In the Midst of God's Creation: 75 Years at Camp Lone Star

A history of Camp Lone Star in Texas.

A history of Camp Lone Star in Texas.


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75 Years at Camp Lone Star

by Ron Lammert

A publication of

Lutheran Outdoors Ministry of Texas

Thank you for your interest in this HPNbooks publication.

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75 Years at Camp Lone Star

by Ron Lammert

A publication of Lutheran Outdoors Ministry of Texas

Printing and Design by


A division of Lammert Incorporated

San Antonio, Texas

Devotion Hill was always a place of inspiration, devotion and memories for those attending camp in the early years. That tradition has continued over 75 years, although the site for

campfire devotions may have changed names and locations a few times.

First Edition

Copyright © 2016 Lutheran Outdoors Ministry of Texas

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, without permission in writing

from the copyright holder. All inquiries should be addressed to Lutheran Outdoors Ministry of Texas, P.O. Box 457, La Grange, Texas 78945, 800-362-2078, www.lomt.com.

ISBN: 978-1-944891-15-2

Library of Congress Card Catalog Number: 2016944995

In the Midst of God’s Creation - 75 Years at Camp Lone Star

author: Ron Lammert

designer: Colin Hart


administration: Donna M. Mata

Melissa G. Quinn

book sales: Dee Steidle

production: Katy Lammert

Evelyn Hart

Christopher D. Sturdevant





9 CHAPTER 1 The Early Years - Ted Lammert

31 CHAPTER 2 The First Transition - Rev. Edmund Frank

37 CHAPTER 3 Mr. John - Rev. John J. Socha

49 CHAPTER 4 Camp Lone Star Comes of Age - Garland Midgett

75 CHAPTER 5 The Professor of Camp - Keith Lund

85 CHAPTER 6 Why Does Camp Matter?



The new manager’s cabin was constructed during Rev. Frank’s tenure as Camp Manager.

Contents ✦ 3


Driving on Camp Lone Star Road, people are greeted by animal life and

trees lining both sides of the road. Stately oak trees are all around camp with

leaves rustling in the wind. Deer are seen drinking from the lake, outside the

Johnson Retreat Center, in the morning and evening hours. God’s nature

surrounds people and is a major part of a Camp Lone Star experience.

Nature is used throughout the Bible as a sure sign of God’s power and

truth. According to Isaiah, God’s children “will go out in joy and be led forth

in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the

trees of the field will clap their hands” (Is. 55:12). King David wrote in

Psalm 9, “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the

works of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night

they display knowledge.” A Camp Lone Star experience brings these

passages and others to the forefront for all.

This book, In the Midst of God’s Creation, celebrates the lives of many

people who have made Camp Lone Star what it is today. Many have invested

time and money over 75 years to ensure that others could enjoy nature and

God’s love. People share their experiences at Camp Lone Star along with how

the camp affected their lives and vocations. Historical facts along with

personal sharing tell the history and ministry of Camp Lone Star.

Thank you to the people who contributed to the making of this book.

Special thanks go to Ron Lammert for sorting through hundreds of pages of

historical records and for his commitment to this project.

Camp Lone Star’s history is marvelous, and its future is bright like the

stars shining in the clear night sky. Many more memories will be made through the summer camping programs, retreats, and other

gatherings throughout the year. Join with nature and God’s people thanking Him for 75 years of ministry in the midst of His creation.

Rev. Ken Hennings


Texas District

Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod




A lot of folks think the finest part of Texas is the stretch of rolling prairie bordered with pin oak

and cedar woods, between Houston and Austin. Through this fertile and historic region runs the

Colorado River. And situated on the banks of that river is the town of La Grange, a place of heritage

ranging from the heroic to the scandalous. And it is near La Grange where a beautiful piece of ground

is home to Camp Lone Star, a supportive organization of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod

(LCMS). Camp Lone Star celebrates 75 years of service in 2016.

