Michele (Becker) Webster (S1993-1994, S1996-2001)
Hometown: Cambridge, Minnesota
Current City: Mairangi Bay, Auckland, New Zealand
Bachelor of Arts in Family Studies – St. Olaf College, Northfield, MN, 1996
Master’s Degree in Education and Teacher Licensure – St. Thomas University, St. Paul, MN, 2000
1993: Office staff at CLH – Fireflies Cabin & Family Camp;
1994: Fireflies Counselor/Gymnastics Specialist & Family Camp;
1996: Family Camp; 1997: Fawns Head Counselor & Family Camp;
1998: Operations Director, Family Camp Director;
1999: Windy Lodge Head Counselor & Family Camp Director
2000: Family Camp Director; 2001: Operations Director
Michelle Becker’s career at Camp Lake Hubert began in 1993, when she joined the summer staff after her first year at college at St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota. Little did she know that CLH would change her life for the better both professionally and personally during her eight summers at Camp Lake Hubert. Michelle held several positions during her time on the shores of Lake Hubert, from office secretary, head counselor and Family Camp Director. To this day, many of Michelle’s closest friends are friends she made while at camp in the 1990s and early 2000s. She was also inspired to follow her dream to become an elementary school teacher largely due to a letter from a fellow counselor. Today, Michelle is married to her true love, that she met while working at camp, and now lives in New Zealand with their two children. Continue reading Michelle’s Alumni Feature and learn why her life would have been completely different without time spent at Camp Lake Hubert. “I am forever grateful of my decision to spend eight summers at Camp Lake Hubert,” Michelle noted. “I am thankful for that moment at the Hobart washing dishes, and the support that a fellow counselor gave me to follow my dreams.”
Where does your story with camp begin? How were you first introduced to Camp Lake Hubert? I knew of CLH because our family friend, Stephanie Wheelock (S1990-1991,1993-1994), worked in the camp office year round. It was winter of my first year of college (1992-1993), and I wanted to work at a summer camp in a few month’s time. I called Steph and asked for an application. I remember after I sent it in and hadn’t heard back, in what was probably only a few days, I called her to see what was happening with my application. She said, “Let me check on it,” and the next thing I heard over the phone was, “Hi, Michelle, this is Bill Jones. Do you have time to answer a few questions?” Talk about being interviewed ‘on the spot’! That’s how I got my first job as one of the secretaries in the office (I was a math major and thought I would be going into the ‘finance world’ – how wrong I was).
What are a few of your favorite memories from your days at Camp Lake Hubert?
Camp helped me so much become the person I am today that it is really hard to narrow this down.
- Canoeing on Bass Lake in the dark during Family Camp with some fellow counselors, leaning back on the paddles laid across the canoe and watching meteor showers.
- All of the songs! I have used many of them during my teaching career – you know when you just have five minutes that needs to be filled before the bell rings; why not a little “Bananas of the World Unite”?! And I sing and hum many songs to my children as lullabies when putting them to bed.
- Learning how to use a chainsaw from Bill Jones when we were working on a Habitat for Humanity project.
- Having ‘handles’ on the walkie talkies with my Admin Team in 2001 – Rainbow Fish, Yellow Duck, Pink Flamingo (Bill!), Black Bear, Red Fox, Grey Squirrel, Blue Butterfly, Queen Bee – Jenny Tricker (1983-1984, 1986 S1990-2001).
- Sunrise breakfast on the pontoon with fellow counselors.
- Watching international staff’s faces fill with horror when they had to try and talk about themselves for five minutes vs. the Americans who had to be cut off at five minutes – usually.
- The bell ringing to wake you up – 7:30. What a sleep in I would consider that to be now!
- I always loved organizing the campfires when I was on the Admin Team – and my favorite moment of all at campfires was when the Admin Team learned to sign the songs “True Colors” (’01?) and “The Circle of Life” (’98?). I taught those to two of my classes too, and we performed at a school assembly.
- Sunsets – We have a framed photo sitting on our buffet taken by Stacie (Sitzman) Swanson (1998-2000), of an amazing sunset over Lake Hubert
- The day I did the high ropes course blindfolded. I was so scared going up that telephone pole.
- One year, I believe it was 1998, I worked until the very end – into September – and Kate Anderson (S1995-1998, 2000, 2001) and I were the last ones at camp (with the year round staff). I remember driving from CLH to CL one day, and we saw probably 20 deer going across the Camp Lincoln Road. There were hardly any leaves on the trees, and we drove slowly. It was pretty magical.
Did any of your family members attend or work at Camp Lincoln and Camp Lake Hubert? No, I was the first one in my family to be at CLH in any capacity. However, my husband, Simon Webster, was a CL staff member in 2000 and 2001.
Do you have a favorite camp quote?
“Some people come into our lives and quickly go. Some stay for a while, leave footprints on our hearts, and we are never, ever the same.” – Flavia
I think this quote really epitomizes what I feel about the people I met at camp. I have SO many great friends from those summers at CLH, and I know that if I showed up on any of their doorstep, they would welcome me in with open arms – and it would be like we were never apart. Such true friends.
What are some of the things you learned at camp? Favorite activities? Perseverance, to listen, patience, management of a team – whether as Head Counselor or Admin Team, the words to too many songs, that you really can get hit in the head with a boom and go overboard! I think my favorite activity was high ropes. I worked there a lot one summer, and I watched these girls conquer their fears. Then during Family Camp, getting to watch adults conquer those same fears – and even do it in front of their kids. It was a real ‘buzz’ helping to ‘talk someone through it’. When they were petrified and screaming, “I can’t do it. Get me down.” I always felt proud when I could help talk them through it enough to get them down.
