Nardie’s Impact

At Nardie Stein’s memorial service in November, his granddaughter Elena Stein spoke about something that had become a frequent response from the grandchildren as people reached out to the family: “Nardie was such a big fan of yours,” they would say. Elena added simply, “Because it’s true. He was.”

The feeling was mutual. Here are just some of countless memories from the camp family:

“Since 1955 when the 25-year-old Nardie was making his first ever recruiting trip and came through Indianapolis (convincing me to forgo Little League baseball and give C/N a try) until the last time I saw him when I was at camp for the 90th anniversary reunion, I can think of no one (outside of my family) who had as long and meaningful an impact upon my life. His ability to relate to, model ethical behavior for, and stay in touch with so many hundreds of campers and staff over the years was truly amazing and all of us whose lives he touched are forever indebted to him.” – Mike Cole (1956-63)

“It’s honestly hard for me to think of another man I met and got to know over years who touched so many in such a positive way. His legacy is immense.” – Andrew Shapin (1976-80, 83)

“As we lived in their neighborhood, I had the opportunity to see him more than just during camp. I got to house sit for them sometimes while they did fall camp visits. My parents were their friends as well. I credit Nardie as one of the two adults in my life who always treated me with respect as a person. He never talked to me like I was a child even though I was one. In retrospect, this has made me realize how in times of self-doubt, worrying and other adolescent angst, Nardie helped me be confident by treating me like a real human being. He was so genuine. I will always love him and respect him for that.” – Jon Fisher (1979-83)

“A 15-year-old me had no discernible talents, abilities or skills, and even less confidence. But then Nardie Stein came along and said ‘I think you can be a camp counselor.’ And that changed everything.” — Tom Arenberg (1968-71, 73-78)

“What set Nardie apart was his incredible and genuine people skills. He made everyone around him think that he was your best friend. When he talked to you, whether you were a Swamper on the Big House porch or 80 years old, Nardie was always interested in what you were doing. He made an enormous impact on the lives of thousands. He also had a wonderful sense of humor. Eight years ago, I sent him a newspaper article that claimed white socks and sandals were coming back in style. He wrote me back a postcard (I still have it) that said, ‘Of course I was a trend setter. But before white socks and sandals, I was known for my Gucci underwear and Armani speedo.’” – Bud Herzog (1952-61)

“I worked in the CN office for eight summers, during my most impressionable years, alongside Nardie (& Sally), and each day typically presented some unique learning opportunity. The teaching moment was often preceded by an “..ahhhh… Sue B….” to indicate he wanted my full attention. Sometimes those moments created frustration, and sometimes it was just something humorous he wanted to share, but often they were some of life’s most valuable lessons. I feel so fortunate to have had those innumerable teaching moments I carry with me today. I could not be more grateful for his wit, candor, and guidance.” – Sue Bong Scharff (1982-88, 2004-07)

“When I think back to the many lessons I learned from Nardie over the years, there are so many that come to mind, but foremost he taught how important it was to have a sense of humor. Nardie may actually have invented the now-celebrated genre of “dad jokes.” It was more than having a ready repertoire of witticisms, though. Nardie also taught me how important it was to be able to laugh at yourself.” – Alex Gordon (1978-83, 87-91, 2010-22)

“’Dolce.’ The word that will always remind me of Nardie. Frequently, on hikes along trails in the woods, or through the hills, or by the Brule River, Nardie would turn around unexpectedly and surprise us with an unconditional offering in hand of… a piece of chocolate. Chocolate – nourishing, distinct, energizing and as unique and special as the man making the offer. A man, who, in such gentle and subtle ways, continually strengthened my core.” – Buzz Neusteter (1955-58, 87-91)

