The Life Of A Happy Camper: Dick Brewster

Before he died on Friday, December 6, 2013 Irving “Dick” Brewster, 90, of Exeter, NH was one of the oldest known Alumni from Camp Lincoln.

Dick was born in Exeter on November 25, 1923, three years before Warren Tucker sold 65 acres of land on the shores of Kingston Lake to provide a permanent site for Rockingham County YMCA’s summer camping experiences for boys and young men. Dick entered his teens at just about the time that Camp Lincoln had developed into a one-week overnight camp for boys ages 8-15. A few cabins had been built and the capacity per session was 60-80 campers. Dick had very fond memories of those days and his mother had kept a scrapbook with pictures. You can view some of those pictures at Camp.

Dick was a “poster child” for the kind of ingenuity, initiative, and sense of community that is fostered at Camp Lincoln.

Dick graduated from Exeter High School as the US was entering World War II and went directly into the US Army where he served in both the European and Pacific Theaters. He landed on Omaha Beach on D-Day plus 1 and was part of the Signal Corps Communications Team that supported General Patton during the Battle of the Bulge. As we all know, Patton “led from the front” and Dick’s unit was overrun during a night battle. In the morning they found themselves behind the newly advanced enemy lines. They took a great risk in donning uniforms from dead German soldiers and then drove their own truck with all its signal gear into and with a German convoy for several days until the convoy came within sight of the US Army lines and they made a run for the US lines – and were almost shot by the GIs.

When orders came to ship out from Europe, instead of going home as he expected, he found himself going through the Panama Canal on the way to the Pacific where he entered Hiroshima with a reconnaissance team three days after “the bomb” was dropped there.

When he finally returned home after the end of the War, he used his Signal Corps background to get a job at the former New England Telephone Company. But having never gone to college, he started as a lineman while taking correspondence courses in Electrical engineering.

Have we mentioned the ingenuity and initiative fostered at Camp Lincoln?

In 33 years Dick worked his way up from lineman to an Engineering Supervisor working on assignments that included the “field communications board” used by US Presidents when traveling away from the White House.

His sense of community was equally impressive.

He was an active member of the Exeter Congregational Church, served as a deacon and Sunday School Teacher. He was a member of the Exeter Rotary Club where he served as the Secretary for many years, and he was Member of the Star of the East Masonic Lodge in Exeter.

He was also very proud of his service as a Trustee for the Robinson Female Seminary Foundation.

The Robinson Foundation was formed in 1853 by the will of William Robinson, an Exeter native who attended Phillips Exeter Academy and for whose sister there was no similar educational facility in the area. The will specified that the funds be for “only and solely for the instruction of females…all other things being equal, always to give preference to the poor and the orphan”. In 1869, the newly-built Robinson Female Seminary opened its doors to females from the Exeter area.

From 1869 until 1955, Robinson Seminary was the only public school in Exeter to serve post-elementary females (males attended the Tuck High School). In 1954 the School District passed a bond issue to build an addition to the Tuck School. The first co-educational class graduated from Exeter High School in 1956. A fire in 1961 destroyed the Seminary building. The Lincoln Street Elementary School and related playgrounds now occupy the site.

With the original need for post elementary education now filled by the public schools, Dick and the other Trustees worked to discontinue the existing gender bias in the distribution of awards. The Trustees petitioned the County Probate Court and in 1996 the court issued a decree that established a new Trust purpose: “…to create a fund to provide opportunities to enrich and enhance the educational experience of post-elementary age individuals within the area served by the Exeter Region Cooperative School District, through the development of programs, scholarships and grants.” Since that time Trust Earnings have been used to annually award up to four-year scholarships to Exeter High School graduating seniors going on to college or trade school based on financial need, grades, and community participation.

Dick was a “happy camper.” He will be remembered for his contagious smile and laugh.

Dick Brewster

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