What was your favorite camp meal or dining tradition? I did love the lasagna and the bagel dogs at Rally Day. My favorite traditions at meal times were singing people around the table and lodge for their birthdays – I was always kind of jealous of those with birthdays at camp – and simply the singing of grace before the meal and a song to end the meal. I loved when we took away the placards and just taught the songs at meal times. I remember noticing how much more singing was being done by girls just walking down the paths because they actually knew the songs.
Can you elaborate on any lasting friendships you have from camp? Obviously my husband, but my best camp friends are Kate Anderson (S1995-1998, 2000, 2001), Annie Davidson (1995-2001, S2003), Nia Jones (S1998), Lynne Healey (S1997,1998,2002) and Becky (S1996) and Damien Boynton (S1995,1996, 1998) would be in there too. I also keep in touch with Stacey (1985-1989, S1991-1994, 1996, 2008-2013) and Mike Dyer (S1991-1998) and the White Family from Family Camp. We still exchange Christmas letters and cards. I also am in touch with Anna Overbo (S1994). She was my college roommate and I brought her to camp, so I don’t see her so much as a camp friend, but rather a college friend. And I have a few on Facebook as well. I know that even though we are far away from each other that we would reconnect in an instant when we saw each other. There is just something about the time you share at CLH that makes you friends for life – and often times I think you become closer with camp friends than with friends you’ve had from a young age like school friends. There really is truth behind that CFAB acronym!
What did you love most about camp? What is the biggest take-away you have from your days at Camp Lake Hubert? I’d have to say my biggest take-away from camp is my husband – my true love! We daydream about the day we can go back to CLH and CL and work for a summer. Maybe one day… Besides my husband, I just love the essence of camp. Be who you truly are. No need to impress anyone. Just try new things. Succeed or fail and it’s ok because you gave it a go.
Tell us about meeting your husband, Simon and now living in New Zealand. After my last summer of camp (2001), I had finished my teaching degree/Master’s Degree program, and I went to teach in Luton, England (camp friend connection). I lived and taught there for a year. Then I moved to Denver, Colorado, to teach for a year (another camp connection got me that job – Kimm (Buettner) (1989-1993, S1997,1998) and Tim Lucas (S1988, 1989, 1995-1999). Simon visited me in Denver and there were a few sparks. We decided to meet up for spring break in China (there aren’t too many halfway points between New Zealand and Colorado) to see if there were still sparks. There were, so I visited him during the summer of 2003 in New Zealand. I briefly returned to the States for my brother’s wedding and to get a work visa for New Zealand. I have been in New Zealand ever since October 2003. I never would have guessed that my life would lead me to “the other side of the world” – as my mother would put it – but actually 1/3 of the way around the world. And to be honest, that’s just because of the amazing connections I made while working at camp. The experiences that camp opens up for you can be amazing – if you let them. I never would have guessed a Minnesota girl would be throwing out hay to cattle in Eastern Australia one day, or tramping around mountains in New Zealand.
What are you up to now? Tell us about your family life and interests. I am married to Simon Webster and we have two amazing children, Emma (5) and David (2 ¾). I have been a stay at home parent since Emma was born. Time has gone so quickly. For my children’s Early Childhood Education, I have become quite involved in Playcentre. It is something that is only in New Zealand. It is essentially a parent run cooperative. I have now gained ‘Course 3’ qualifications and am quite involved being the PR officer and the ‘centre contact’. I arrange visits for those that would like to join us. Being part of Playcentre with David and helping Emma adjust to school (she just started in May seeing as in New Zealand you start school when you turn five, no matter what part of the school year you are in (although keeping in mind that we are the southern hemisphere so school goes February through December) are my main two jobs at the minute. Before becoming a mom, I was part of the Auckland Choral Society for two years singing soprano and loved it. I would like to get involved in music in some way again soon. I am just busy with little ones at the moment. Now I would say that my interests are reading (and I cherish the time I read picture books to my two young children, but also relish when I get time to read my own books), biking, being outdoors with my family, dancing in the living room with my family to great dance tunes. We also have a cat named Smokey. I just love all the little moments with my family right now. Watching my son put on slippers before he goes to use the potty because the bathroom floor is cold. Listening to Emma read her books from school as she is learning to read. Going for a family bike ride on our tandem, baking with my children, cuddling with my husband, travelling, walks on the beach (we moved last year and now we are only 1 km from the beach). It’s all about the simple things really. It makes me think of another quote from camp: “We do not remember days; we remember moments.” – Casare Pavese
Do you have a mentor you look up to or creed that you live by? I guess because I am currently focused on being a parent at this point in my life, I really look up to my Grandmother Helen. She recently turned 91. My grandmother has nine children, and I am constantly thinking of her when I think things are getting ‘too tough’ for me. As for my creed, well, I just always try to look at the positive. Maybe it was all those summers of hearing Bill give the ‘pitcher’s half full’ speech. No, truly, I think I had that optimistic outlook on life even before I went to camp. So, maybe it would be ‘when life hands you lemons, make lemonade.’
Is there anything you would like to add to complete your camp story? My family always makes me sing Grace at extended family gatherings. It is always Camp Grace that I choose. Another dream of mine is that one summer in the not too distant future, my immediate family, my parents and my brother and his two boys, will attend Family Camp together. Family Camp was always such a highlight of my year!