“Nardie Stein was the most significant male role model in my life. As a child, rather than scold me when I made mistakes at camp, and there were many, he offered guidance on how to grow from my errors and then would follow up to tell me when he saw positive change. Later as an emerging adult, he consistently entrusted me with greater responsibility, helped me to grow as a man, and as a supervisor of others. As a husband, he showed me how I should honor and value my wife and provided me with a vivid example of how to father my children in an accepting, loving, and responsible manner. No one ever taught me more about how to live life fully and positively. Nardie was a gift to us all. I will miss him every day and keep his memory close at hand, while I try to live up to the lessons he so lovingly taught me.” – Frank Sachs (1962-65, 69-2004, 07-11)

“In the decades after my experience as a camper and counselor, I have heard Nardie’s voice in my head, even at times far removed from the camp experience. This includes a particularly difficult business situation I encountered 25 years after my last CN summer. I emailed Nardie to thank him and this was part of the response, which says much about his wisdom and how his lived his life… “Many times I have found that even the smallest of kindnesses we extended resulted in ‘something coming back,’ another way of saying this is that there is no such thing as a ‘small’ transaction… all human transactions are important.’” – Matt Friedman (1983-90)

“He was so influential in my life and important to me. He will be so missed by so many!” – Noah Saag (2000-04, 06-12, 14)

“Nardie was almost as large a figure in my life as my own parents. He was my camp director, employer and ultimately my friend. He was reliable, constant and open. He was a guiding star of ethics and morality and he had the most impish sense of humor that came out in subtle ways at unexpected moments. Many of us think of Camp Nebagamon as a mold within which much of our lives were formed. If that’s true, its form was what Nardie and Sally made it. I see their impact on Camp today. He and Sally brought Camp and all of us that attended into the modern era into a place of welcome for all and a place of growth and self-confidence for many generations.” – Tony Blumberg (1970-73, 75-80)

“I was fortunate to be a camper during Muggs’s last season, then into the beginning of the Nardie and Sally years. Nardie was always a cheerful yet strong and demanding presence, took no guff, and brooked no fools (especially when it came to staff), yet was kind and understanding and supportive of families and all the kids. His singing in the Rec Hall, and constant good-natured presence around Camp made the place seem safe and ‘A Place of Welcome For All.’” – Reed Maidenberg (1959-64, 67)

“All of us campers learned so much from Nardie, even if we didn’t realize it then. His life was a blessing to us all.” – Bill Guthman (1970-75)

“Nardie was truly the kindest man I’ve ever met. He always looked for, and found, the best in people. I loved his stories and his deep connection to the camp family. As a kid, I looked forward to the winter visit during the reunion tour – Nardie pulling out a Goo Goo Cluster candy bar to share and proceeding to tell the story of its origin alongside highlights from the trail of amazing people he’d met along the way.”  — Brian Kramer (1988-93, 95-00)

“I have so many memories of Nardie, but my favorite one was: As a ninth-grade camper, several cabinmates/friends and I competed in a canoe race in the Village of Lake Nebagamon. By doing so, we missed the Rec Hall lunch. Nardie and Sally did not want to bother the kitchen staff (or make us go hungry!), so they invited us to the Little House where they served us lunch. More than that, we talked – and laughed –for well over an hour and really got to know Nardie and Sally as more the just camp directors. He will be missed by so many!” – Ron Koretz (1977-88)

“Among the many things I appreciated about Nardie was his willingness to join in the playfulness. One day, fellow counselor Ron Koretz and I were in the Big House when we noticed Nardie leave the office and head to the first floor bathroom. For some reason, we had a sense that it would be a long visit, so we went into the little alcove next to the bathroom and kitchen, where there used to be a payphone and recited in unison the little ditty that we had memorized from the wall of the bathroom: “All of us with septic tanks, give to you our heartfelt thanks, for putting nothing in the pot, that isn’t guaranteed to rot, Kleenex is bad, matchsticks too, cigarette butts are taboo.” At that point, instead of chastising us for violating their boss’s privacy, Nardie joined with great enthusiasm for the rousing conclusion: “No hair combings, use the basket, there’s a darn good reason why we ask it!“ — Larry Rivkin (1977-82, 84-86, 2021)

