John Ross "Jack" McPhee

Jack McPhee and David Williams

Jack McPhee and Assistant Camp Director, David M. Williams, sitting in what is now the girls flat with the Queens in background in the early 1940s.

(1907-1997) Jack (or “Uncle Jack”) was born on the East side of Youngstown in 1907 and attended Shehy School before becoming a star football and basketball player at Cleveland East High School. He played football and basketball at Oberlin, Grove City College, and then graduated from Youngstown College. During his time in college at Youngstown he worked for the Y as Director of Physical Education.

After graduation in 1930, he was hired to coach the Youngstown College Basketball Team and still teach physical education at the Youngstown Y. Recall that Youngstown College is still part of the Y at the this time, so John is essentially working for two divisions of the same company.[1] He married his wife, Mary Reesh, on August 15, 1932.[2] In 1935 he went to Camp Fitch to fill in for Curly Johnson as Camp Director at the request of General Secretary Paul Davies. Curly was very ill at the time, still recovering from his football injuries from over a decade previous.[3] Curly passed away on July 21, 1935 and John finished the season as Camp Director. After the 1935 season Jack left Youngstown and took a job as Recreation Director for the National Tube Co. in Ellwood City, PA. He was there about a year and then moved again to Wilmerding, PA to become Assistant General Secretary of the Y there.[1]

Paul Davies called him and asked Jack to serve as Camp Director after Jimmy Williams left the position. Jack accepted the offer and moved back to Youngstown in February of 1940. He also accepted the title of Boys' Work Secretary the same year. Jack was assisted during the 1940 season by Dick Thomas and F. E. "Tug" Lewis. His Village Directors were Hugh Bennett, Edwin K. Enterline, and Tom Ashton. He served as camp director from 1940 to 1944. According to a Youngstown Vindicator article from 1940, he planned to stress “Christian Leadership and a program of sports to carry the youth from his 'teens to his club golfing days.” Essentially, he wanted to have a life long impact on all the boys at Camp Fitch.

In 1944, Youngstown schools were in a debate regarding the appropriate amount of religious education in public schools and what shape that education should take. Jack was interviewed about how religion was handled at Camp Fitch. He described it as a place “where Protestants, Catholics, and Jews take part in an impressive candlelight service with such success that men now in (WWII Military) service on PT boats, flying bombers in combat, and others write back and ask that those services be dedicated to them.”[4] Jack was probably referring to his friends and former staff members Ed Enterline and Buck Boren. They were serving as a PT Boat Captain and Bomber Pilot respectively when this quote was given and had written to Jack. Edwin would go on become Camp Director himself. Buck would tragically not survive the war.

He became the executive secretary of the Downtown Youngstown Y in 1945. Dave Williams succeeded him as Camp Director He left the Y in 1946 to work for Ironsides Co. in Columbus, OH. However he continued to stay close to the Youngstown YMCA. He would retire from Ironsides as Vice-President of Sales.[2] He joined the Y Board of Trustees in 1954. He would serve on multiple boards and fundraising campaigns the rest of his life. He became President of the Youngstown YMCA in 1978.

In the 1970s camp was facing desperate need for renovations, but was short on cash. Jack recalled the same problems when he was director in the 1940s. At the time, he complained to Al Rosco and Al's sons Al Rosco Jr and Bunny Rosco about the dire financial problems facing Camp Fitch, and the desire to keep the campers happy. Al responded “You take care of the camp and I‘ll take care of that problem.” Jack promised himself then if the time ever came where camp needed him he would be there.[5][3]

So when the time came to help camp in the 1970's he rose to the occasion along with many others including:Gordon Harrison, George McNab, Bob Roland, Brad McClury, Howard Conner, Al Moran, Jennie Materhold, George Burgman, Ken McKee, Ken Wilson, Carl Saller, and others to donate either funds or physical labor. Together, they laid water and gas piping, built the horse barn south of Ables Rd, put new floors and toilets in McCleary Lodge, updated the boy's and girl's toilets, and built the steel maintenance shed behind the horse barn.[3]

