Uncle Wolf (1937-2009)

So, I should say from the get go that Uncle Wolf wasn't related to me. Everyone just adopted Wolfram as their uncle.

I had the privilege of knowing Uncle Wolf while working at Foothills Summer Camp for four summers during my university years. He and his wife Bonnie were the caretakers at the camp and lived there for years.

My first memory of Uncle Wolf is as a young Pathfinder at a camporee where hundreds of upper elementary students camped out at Foothills. My counsellors had miscommunicated and our unit was left without any direct supervision for the three days. The six of us pitched our tents and cooked for ourselves (I remember making the french toast). We received a stern lecture from this older man with a thick German accent about not having doused our campfire with enough water. This was in 1988.

From 1996-1999, I spent nine weeks every summer working alongside Uncle Wolf. I was inspired by this man. He offered nature nuggets at the morning programs for the adventurer kids and junior kids and shared his talks with such passion. He always had something to show them whether it was a bird's nest or something taxidermic.

His garage/workshop was pristine. Every tool had its place and you could barely find a speck of sawdust or any kind of dust for that matter on his counters. He kept his BMW motorcycle under a sheet there and I only saw him ride it a couple times, though I know he went for long rides during the off seasons. He also kept a team of gorgeous Belgian horses that he would harness to a wagon - a magnificent sight that no campers could dismiss, not even the blind ones.

Uncle Wolf worked hard too. From dawn until dusk and even after, Wolf was cutting grass, mending fences, fixing plumbing, replacing window screens, monitoring the pool's chemicals, securing ropes down at Sherwood Forest, and doing anything we asked him to. I remember him making a grand set piece for a weekly play I produced: a three sided rotating backdrop on wheels.

He had his flaws, certainly. Anyone who worked with him knew how stubborn he was and how angry he could get. But these incongruent characteristics didn't outshine his passion for God, life, nature, kids, and his wife.

The last time I saw Wolf, I was at a wedding of two former camp counsellors. He and Bonnie sat across from me and we had some good laughs. That was over nine years ago. I was thinking this past summer how I should track Uncle Wolf and Auntie Bonnie down and pay them a visit, but time rolled by too quickly.

Wolfram Hackenberg passed away rather quickly after succumbing to an infection in mid-November. I attended his memorial service at Foothills Camp and sat among former camp staff as we heard details of a man we loved who was born in Germany just prior to the Second World War, who only really knew his father when he returned from the war, who escaped with his family from East Germany through Check Point Charlie to the West, who immigrated to Canada as a young man and worked in the trades all across the continent, who dedicated his life to God and service to Him.

I raise my glass to you my dear friend. Until we meet again.

1 comment:

Heather said...

I too remember Uncle Wolf. So hard working and generous with his skills and knowledge. He kept that pool nice and clean when I was pool director. Thank you for the trip down memory lane. Camp wouldn't have been the same without him. I can thank him in heaven.