Joe Check

Joseph T. Check

Born:October 20, 1908
Campbell, Ohio


Spouse:Helen Check

Children:Joe Check III

Joseph T. Check was a 28 year employee of the Youngstown Y. He founded the YMCA Business Men's Club, was the Executuve Director of the MVIMA, and served as Camp Director twice.[1] He first served for the 1954 and 1955 seasons, then returned for three additional seasons starting in 1958. Unconfirmed legend says he was asked to come back to address the many problems associated with the new co-ed staff, and was deemed the only man for the job.1) His last year as Camp Director in 1960 coincided with the completion of Lake MVIMA.[2]

Joe was born in Campbell, Ohio on Oct 20, 1908. He attended Wilson and Campbell High Schools where he excelled at every sport he played. Unfortunately he graduated during the depression, and spent two years unable to find work, but continued to play basketball at the Y. A college scout saw him play and offered him a scholarship. With that offer he moved to Florida to attend Stentson Univesity and played basketball, baseball, and football. He graduated with a degree in physical education from Stetson University in 1935.[3] His athletic prowess was legendary. Joe not only played on every organized sports team at Stetson, he also served as the Captain for every team.[1] He returned to Youngstown and went to work as a boilerman for Youngstown Sheet and Tube. He was hired to shovel coal out of rail cars for the boilers, and to play on the company's semi-pro baseball team[3], the Youngstown Tubers.[4] Around this time he married his wife Helen and they had one son, Joe, who attended Camp when Jack McPhee was Director. Joe continued to be involved in the Y and eventually was hired by the YMCA on a full time basis. Paul B. Davies ran the Y at the time and "Ocky" Pannier was Physical Director.[3] Even though he no longer worked for Youngstown Sheet and Tube, he continued to play semi-pro baseball in the metro for a number of teams.[1][5] He also refereed high school basketball. David M. Williams used him as a referee for high school playoffs he organized.[6] [7]

His first experience at Camp Fitch came in 1949. Paul B. Davies sent him to camp to help keep the age groups organized. Edwin K. Enterline was Camp Director at the time. Charles Smith ran Boy's Camp. Joe continued to work at camp through camp directors Charles “Smitty” Smith and Richard Ulsh. Camp with still “roughing it” at this point. The “New Kings” had even not yet been built yet. Around 1953 General Secretary Paul B. Davies and Boys Work Secretary and Camp Director Richard Ulsh had a falling out over the control (and maybe moral latitude) of the staff and programming at Camp Fitch. Dick Ulsh left Camp mid season to work for another Y[3] in the Charleston, WV area.[8][9] Joe Check was walking out the door of the central Y to leave for vacation when Paul stopped him. Paul told Joe that he was needed at camp, his vacation was cancelled, and he would be the new director at Camp Fitch.[3]2)3)

Joe faced initial resistant when he arrived in camp mid season. Upper staff were loyal to Dick and knew of the tension between Dick and Paul. They were opposed to changes and especially Paul's hand picked successor. Joe called a meeting and said if anyone had a problem with him, the pickup truck would be up to their tents to collect their belongings and their parents could come get them. A few senior staff members actually took him up on the offer, but camp returned to normal soon after.[3] Joe returned as Camp Director for the 1954 season. Lynn Cobbledick ran Grils's Camp that year, assisted by village directors Marilyn Evans, Virginia Brown, and Anne Siemon.[10] Check stayed at Camp trough 1960, but ceded the role of Camp Director for the 1956 and 1957 seasons before resuming the title in 1958. [11] His Youngstown connections proved invaluable for camp. His former employer Youngstown Sheet and Tube donated free piping for utilities. He was able to get electricians and plumbers to donate their time. The piers, the cranes to install them, and the 100ft flag pole all appeared with no charge.[3] After the 1960 camping season, Joe returned to full time employment at the Central Y[3] and ran the Youngstown Athletic Club.[8] David Halbe Brown, who had Boy's Camp Director since 1958, succeeded Joe as Camp Director.[11] Robert "Bob" Doyle assumed the now vacant role of Boys' Camp Director for the 1961 season. Joe stayed at the Youngstown Y until his retirement in 1973.[1]

Every year the Youngstown YMCA announces Joe Check Memorial Award winner to the volunteer that best exemplifies Joe's giving spirit.

Camp Atmosphere

Camp went under massive changes from the 1940's to the 1960's. When Joe first arrived at camp in 1949 campers still swam naked in Lake Erie. There was no Lake MVIMA yet. Dad's would spend the day at camp playing baseball before dropping their children off and heading home. Boy's Camp was not yet cleared. Camp could only afford enough milk for each camper to have one glass a day. A steady supply of Cook Mary Bohac's donuts given to the right people ensured that Camp Fitch was included in a subsidized milk program from the State of Pennsylvania, despite being an Ohio organization. Camp Fitch played baseball against other Y and boy scout camps in the area. As TV became ubiquitous, campers no longer automatically showed up knowing the rules of baseball and football. More kids spent more time in tents reading comics, clothing was no longer optional. Catholic children first began to attend camp in large numbers in the 1950s. Prior to that, the area Bishops frowned upon anyone having interactions with the protestant YMCA organization.[3]

Female staff arrived in mass in 1951.[12] Keeping them separate from the male staff became a constant struggle. When a male and female tent leader were found at night in an unused tent, it became the talk of the town in Youngstown.[3]



1. a, b, c, d Youngstown Vindicator, January 12, 1973. Joe Check Showered with Gifts, Retiring After 28 Years at "Y". Vindicator Printing Company.
2. a Youngstown Vindicator, June 26, 1960. Camp Fitch Gets New Lake. Vindicator Printing Company.
3. a, b, c, d, e, f, g, h, i, j Jeffery Collier, July 22, 1975. Interview with Joesph T. Check: Youngstown State University Oral History Project. Youngstown State University.
4. a Youngstown Vindicator, January 22, 1938. Tubers Play Four Games. Vindicator Printing Company.
5. a Youngstown Vindicator, July 24, 1937. Class "AA" Leaguers Start Second Half Schedule Today. Vindicator Printing Company.
6. a Youngstown Vindicator, February 27, 1945.. Sectional Class A Basketball Tourney Swings into Action. Vindicator Printing Company.
7. a Youngstown Vindicator, February 16, 1949.. Sectional Distrcit Event Gets Underway. Vindicator Printing Company.
8. a, b Collier, Jeffery, August 7, 1975. Interview with Robert Doyle: Youngstown State University Oral History Project. Youngstown State University.
9. a YMCA of Kanawha Valley, 2007. YMCA of Kanawha Valley, 100 years and beyond.. YMCA of Kanawha Valley.
10. a Youngstown Vindicator, June 13, 1954. Directors, Leaders Announced for Camp Fitch Girl's Programs. Vindicator Printing Company.
11. a, b Tear, Phil, 1964. Camp Fitch Golden Anniversary. Allied Printing, pp.1-35.
12. a Youngstown Vindicator, June 15, 1951. More than 350 Boys, Girls Plan to Attend Camp Fitch. Vindicator Printing Company.
1) The 1950's colloquialism “blanket party” is used to describe the problem, use your imagination
2) Conflicting sources: Dick Ulsh may have held a YMCA job in Toledo before taking the job in Charleston.
3) A few years later, Dick Ulsh would go on to become General Secretary of the Charleston Y, serving from 1964 to 1969.