Camp Van Vac

News & Updates Blog

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September 2001


Back in 1988, Patrick was 13 years old and I was 11. Both families were visiting Van Vac for their annual family vacation. (A tradition that started with my grandparents before there was even electricity available at Van Vac!) We met at the main dock one day and became friends. Before our two-week stay was over, we were "boyfriend and girlfriend."

Due to unforeseen circumstances, my family was not able to come back. But Patrick and I remained friends through letters and occasional long-distance phone calls. His family lived in Iowa, and mine lived in Illinois.

Although we often talked about it, we were never able to see each other -- until the summer of 1997. Patrick and his family had since moved to Minnesota. I took a week off from work and drove up for a visit.

The anticipation of seeing each other was almost too much to handle. It was so exciting! After almost 10 years, we were finally going to see each other again. We had a wonderful week together, and sparks flew. From there we had a long-distance relationship for about a year. I then moved to Minnesota. Patrick was in school at the time. When he graduated, he moved back to St. Paul; I did too.

Then, this summer his family was planning their annual trip to Van Vac, and the whole family was planning to attend. How exciting! On the way up to camp, Patrick proposed. It was absolutely fabulous.

Camp Van Vac is not only a place where many times we found ourselves -- we also found each other.

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August 2001


On June 18, 2001, Tom Speros, our dear friend and co-conspirator at Camp Van Vac, went into St Mary's Medical Center in Duluth for surgery to remove a cancerous esophageal tumor. The surgery went well, but over the next few days in intensive care his systems began to fail. On July 14 he died while his sister, Lis, and I and his nephew Marty stayed close and touched and talked to him.

Just a few days before Tom went into the hospital, our crew member Chris Johnson aimed his new digital camera at Tom and got this shot we have so often seen of our scampish friend: the fugitive evading discovery. A little while later, walking down the road with a pile of sheets, Chris saw Tom talking out front with our friend Mark Imsdahl and popped off the shot on our August page without Tom knowing. We wanted to share them with you.

Thank you to all of you who were with us through this tough time. Our hearts go out to Tom's many Camp friends for whom this is new, sad news.

Special thanks also to those of you who were able to join us in September for a memorial for Tom with his favorite music, good food, and delicious stories about Tom. --Love, Nancy jo

Tom's obituary in the Ely Timberjay: A memorial Celebration of Life for Thomas J. Speros, 62, of Winton and St Louis Park, will be held on September 9 in Ely. Mr. Speros died July 14 at St. Mary's Medical Center in Duluth after a short illness.

He was born on June 10, 1939, in Portland, Oregon, to James T. and Mary Kathryn (Hughes) Speros. He attended college at Lewis and Clark in Portland, moved to California in 1966 where he started a psychodrama institute, coordinated the drug and alcohol program for Solano County, and became an an independent film-maker. In 1983 he moved to Minnesota with Nancy Tubbs, where they managed Camp Van Vac on Burntside Lake. He will be remembered for directing the 2001 production of "Wit" in Ely; for screenwriting and acting; his casual genius on guitar, banjo, and mandolin; his love of theatre and movies; and especially as resident comedian and curmudgeon.

He is survived by two sons, Dimitri and Ted (Lita) Speros of San Francisco, California, and a daughter, Jayne Speros of Santa Cruz, California, his sister Lis (George) McCrea of Ely, his twin brother Mark Speros of Denver, Colorado, two grandchildren, Tony Licata Speros and Ruby Rudd Speros, and by nieces and nephews including Gwen, Scott, and Marty McCrea.

Memorials may be made to his favorite charities, the Southern Poverty Law Conference, Amnesty International, and the National Organization of Women.

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June 1999


One from the archives: Buell in retirement at Aunt Kate's Cabin.

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Camp Van Vac | 2714 Van Vac Lane | Ely, Minnesota 55731
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