It is not much of a surprise that the founders of Camp Lone Star chose this site for their permanent

encampment. It is just a few miles from Serbin, where Wendish Lutherans settled in 1854, after a

devastating ocean voyage resulting in the loss of 73 lives to cholera and yellow fever, out of a total of

588 emigrants. These hardy pioneers came to Texas to preserve their Lutheran faith and to find new

economic opportunity. They became the first Texas congregation to join the fledgling Lutheran

Church-Missouri Synod, and they helped spread LCMS congregations throughout Texas. The camp is

also situated between Houston and Austin, an area of the state with the highest LCMS concentration.

When the camp was acquired in 1941, it was a brushy tract of 50 acres on the Colorado River,

with no structures. The first buildings were built by volunteers and crafted with rough cut pine

exteriors. Today those crude buildings have been replaced by modern facilities for summer campers

and retreat groups. A four to six acre lake, a modern swimming pool, a challenge course and a

covered athletic court grace the campus. The camp has acquired additional wooded tracts and today

covers 260 acres. Much of the area is home to whitetail deer and other native species.

But when folks recount their experience at Camp Lone Star, it is rarely about the scenic beauty of

the land, or the functional buildings for meeting, eating and sleeping. And it’s not about the historic

location, or the deer, armadillos and raccoons that roam this piece of God’s Creation.

Instead what you hear about are relationships--experiences with people and with God, in a very

special intentional Christian community. Camp Lone Star was designed to be, and has kept its focus,

as a place where you can meet Jesus without the distractions, noise, negativity and chaos of the world

The Lammert family, Ted, Ruth and

Ronnie, pose at the old bridge on the

trail from the dining hall to the center

of camp, c. 1951.

Introduction ✦ 5

The Fayette County Courthouse, built

in 1891, dominates the skyline of

downtown La Grange, and reminds

all of the sense of Texas heritage so

evident in the region.



outside. Camp Lone Star is a place for kids, and

the heart of camp is a dynamic summer camp

program. But it is also a place for adults to

experience their faith through retreats, meetings

and time away from daily life.

I know a lot about Camp Lone Star because I

grew up at camp. My father, Ted Lammert, was

the first director, or resident manager, of Camp

Lone Star, when camping programs began, in

1945. My mom, Ruth Lammert, was in charge of

the kitchen. I was born in 1946. My sister,

Bekki, joined us in 1954. It was a great life,

spending those first nine summers of my life at

camp. There were always such great people

around. And there were fun lessons about Jesus

and His love for all. Music was always a big part

of camp and we ended every day with a

campfire devo. Food was outstanding and no

one ever complained about spending summer

months with only electric fans for relief from the

Texas heat. Back then everybody at camp got a

nickname. Mine was “Lemon,” because I loved

to suck on sour lemons I lifted from the camp

kitchen. I got to ride into town in the old orange

panel truck to pick up eggs, meat and produce

with my friend, Howard Lacey, as driver.

Howard and I still talk about those memorable

days. I also got to swim in a swimming pool just

about every day, all summer long. Nobody I

knew back in Katy got to do that. I was a kid

who grew up going to church, Memorial

Lutheran in Katy. But my walk with Jesus

really bloomed as a result of those years

at camp. Being with people who constantly

talked, played, studied, laughed and lived their

faith in Jesus Christ was just so compelling for a

young kid.

Even after my dad was no longer camp

manager, I still went to camp as a camper. And

I attended LSV School, short for Lutheran

Service Volunteers. As a high school junior I

applied to be a counselor and was accepted. Yes,

they let high schoolers be counselors in those

days. Our training and expectations were

meager compared to how summer counselors

are trained and motivated today. But it was a

super experience, being able to lead a “tribe” of

boys, some who were only four years younger

than me. And it was great to work with our

family friend, John Socha, the manager of camp

in the 1960s.

After my experience as a counselor, my

connection to Camp Lone Star took a break,

even though those great memories remained. I

got married to my love, Glenda, got a couple of

degrees and started a business. We had three

daughters, and when they started approaching

camp age, it was time to come back. Mike

Linebrink invited me on a LOMT fishing trip,

talked me into joining the Development Council,

which led to membership on the LOMT Board

and eventually election as President of the Board.

