Meet the Volunteers: Jonna Terleth-Bertram and Kothar Terleth

We’re excited to introduce you to a very special couple who will join us at camp this summer: Jonna Terleth-Betram and Kothar Terleth. In the interview below, Jonna tells us about long friendship with Steve, about the fascinating business she and Kothar operated for 20 years in France, and about what she’s most looking forward to this summer. We are thrilled that Jonna and Kothar will be at camp this year and we know that they’ll bring a wonderful spirit to our community. Please join us in welcoming Jonna and Kothar!

Kothar and Jonna and their children Yeelen and Yoram.

Kothar and Jonna and their children Yeelen and Yoram.

I understand that you and Steve grew up to together. Can you tell us more? How did you meet?

Steve and I went to the same high school, but Steve—being a few years older—was in a different class. The thing I liked best about him was his motorcycle. He really had the coolest bike in the whole school! My best friend Marieke not only liked his bike—she liked all of him! And since we were younger than he was, we had to hang out in places where he would "happen" to pass by. Well, it paid off; Steve noticed Marieke and they started dating and the three of us would do plenty of things together: listen to music, go to parties, go see each other's games (Steve played rugby, we played hockey) and go out dancing. Steve adored Ska music and knew the lyrics of numerous Madness songs by heart. At some time Marieke, and he stopped dating but we never stopped being friends.

Can you tell us one of your favorite memories of time spent with Steve and his family?

The funny thing is that my favorite memories of Steve are not so much found in time spent wíth him but more spent in our time apart. They are in the letters I got from him and in which he was telling me what he had seen and done, whom he had met and what he would like to do next. They are in the soul—his soul— which he put in those letters. We both traveled a lot when we were young and we used to write each other about our experiences during our travels. It was through his eyes and voice that I learned about Camp Dunnabeck, about Australia, about his fellow counselors and later, through emails, about his wonderful family, about camp, and the life he had built for himself. When I read his letters now, it is as if he is sitting right next to me telling me what he sees and feels because letters are so personal; it is as if I can hear his voice.  

I understand that you operated a holiday home in France. Can you tell us about that? 

Yes, in 1993 we bought two large old farms that had been used since the 60s as a "colonie de  vacances" or summer camps for children. We started renovating them in our holidays from work, because my husband and I both still held jobs in Holland. In 1997, when our son was six months old, we moved to France permanently. We lived in a part of one of the property and we built holiday apartments in the remainder and rented them out to holiday guests (mostly families). Later, we also received a lot of groups, who came for a course (clowning, painting, cello, etc.) or a business-related training. We could have up to 20 people. For these groups, we catered as well. We loved our work and received some 10,000 guests over the twenty years. We had a lot of fun, we met a lot of lovely people, and we have some crazy stories to tell about all that has happened during our work. However, it also meant a lot of maintenance and a lot of work. Our son and daughter both left home to study elsewhere and we figured out that we like to do "new" things in life. So after twenty years, we decided to sell. In 2001, we had already bought a third (smaller) old farmhouse 600 meters from the other two, and we rented that one out as a holiday house as well. After we sold our house and the operational business last year, we moved there and that's where we are living now!

Have you been to camp or to the US before? 

I have never been to camp. When I was young in Holland, we didn’t have anything like camp. But I have been to the US. My husband and I traveled through the Rockies together in 1990 and we visited the Grand Canyon with our children in 2007. In 2003, together with my daughter Yeelen, I looked up a friend of mine who lived in New Orleans at that time.

Spending the summer at camp is such a wonderful gift. How did you come to the decision to do so? 

It had been ages that I wanted to visit Steve, Susie, and the kids because Steve had told me so much about camp and I really longed to see what he had built. There were a lot of similarities in the paths of life and work we had both chosen.

Yeelen, our daughter, preceded us because Steve and Susie had given her the wonderful opportunity to spend five weeks at camp in 2013 as a "counselor in training" and she had returned with wonderful stories. Because we wanted to make it a longer trip and preferably in summer, a visit was impossible while still operating our holiday home. So when we had sold, I told Steve that visiting camp was the very first thing on our agenda. And just after that he passed away.

Of course I was in contact with Susie and the children and I asked them if they would like it if Kothar (my husband) and I would come over this year, not only to visit, but during camp to help out where we could. We have always liked to roll up our sleeves and thought that we could be of use. We were very happy when they accepted. So camp; here we come!!

What is something campers/staff will be surprised to learn about you? 

I love to dance! So I'm so happy to have read that Beth, one of the counselors, loves Celtic dancing (I hope she will teach me). And there is another counselor who has also trained as a professional dancer, I think. So I hope that we will all dance a lot this year.

Oh, and I also have a degree in English which I obtained at the University of Nancy in France.

What are you looking forward to most about this summer?

Oh, so many things!

Being around Susie, Marguerite, Olson, and Anina a little bit longer and hopefully getting to know them better.

Having the opportunity to do the Orton-Gillingham training, to learn more about dyslexia, and to help campers overcome difficulties they might have because of it.

To read out loud with campers and to read to campers (I love to read and I love to hear my own voice ;-)) I love books, I love writing letters, and I love reading.

I look forward to being in the wonderful Blue Ridge Mountains (I’ve seen so many beautiful pictures from Anina) and I really, really look forward to see camp where Steve spent so many happy years.