“Here are my reflections on Nardie Stein: Love, courage, caring for others, can-do, not flashy, committed to see through whatever he undertook in service of other people, fun-loving. Nardie rolled up his sleeves and took on big challenges with an unbeatable blend of enthusiasm tempered with practicality, sensitivity, and humility. He will forever be an inspiration.” – Bill Greenbaum (1965-70, 72-73, 76)

“One of the top 10 people who influenced my life for the better. He will be missed.” – Dave Knoepfle (1987-98, 2018)

“The memories of Nardie during my Nebagamon summers will always be in my mind. Nardie was a warm wonderful man, teacher, and mentor.” – Mitch Boxer (1972-77)

“I’ve known Nardie pretty much since he came to Nebagamon, and as a camp ‘lifer’ I felt his presence through my years there and for many more afterwards. There are so many memories, all indelible in my mind (along with all my other Nebagamon experiences), that taught me so much about myself and what I could become because of it. He was a big part of who I am now and who I was then.” – Bob Benton (1949-58)

“He taught an entire generation of men how to be kind. He was unique and the world’s a little less bright without him in it. – Trygve Olsen (1984-87)

A True Shadow Caster who greatly impacted my life. Being asked back to camp to be a CIT was a life changing event. Nardie was always there to give advice and praise as well as constructive suggestions on how to best handle sensitive situations. The last time I saw Nardie at the 90th Reunion, he was so proud of the trees that he and I along with others planted on the back end of the upper diamond. I will also never forget accompanying him on the piano during GTC’s despite the fact that a song would start off in one key and end up in another!” – Bud Schram (1954-59, 61-69)

“I always respected his enthusiasm. Whether he was singing at announcements, conducting a smell down or just encouraging you to persevere. I try to bring that into my classroom daily.” – Jay Kolbrener (1978-83, 87, 91, 94-95)

“Nardie had a huge impact on so many lives. One of the kindest people I’ve ever met.” – Dave Nissenbaum (1983-86, 88-90)

“A beautiful part of a very special relationship is the inside joke. Nardie and I enjoyed one that spanned over 60 years. It began when I was a Swamper in 1965 and… let’s just say Nardie and I shared a drink of prune juice (from Nardie’s “private stock”) to help me do my thing in the Jop. He said I could grab some from the Rec Hall kitchen any time I needed it. With his keen sense of humor, he called it our “Prune Juice Cocktail.” Two decades later, at my 30th birthday surprise party, Nardie gave me a personalized bottle of Scotch he called, “Chivas Fecal,” along with several small cans of prune juice. Still getting chuckles out of that!” – Rand Shapiro (1965-69, 71-75, 08-11, 13-15)

“Nardie was a gem. Such fond memories! He checked in with me one summer when I could not attend camp due to a surgery, just to see how I was doing.” – Bob Bergen (1975-77)

“Few people have had such a positive impact on so many. Nardie (and Sally, of course) touched the lives of thousands of young men and their families. We are all better people for having known him, and the world is a better place thanks to his long and happy sojourn here.” – Sam Friedman (former camp doctor)

“Nardie had a profound impact on the lives of so many campers and their families. He will very much be missed. Thanks for the memories.” – Steve Schaumberger (1972-77, 79)

“Nardie exemplified taking the work seriously, but not taking yourself seriously. As Axeman Push, I prided myself on creative announcements for our village Cruiser Day events. I don’t even remember the event, but I remember we had an announcement with the Axeman counselors roaming the Rec Hall and chanting. As my staff was doing their best Gregorian Chant impressions, Nardie just turned to me and said: ‘Murky, Hercy.’ – Raven Deerwater, formerly Dan “Hercules” Hirschhorn (1970-74, 76-85)

“He was the absolute finest friend, mentor and teacher! He was such a positive influence on generations of families, and means so much to so many. We’re all better off for our time spent with Nardie.” – Jim Rosen (1964-67, 72-75)