“My Favorite Photo was One from Camp”

That is a statement heard many times from former campers, some now fathers with campers of their own, and one I enthusiastically echo after four children and three grandchildren! My favorite photo is one of several from camp.

Portrait History Snippet

It all began in the early 70’s when Smiley Irvin approached Si about letting him produce a camp annual. It was to include individual pictures of the campers. One of the first photographers was Steve Pettit, who later became the official Stewart (later also Heart’s) photographer.  Steve suggested including an 8×10 glossy of each camper with their yearbook.  (For the Ragsdales, a by-product was that we got to have family pictures taken during a rest period each summer. Those pictures also line my walls!)  At the end of each term, Steve would set up a viewing ‘station’ for parents to view and order pictures.  When former staffers Kim & Summer Kneese (now Mealy), became the official camp photographers, they expanded the activity offerings to include such things as Chief Portraits, Advancement Panoramas, etc. These offerings often change year to year to reflect the interest of current campers at Stewart/Heart.


No one could question that I cherish the camp photos of my children! Their sun-kissed faces with more genuine smiles, hair that often needed combing, maybe teeth that needed brushing but faces reflecting happiness were ordered each year and framed for our wall, as well as extras for gifts for grandparents and relatives.  Now each night, thanks to camp, I can see a happy 12-year old Jon, a smiling Jane with long blond hair and glasses; a dark-haired, dark-eyed Juli in her pixie hair cut and a very young Jeeper attired in cowboy hat with a badge pinned to his shirt and an ear to ear grin: the memories are priceless. Camp pictures tell so much more of their personalities than more ‘formal studio-type’ shots!

Si & Catherine at Camp

When Si IV started camp, I dedicated a wall to be ‘the camp wall’ for the youngest grandchildren (Deen’s photos in another room).  I estimated there was space for close to 10 years of camp for each (brother/sister picnic shots weren’t factored in so more wall space may be needed!). Jose Luis found an old weathered board on which I painted Si & Catherine at Camp. 

Each year we add a special photo. (Sometimes I order several but only one goes on “THE” camp wall). I opted for 8×10 wrapped canvasses then the trick became to remember if I did 1”, 1.5” or what each summer – admittedly there are some different thicknesses – rather than traditional framing.  Often I let Si & Catherine help pick their favorite activity photo, and give them the option of ordering one also. This year Si wanted one of him playing Polo!  The ‘wall’ is a great way to see their growth, changes and interests…and makes me smile as I walk by several times a day.


After over 50 years at camp, I ran out of wall space. Now I have favorites from years gone by hanging. While others have been passed to children, removed from frames and put in photo albums, or stored in boxes but it is those on the walls that kindle forgotten memories of grown children as campers!

Give yourself the gift of building memories of children and grandchildren through their summers at camp! It sure has been fun for me!

​​​​​​Kathy Ragsdale, Stewart Matriarch

CEO, Camps Stewart & Heart O’ the Hills

To order 2020 pictures, follow the links below:

First Term Link: http://tpost.hohcamp.com/campphotos.aspx

Second Term Link:  http://tpost.hohcamp.com/campphotosheart-secondterm.aspx

Kim Kneese and Summer Kneese Mealy are offering one free 5×7 print for orders of $60 or more between now and Sept 30.  Don’t miss out! Enter promo code LINGER

About the Author

Kathy Ragsdale

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Kathy Ragsdale is the matriarch of Camp Stewart for Boys (and Heart O' the Hills Camp for Girls). For more than 40 years, she has been passionately involved on a daily basis (50-plus at Stewart). She is convinced that if everyone had a summer camp experience the world would function better – especially politically! Kathy has played an integral role in making both camps into top tier summer experiences for children. There’s nothing she likes better than hugs from campers – especially visiting former campers!

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