All this time our three daughters attended

Camp Lone Star and loved it. Missy and Johanna

had great experiences at camp, but for my

youngest, Christy, it became a passion. She did the

entire camp career routine: camper in elementary

and middle school, Junior Staff during high

school, Counselor while attending Baylor, and,

most important, she found a husband at camp.

Christy and Daniel O’Shoney were married in

August, 2011. Today, they serve God through

their work with the Our Saviour New York

(OSNY) Midtown Manhattan Congregation.

Last summer my five-year old granddaughter,

Amelie Lammert, attended camp. She became

the fifth generation of the Lammerts, counting

my grandmother, who participated in Camp

Lone Star activities.

All this to say that someone came up with the

idea that I write a book about the history of

Camp Lone Star for the 75th anniversary. How


could I turn down an opportunity like that?

I began planning how to approach the book

in August 2014. Several challenges immediately

became clear. There were very few previous

histories of Camp Lone Star, at least of any

length. Many of the documents that were readily

available were board minutes of Texas Outdoors

Ministry and Lutheran Outdoors Ministry of

Texas. These cover the years from 1979 on, but

leave the years of 1941 to 1979 pretty blank.

The challenge of getting documents from the

early years, particularly 1941 to 1972, I hoped,

would be in the archives of the Texas District.

Keith Lund and I requested archive

documents that dealt with Camp Lone Star

through that period. Thanks to Meredith

Wright, with the District staff, we were

presented with 20 bankers boxes full of papers,

most in no particular order. Over several days

Keith and I were able to look at each piece of

paper in those boxes. If we found something of

interest, and we found a lot, we took a

photograph of it. Thanks to my friend, Dwight

Andreas, who helped with the photography of

archive documents.

Additionally, I began to schedule interviews.

Most were recorded, and the subjects were

people who have been involved with Camp

Lone Star, from the very earliest years to the

present. I spent a lot of time interviewing

Garland and Stell Midgett, of course. Their

working tenure with the camp occupies about

33 of the 75 years the camp has been in

existence. But I also spent a lot of time with

others, especially individuals who could share

memories of early camp years. One of those was

Arnold Mathias, of Waco, who is the only living

person we could locate who was actually

present at the Walther League convention in

1941, when the La Grange site for the camp was

accepted. I had forgotten that my cousin,

Kathleen Hite, had worked at camp from 1945

to the early ’50s. Her interview and recollections

of early camp life were incredibly helpful.

Some others who participated in formal or

informal interviews are as follows: Suzanne and

Vince Neuhaus, Katherine and Gene Bode, Janet

and Glenn Hurta, Keith and Jill Lund, Rev. Larry

Krueger, Suzanne Mueller, Jonathan Socha,

Peggy Berry, Howard Lacey, Wes and Puddin

Krueger, Karin Warren, Matt Chambers, John

Hawkins, Christy O’Shoney, Rev. Ken Hennings

and Mike Linebrink.

Special thanks to Charlotte Hintze, a

daughter of Camp Manager Rev. Edmund Frank.

Charlotte helped gather her brothers and sisters

to recall memories of their family’s brief twoyear

service as the camp manager family. And

special thanks to those family members: Emily

Louise Frank, Jane Elizabeth Thompson, Sara

Louise Frank, John Richard Frank, Mary Elaine

Dobrasko, Charlotte Ann Hintze, Edmund Paul

Frank, Jr., and Janet Victoria Naumann.

I’ve also had a lot of phone calls and

discussions from others eager to help with the

project. An example is a call from Evelyn

Buchhorn, who provided a list of people in the La

Grange and Giddings area who were involved in

the early years of camp. Karen Bernhardt provided

photos of Eric Robert, her great uncle, for whom

the old camp gate is dedicated, and who presided

over the infamous 1941 WL Convention.

Fayette County is in the heart of

Texas bluebonnet country. Going in

any direction from La Grange brings

the traveler to similar scenes of rural

tranquility and beauty.



Introduction ✦ 7

Deer browsing by the lake is a

common early morning sight at

Camp Lone Star.

