Arnie Shanks. They were often assisted by Jim
Kirkland and David Hesselman. Facilities include a bathroom and kitchen area, two small sleeping areas and a large
multi-purpose room. Ginny’s Lodge was dedicated on June 26, 1993.
Since retirement, Ginny has maintained her connection with Namanu. Her dedication to Camp Namanu and Camp Fire,
spanning more than forty years, has been of immeasurable value to everyone involved in the camping program. She says of her
long association with Camp Namanu and Camp Fire:
"It allowed me the privilege of working with the greatest people in the world--people who volunteer, who give of
their time and themselves for others, for kids. There were never two days alike, two weeks alike, or two years
alike. I am rich in shared memories of campers’ joys, laughter and tears and in the knowledge that for many of
them, their Camp Namanu summers helped them on their way to happy and healthy adulthood."
Full-unabridged text of this chapter is available in the 75th Anniversary Book which is for sale at the
Camp Fire USA Portland Metro Council's office in Portland.
©1998 Reprinting only with written permission of Camp Fire USA Portland Metro Council.