The McPhee Pool was dedicated in his honor in 1978.[6]

He passed away shortly before Christmas 1997 at the age of 90.[2]

Sports Career

He is also known for being a Youngstown State basketball coach and football referee. He refereed mostly in the Big Ten, but also refereed an Army-Navy Game and the 1948 Rose Bowl (Michigan 49 - USC 0). He refereed the first college football game ever televised on September 10, 1939 when Fordham University played Waynesburg College in Randall Island Stadium. Fordham won 34-7. He was the first football referee to use the penalty flag, which was invented by fellow Camp Fitcher Dike Beede in 1938. The game was played in 1941 against Oklahoma City University at YSU's Rayen Stadium. Youngstown won 48-7. He then used it the next weekend at Ohio State and the rest is history. The other referees at the first game were his brother Hugh McPhee, Bill Renner, and Carl Rebele.


  • 1930 Downtown YMCA Physical Education Teacher
  • 1935 Substitute Camp Director for Curly Johnson
  • 1940-44 Camp Director
  • 1945 Boy's Secretary of the downtown Y.
  • 1954 Joined YMCA Board of Trustees[5]
  • 1962-66 Camp Management Committee
  • 1974 Chairman of Camp Fitch Development committee
  • 1976 Vice President of the YMCA Board of Trustees
  • 1978 President of the Downtown Youngstown YMCA (he was succeeded as president in 1980 by Daniel J. Mirto


During the 1942 season, Howdy "Pa" Friend and Bob Gibson were tent leaders

During the 1943 season, Gordon Harrison and Howdy "Pa" Friend were Village Directors. Robert Serfass ran Riflery. William Howard Lavely was waterfront director for the 3rd year. Laura Blosser was the camp dietitian for the third year

Staff 1942

1st (Top) Row: (unknown), Bobby McFarland, (unknown), (unknown), (unknown), Popeye Richards, Skip Rebelle, (unknown), (unknown), Bob Beede, Dick Beede
2nd Row: unknown, help us identify them!
3rd Row: Clare Reese, Dave Fawcett, Fred Soller, (unknown), (unknown), Howdy Friend, Robert "Bob" Gibson, Larry Goodall, Eddy Ocarz
4th Row: unknown, help us identify them!
5th Row (Front): (unknown), (unknown), (unknown), (unknown), Buck Boren, (unknown), Edwin K. Enterline, John Ross "Jack" McPhee, (unknown), (unknown), Eddy Ohl, Karl Soller
Definitely in this picture, but not identified are: Hal Davis, Hall Burg, George Hunter, Hank Beckenbaugh, Antin Darfmueller, and Red Kerster. Please help the Camp Fitch Bunch by pointing out who they are!
(Photo courtesy of Howdy Friend)

Camp Schedule

The regular camping season in 1943 ran four two week sessions from June 27th to August 15th. It was followed by a week of junior methodist co-ed camp, a week of interdenominational co-ed church camp, and finally a week of High School Co-ed camp ending September 5th.

See Also


1. a, b Youngstown Vindicator, March 17, 1940. Varied Program Planned By New Camp Fitch Chief. Vindicator Printing Company, A5.
2. a, b, c Youngstown Vindicator, December 24, 1997. John R. McPhee Sr., 90. Vindicator Printing Company, B4.
3. a, b, c Collier, Jeffery, September 24, 1975. Interview with John McPhee: Youngstown State University Oral History Project. Youngstown State University.
4. a Youngstown Vindicator, February 4, 1944. Leaders Split on Issue of Religious Education. Vindicator Printing Company, A5.
5. a, b Youngstown Vindicator, January 8, 1978. John McPhee is YMCA President. Vindicator Printing Company, A5.
6. a Youngstown Vindicator, May 28, 1978. Camp Fitch to Dedicate New facilities. Vindicator Printing Company.