Thanks to everyone who has helped in any

way, whether you are listed here, or not.

Photos were less of a challenge. Many photos

exist from the early days of camp, as my dad took

hundreds of pictures and processed them in a

darkroom in the original manager’s cabin. The

camera he used, by the way, I inherited. It is a true

classic, a Voitländer Bessa II, that shoots 120 film.

The camp has a collection of old scrapbooks

that cover much of the early days. Garland and

Stell Midgett provided a number of photos, as did

Janet Hurta. And then we get into the era of digital

photography: There are thousands of camp photos

available on digital media from the past 10 to 15

years, taken by talented staff photographers.

Special thanks to my daughter, Missy Lammert,

for many hours of scanning photographs for this

book. These scans will become a permanent part

of the digital archive of Camp Lone Star.

As I began writing the narrative, one conflict

kept popping up that requires some explanation.

There are many overlapping titles that have been

given to leadership at Camp Lone Star over the

decades. For example, there have been lots of

Camp Directors. But sometimes this was not the

person in charge of Camp Lone Star. Rather the

title might have been used to refer to someone in

charge of a week of camp. The early Walther

League solved this by referring to the main director

of camp, essentially the CEO of camp, as the

Resident Camp Manager. The same thing pops up

years later when the title Camp Director came into

use. There were Camp Directors who directed only

a week of camp. And there were Camp Directors

who may have been in charge of programs for

summer camp, but worked under someone with a

different, and more exalted, title.

To solve the issue of titles and to give

structure to the narrative, I decided to name

chapters after the five individuals who were, in

reality, the true CEOs of Camp Lone Star, over

the years. The five men are Ted Lammert, Rev.

Edmund Frank, Rev. John J. Socha, Garland

Midgett and Keith Lund. One caveat. There

were times when the CEO of Camp Lone Star

reported to another person, but remained the

CEO, with full responsibility for the activities

and management of Camp Lone Star. A good

example of this was the time, in the 1980s and

early 1990s when Karl Petzke was hired

replacing Garland Midgett as “Executive

Director” of TOM. Garland Midgett reported to

Karl, but Garland remained, in every sense of

the word, the CEO of Camp Lone Star. There

were also individuals given the official title of

Camp Director, such as Jim Holmlund, Matt

Behrens and Dr. Phil Frusti, who reported to

either Garland or Keith, but never had the full

authority of the CEO’s mentioned above.

The biggest challenge, however, in crafting the

book is this. Over the past 75 years, tens of

thousands of people have been blessed by the

ministry of Camp Lone Star. At least a thousand,

or more, have worked at Camp Lone Star.

Another group, in the hundreds, has been on

boards of directors: TOM, LOMT, and the

Walther League Camp Board. Another couple of

hundred have served on the Development

Council. How does a book on Camp Lone Star

history ever do justice to all these great people

and their generous contributions? My prayer is

that everyone who reads this book, through

memories recalled, can find himself or herself In

The Midst of God’s Creation.




To really understand Camp Lone Star, you have to understand the Walther League. The Walther

League, after all, was the organization that founded Camp Lone Star. The Walther League’s DNA is

all over Camp Lone Star.

If you were born after 1960, you may have never heard of the Walther League. So a quick

explanation is in order. The Walther League was founded in 1893 and named after C.F.W. Walther,

the first president of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod. The League was a national organization

for youth and young adults, founded on Lutheran Christian principles. Most LCMS congregations

had Walther League chapters or societies. Groups of congregational chapters were organized into

zones. And state organizations, roughly equivalent to Synodical Districts, were also called Districts.

The international headquarters of the Walther League was in Chicago.

School-age Walther Leaguers were called Junior Leaguers. Those college age and above were

Senior Leaguers. Some Senior Leaguers stayed involved until reaching their 40s.

The Walther League grew rapidly at a time of some of the greatest expansion of the LCMS. The

growth was driven primarily by the embracing of English as the official language of most LCMS

churches. German was dropped in favor of English as a result of anti-German sentiment of World

War I. The language shift opened the Synod to tens of thousands of new congregants.

