Howdy "Pa" Friend

This article is about Howdy Friend Sr. Click here for Howdy Jr. and Howdy Friend III.


Howdy Friend, known mostly as “Pa” by younger generations of camp, was born in Pittsburgh and attended camp as a child. Howdy was recruited from the downtown YMCA by "Jack" McPhee in 1942 during his sophomore year at Woodrow Wilson High School. He was a counselor (Tent Leader) in 1942 and attended construction week with Bob Gibson.[1] They became life long friends. He was promoted to the Village Director of Windy City the following year. Glen Culp, from Youngstown South High School, was also a Village Director that year.

Clearing the Activity Flat Staff begin to clear the new activity flat in the early 1940s. Staff left to right in the top row are: Roddy Cox, Howdy Friend, Eddy Ocarz, and Dave Fawcett. Front Row left to right are: Waldo Schlag, Robert "Bob" Gibson, and Bob Burns.
(Photo courtesy of Howdy Friend)


He graduated High School in 1944, on D-Day, and was offered a chance to play football for The Ohio State University. However, he was drafted into the army instead, and trained as a machine gunner. In January 1945, He took shrapnel to the leg in the Battle of the Bulge near Bastogne, Belgium and spent 18 months in bed recovering in England and then Chicago. While recovering in Chicago, Camp Fitchers Bob Joyce and Eddy Ocarz came to the Hospital to visit Howdy on VE Day. David Williams hired him back in 1946, again as director of Windy City where he continued to recover from his wounds. He ran the Nature Lore Program. During this time he met, Ellen "Gert" Williams, daughter of camp director David Williams, whom he married. As he recalls it “I just picked the prettiest girl in camp.” He continued working at camp through 1949 while first attending Kent State, then transferring to Mount Union College with Gert. He recalls making the decision to attend Kent State mostly because his friend from camp, Wallie Figer (Horse back riding director in 1946), was also going to attend.

He left camp in 1950 to become a teacher. He received his Masters in Education from Westminster College. He would eventually become Principal of Poland Seminary High School in 1966 and later, the Superintendent of Mahoning County Joint Vocational School. After retiring from education, he worked eight more years at Home Saving and Loan before retiring one more time and he continued to stay active in the Youngstown YMCA.

He attended Family Camp in the 1960s with his wife and children: Howdy, Scott, and Judy. The family began to attend Family Camp again in 1984 with the first three of nine grandchildren. Known at the Downtown Y for never saying no to anyone that needed help, he served at least 20 years as a captain on the Central Branch Membership Support Committee. He served as chairman of that committee in 1987. In 1989 he served as the chairman of the 75th Anniversary Celebration. They still attend today and he is on the Camp Fitch Board of Trustees. Sheetz Pavilion and Friend Circle are donated in honor of Howdy and Gert. In 2006, he was one of the principal fundraisers that helped raise the $5 million needed to build the new dining hall.

Director Picture from 8th Period 1946 Top to Bottom, Left to Right:
1st Row (Top): (unknown), Bob Ike (Poland, OH), Norman Baker (Former Heart Surgeon in Columbus, OH), Whitey Culp, (unknown).
2nd Row: (unknown), Tugg Wilson, Popeye Richard, (name unknown, but from Girard, OH), (unknown)
3rd Row: Dave Dellman (Cousin of Gert Williams), Wallie Figer, Lou Sequalla (Ursline Football Player), Larry Goodall (Played basketball at South High and Mount Union), Howdy "Pa" Friend, (unknown)
Front Row: Eleanor Kahler, Gert Williams, Edwin K. Enterline, David M. Williams, Mary the Cook.(Photo courtesy of Howdy Friend)

8th Period, Windy City, 1947 Howdy Friend, far left, front row. David Williams is standing behind him.
(Photo courtesy of Howdy Friend)

Memorable Moments and Trivia

Even in the 1940's camp staff were known for antics. He recalls the Beede twins, who never wore shoes, tying the steering wheel of a '34 Cheve to one side, jamming the gas pedal, and letting it run in circles on the flat unattended. In 1948, Bill Fleisher rode his bicycle all the way to camp from Youngstown.

Howdy has been attending camp for 70 years.

Cabent 25 is named “Howdy Friends”

Friend Circle is named in honor of Howdy and Gert.

Sheetz Pavilion is built in honor of Howdy and Gert.


Sweetheart Weekend in the 1940's

Staff enjoying sweetheart's weekend on the upper flat. Winnie Williams is Howdy's date in this picture (no relation to his future wife Gert Williams)
Back row L to R: (unknown), Bill Lavely, Gordon "Gordie" Harrison, (unknown), George Friend, Howdy Friend
Front Row L to R: (unknown), Winnie Williams
(Photo courtesy of Howdy Friend)

Others that worked along side Howdy for many years included:

Specific to 1947, the Staff included:


Kitchen Staff

Jack Benson was Sanitary Engineer, Ellen "Gert" Williams Friend worked in the store, and Eleanore Kahler was Nurse

Camp Fitch Genealogy

David Williams Father-in-Law Camp Director 1945-1948
Cathrine Hone Williams Mother-in-Law Fellowship Week Leader 1940s
Sonny Friend Brother Started in dishcrew 1944
George "Sam" Friend Jr. Brother Staff (dates unknown)
Ellen "Gert" Williams Friend Wife Camp Store 1945 - 1946
Marilyn Jacobson Sister-in-Law 1940s
David Dellman Cousin-in-Law Staff 1947
Howdy Friend Son Camper/Staff 1958 - 1969
Scott Friend Son Camper/Staff 1960 - 1968
Judy Friend Sheetz Daughter Camper
Jenny (Friend) Jamison Neice Counselor 1970s
Mark Friend Grandchild Counselor
Alison Friend Grandchild Camper
Sarah Friend Grandchild Counselor
Megan Friend Grandchild Counselor
Tim Sheetz Grandchild Village Director
Chris Friend Grandchild Camper
Matt Friend Grandchild Camper
Amy Sheetz Grandchild Camper
David Sheetz Grandchild Village Director
Heather Jamison Brother's Grandchild Counselor
Tim Jamison Brother's Grandchild Camper
Sam Jamison Brother's Grandchild Camper
Mollie Friend Great Grandchild 5th Generation Camper

In front of Kane Lodge in the 1940's

L to R: Whitey Williams, Howdy Friend, George Friend, George "Sam" Friend Jr. (Photo courtesy of Howdy Friend)

See Also


1. a Youngstown Vindicator, May 18, 1989. YMCA celebrates anniversary of camp. Vindicator Printing Company.