Uncle Al Obituary
Alan B. Ordway of Bridgton, passed away at home due to complications from adrenal cancer on April 24, 2013.
Al was a beloved camp director, civic leader, friend and family man. He was a great skier, loved sushi and enjoyed a full life on his farm in the foothills of western Maine with his wife Michelle and their menagerie of pets.
Al was born on February 9, 1940 and at two weeks old became a Mainer. He was born in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, the location of the hospital closest to Eliot (the town where he was raised). His parents, Newell C. Ordway and Helen Hardy Ordway, built a home in Bridgton in 1947. Here, Al and his sister Ann learned to boat on the waters of Moose Pond and ski on the slopes of Pleasant Mountain.
Al graduated from Gould Academy (Bethel) in 1958 and from Yale University in 1962. While in school, Al spent his summers at various camps, beginning as a boy scout at Camp William S. Nutter (Acton), where he was proud of his role as bugler at age 14. In 1955, as an Eagle Scout, Al represented the United States at the 8th World Scout Jamboree in Ontario, Canada. Next, he spent a summer working in the kitchen at Camp Keewaydin (Ontario) with other Gould classmates, which he considered one of the best experiences, giving him the skills he needed to be a camp director later in life. He also worked as a waterski and sailing counselor at Wohelo Camps (Raymond) before attending Naval Officers’ Candidate School and completing tours of the Far East and Gulf of Tonkin as a Weapons Officer on the USS Sproston (DD-577) from 1962 – 1965. In 1965, Al married the love of his life, Michelle S. Ordway (nee Sroka). They settled in Bridgton, initially operating rental cottages (Stack ‘Em Inn), but Al’s heart remained with summer camping, so in 1968 Al and Michelle became the owners and directors of Winona Camps for Boys, located on Moose Pond, where Al had spent his youth.
Known for his gentle demeanor, Al spent his professional life as a respected leader of organizations where the growth and mentoring of young people was paramount. For 45 years “Uncle Al”, as he was known, was director and “a second father” to thousands of boys and young men at Winona. Alumni fondly remember his rendition of Father Abraham during Sunday Service or the pride of receiving an award with a handshake from Uncle Al. Always insightful and a leader by example, Uncle Al helped staff members find their own paths toward meaningful lives. Patient beyond compare, he had time for any boy who needed Uncle Al to listen to a story about a recent trip the camper had taken.
Al also enjoyed dedicating years of service to his alma mater, Gould Academy. He was a trustee for 29 years (including 24 years as President of the board). In 1998 the new dining hall and meeting center on campus was named Ordway Hall in recognition of Al’s vision and generous leadership to Gould. Al was elected to the Bridgton Selectman from 1970 – 1977 and served as Chairman in 1977. He served on many other local boards, including the Bridgton Chamber of Commerce (Chairman of Bridgton’s Bicentennial 1968), the Northern Cumberland Memorial Hospital (Bridgton) Board of Trustees (President 1972 - 1977) and the Ham Charitable Foundation (1997 – 2013). He served on regional and national boards for youth camping, including Maine Youth Camping Association (1969 – 1999, President 1984 – 1987) and the American Camping Association – New England section (1977 – 1986).
His enjoyment of the outdoors extended beyond camp and recreational activities, as he worked to preserve the uniqueness of Maine as the Chairman of the Maine Safe Water Drinking Committee (1988-1989) and as a board member for the Lakes Environmental Association (1994 - 1995). In 2004 he and Michelle gifted 160 acres of land on the east side of Pleasant Mountain to the Loon Echo Land Trust, helping to protect the mountain, which was so important in his own life, for future generations.
Al traveled throughout the United States and Canada as a young ski racer and later as a recreational skier with numerous friends and family members. Many people half his age would comment on how hard they had to work to keep up with his graceful, classic ski style. But even above skiing, Al’s true joy was the time he spent on the Winona Farm with Michelle, raising their two children, caring for the barn animals, reading history books and Navy fiction thrillers, meticulously stacking his wood pile, working on crossword puzzles, watching Red Sox baseball, listening to marching band music or going on walks around camp with one of his dogs. Or sometimes with a goat, or a llama.
It is difficult to quantify the extent of Al’s impact on established organizations such as Winona, Gould, the town of Bridgton and numerous non-profit boards. He had as large an impact with informal relationships as well: he was always willing to help people make connections or extend resources for the good of the community. It is equally difficult to adequately explain how special this man was to his employees, colleagues, friends and family. In his senior Gould yearbook, the editors wrote, “All men are dust, but some are gold dust.” With his humility, wisdom and wonderful sense of humor, we know that Al Ordway was a great man and a wicked good Mainer (despite those first two weeks!). He will be missed dearly.
He is predeceased by his father Newell Ordway. He is survived by his wife of 48 years, Michelle Ordway; son Spencer Ordway and Jennifer Landry of Gorham; daughter Laura Ordway and Stefan Jackson of Bridgton; mother Helen Hardy Ordway of Carmel, CA; sister Ann Mahoney and her husband John of Carmel, CA; five grandchildren: Stefanie, Alexis, Julia, Jacqueline and Corliss; and many cousins, nephews and nieces.
Gifts may be made to the Uncle Al Campership - Winona Fund (not a tax deductible gift), Winona Camps, 35 Winona Road, Bridgton, ME 04009 or to the Steve Glidden Foundation (a tax deductible gift for Winona Camperships), c/o Winona Camps, 35 Winona Road, Bridgton, ME 04009. Remembrances from Winona alumni or friends may be sent to the above address or emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
A celebration of Uncle Al’s life will take place at Gould Academy at 10:00 AM on August 17, 2013. Please contact Winona Camps, for further information (email@example.com or 207-647-3721).