A second factor was the establishment of The Lutheran Hour radio program by the Lutheran

Laymen’s League in 1930. The program was the first nationally broadcast religious program in the

United States. It had an amazing impact, as thousands of Americans, for the first time, heard

sermons, based on Lutheran doctrine and God’s Word, delivered by Dr. Walter A. Maier. New LCMS

churches were planted and expanded at an unprecedented rate. The Walther League rode this wave

of growth and expanded throughout the U.S., Canada and even Mexico. At one time there were

nearly 5,000 Walther League chapters.

This sandstone sculpture of the

Walther League logo, chiseled by an

unknown artist in the late 1950s or

early ’60s, is displayed in the Retreat

Center as a reminder of Camp Lone

Star’s heritage.

Chapter 1 ✦ 9

A map, published in 1930, showing

the nineteen Walther League Summer

Conference Camps located across

the U.S.

Dr. Maier became a national sensation, with

his staccato style of preaching. Dr. Maier had

been the Executive Secretary of International

Walther League prior to becoming the first

speaker for The Lutheran Hour.

Walther Leaguers met for Bible study, prayer

and worship. They sang hymns and spiritual

songs. They engaged in service projects and

they raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for

Wheat Ridge Ministries, an agency supporting

Lutheran health and human care facilities. But

recreation was also a big part of the Walther

League. Leaguers hiked, played volleyball and

softball, roller skated, went on hay rides and

square danced.

By the early 1920s Leaguers were holding

“conference camps,” combining convention

work with outdoor camping. One Walther

League District, in Michigan, became the first,

in 1922, to actually found a permanent camp

site. Camp Arcadia, on the shore of Lake

Michigan, was a model for subsequent Walther

League camps, including Camp Lone Star.

The Lone Star District of the Walther League,

comprising the state of Texas and a few

congregations in Mexico, appointed a “Summer

Conference Camp Committee” to report to the

1928 Convention. Serving on that committee

were Rev. G.H. Biar, R.G. Ostoff and E.E. Sitz,

all of Waco. The committee recommended to

the convention a resolution “That we have a

summer conference camp in Texas during the

summer of 1929,” and that a committee be

elected to establish and conduct that camp. The

resolution passed.

The Lone Star Leaguer reported in May 1929,

plans for a camp to be held after the annual

Walther League Convention: “Our Summer

Camp Committee has secured Glen Rose Park,

some 23 miles west of Cleburne, Texas, as the

location of our District Summer Camp and has

set the date of camp immediately following our

Convention, namely July 10-14. The Camp

Committee will write each society, giving all

details concerning the camp. What a wonderful

opportunity will be granted us Leaguers to

spend the first part of the week at the

convention in Dallas, and the latter part at

beautiful Glen Rose at our first District League

Camp! Are we going to miss these

opportunities? Not if we can help it.”

Approximately 40 Walther Leaguers attended

the Glen Rose Camp. Was it successful?

According to the Lone Star Leaguer, “’Wherever

and whenever the next summer conference

camp of the Walther League will be, I’ll be

there!’ These words were the parting words of

many who attended the conference last summer

in a camp near Glen Rose, Texas.”

Enthusiasm for conference camps was such

that they continued to be held through the 1930s

at locations, including Ceta Glen Canyon, near

Amarillo, and other retreat and camp facilities.

Enthusiasm for camping continued among

Walther Leaguers. Some of the conventioncamps

were held in primitive tent setups. Others

were conducted in a formal retreat center, like

the one in Kerrville. But by 1940 the Lone Star

District was ready to secure its own property for

a camp, as other Walther League districts had

done. At the 1940 convention, Walther Leaguers

overwhelmingly approved a resolution creating a

Permanent Camp Committee to study possible

locations and financing for the site.

By the Spring of 1941, the Permanent Camp

Committee had two sites to recommend, as

recorded in the Lone Star District Board minutes:

“Mr. Jutzi, a member of the Permanent Camp

Committee gave a report on two camp sites that

have been inspected, one of which is located at

Lampasas and the other at La Grange. Rev.

Buchschacher gave a report on the Lampasas

site, on behalf of the Bluebonnet Zone.”


The minutes also record that the representative

present from the International office of Walther

League, Rev. Coates, “advised that International

does not encourage Districts to set up permanent

camps, especially in these times.” Coates was

certainly referring to the war raging in Europe,

and the military buildup in Japan.

Despite Coates’ advice, the board wanted a

camp. A motion was made, seconded and

carried that set the matter before the 1941 Lone

Star District convention, to be held in San

Antonio July 4-6, 1941.

Although the actual minutes of the

convention cannot be found, according to a

Camp history, published for a Walther League

convention a few years later, two decisions were

reached at the San Antonio convention. First, it

was “decided to purchase and equip a

permanent camp.” The second decision, on

which site to select, was likely the more difficult

of the two. The Lampasas site included cabins

and was situated on a branch of the Lampasas

River. However, it would require raising of

$4,000 to purchase the property. The La Grange

site was being offered at no cost to the Walther

League, but it had no improvements at all.

A column in the La Grange Journal, “The

Rambler,” reported that the La Grange

delegation to the Walther League convention

would be wearing, and urging other Leaguers to

wear, badges decorated with orange and black

streamers, and the motto: “La Grange, Where

The Best Begins”. According to Evelyn

Buchhorn, of Austin, one of her relatives, Alfred

Fisher, was a La Grange delegate who spoke at

the convention in favor of the La Grange site.

Fisher was killed in the war a few years later.

The convention selected the 50-acre La

Grange site, which was donated to the Lone Star

District by Fred Wilkens and William Hermes.

Wilkens was the property owner and Hermes a

local La Grange resident who paid Wilkens a

partial payment for the property. The La Grange

Journal stated that the actual vote was 56 to 55

in favor of the La Grange site.

Without a doubt the debate at the San

Antonio convention was intense. In its report of

the convention, the La Grange Journal described

the action: “The fight began Friday—pardon the

use of the word—and for two hours the various

pro and con discussions continued. It soon

From the June-July, 1935, Lone Star Leaguer:

Where? To the Methodist-Kerrville Assembly, Kerrville, Texas, August 11th to

18th, to attend your District Convention-Camp, and have the grandest vacation

of your lifetime at the unusual low price of $10.00. We will give you a perfect

vacation for eight full days. We know it sounds unreasonable that you can have

a grand and glorious vacation for only ten dollars over and above your transportation.

Yet your District, through its officials has made this possible.

What makes for a perfect Christian vacation? Don’t you agree that these are

essential features, namely, the true Christian atmosphere and fellowship,

delightful and enjoyable education, inspiration, wholesome recreation, lots of

fun and plenty of laughter, beneficial athletic activity, plenty of rest, and lots of

good eats? If you do, and we don’t see how you can feel otherwise, then you will

spend your vacation with us in Kerrville. We offer you all these features and in

their proper proportion:

Our schedule for each camp day is briefly as follows:

7:00 A.M—Reveille


8:15—Educational Conference and Open Forum.



12:30—Rest or Quiet Hour

2:00—Contests, hikes, swimming


7:00—Fellowship games

8:15—Wiener roasts, camp fires, stunt programs, fellowship programs

9:45—Evening Devotion in Group


We do not have space to give you the detailed features, yet we assure you

there will be enough variety so that you, no matter what you like, will find plenty

of things you’ll enjoy.

Rev. A.J. Meyer will serve as dean, Mrs. E.F. Wilkening as dietician, matron and

chief cook, and the undersigned as manager. They will put forth every possible effort

to satisfy you in every way.

Decide now, if you have not already done so, to spend your vacation in the

“Heart-O-the Hills” August 11-18. The climate is invigorating, the surroundings

most beautiful, the program, attractive and inspiring, and your association, your

fellow Lutherans and Leaguers, extremely delightful and enjoyable.

Secure a registration card immediately from your society secretary or chairman

of Christian Service, or write to the undersigned and forward it to us immediately.

One and all, think Convention- Camp, talk Convention-Camp, and be

at Convention-Camp August 11 to 18 at Kerrville, Texas.

Bernhard F. Jutzi, Houston Texas

became apparent that those who were favoring

Lampasas, were playing for time, they wanted

the discussion to be renewed on Saturday

Chapter 1 ✦ 11

ecause the Mayor of Lampasas was due to arrive

that day and to tell his story. And he came.”

“Saturday morning the camp again came on

for discussion, and it was presented to the

convention by the Mayor of Lampasas that

property valued at $60,000 was available for the

sum of $4,000, and with that a few other good

suggestions. La Grange retaliated, thru Rev.

R. P. Nerger (pastor of Trinity Hill Lutheran

Church), that the site at La Grange was

tendered through the philanthropy of a local

citizen, and that caused the thought to

become closeted in the minds of the delegates

attending, that it would be an unwise trade, to

give the $1,000 proposition, already cinched,

for a possible $60,000 location knocked down

to $4,000.”

In order to accept the offer of the property

from Mr. Wilkens and Mr. Hermes, the

Executive Board of the Lone Star District created

and incorporated a Walther League Camp

Association, in the fall of 1941. This Association

became the legal holder of the title of the camp

property at 10:15 a.m. on November 10, 1941,

the official birth date of the Walther League

Camp. Also organized was a Camp Board to

direct the development and activities of the new

camp. Original members of the Camp Board

were John Babcock, J.P. Kelson, Rev. Robert

Nerger, Dr. A.H. Rebsch, B.F. Jutzi, and Eric

Robert. Original members of the Camp Board

became incorporators of the Walther League

Camp Association. The Camp Board was later

augmented with the addition of Marie

Bornemann, H. Ritter, Henry Schutte, Rev. Max

Studtmann and Ted Lammert (ex-officio

member). The Board appointed Mr. Arthur

Fehr, of Austin, to be the architect for the camp.

The Camp Board was reluctant to begin

major expansion of the camp during the war

years. It was initially decided that until the war

ended, no permanent construction would be

undertaken. But the Camp Board did agree to

begin raising money for the eventual

construction of buildings and to erect

temporary facilities, so the camp could be used.

It is apparent that the camp property did not lie

completely fallow during the war years. In

Walther League documents Leaguers who

helped clear camp property during “work

camps” were repeatedly thanked.

A crude kitchen, dining room and sleeping

room was erected in 1942 to serve the “work

campers”. The sleeping quarter was 15 by 40

feet and provided space for bunks to sleep 14.

The Texas District-LCMS, at convention

in 1943, approved a fund raising campaign

for the Walther League, so that camp funds


The 1962 Film, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, left us a classic film quote: “This is the West, sir. When the legend becomes

fact, print the legend.”

There is a legend associated with the vote at the 1941 San Antonio convention, on selection of a site for the Walther League camp.

It has come down through the years, in various forms, but always attributed to individuals who were at the convention. The only

living attendee at that convention, Arnold Mathias, either has no recollection of that vote, or he prefers to not remember it. Mathias,

from Copperas Cove, was a strong advocate for the Lampasas site. But he insists his memory about the convention is vague.

With that in mind, and inspired by the young reporter in Liberty Valance, here is the legend.

When Lone Star District President, and convention chairman, Eric Robert called for the vote, delegates were to cast their vote

for either the Lampasas site or the La Grange site. After votes were counted, the result was a tie, 55 votes in favor of each site.

At that point someone remembered that one conventioneer was still in bed, at the nearby housing facility for delegates. It was

suggested he may have overindulged in convention activities the night before. The young man in question was from Copperas

Cove, so most assumed his vote could swing the decision to the Lampasas site. After heated discussion, the vote was held open

until the errant delegate could be found. Upon entering the convention hall the young man was given the opportunity to vote,

and to the surprise of the assembly, he voted for the La Grange site.

Fact or legend? We’ll never know, but either way, it needed to be printed in this book.

Note: nearly 75 years later, Arnold Mathias gave his assessment of the site decision, “Even though I was in favor of Lampasas,

I now know the Lord helped us make that decision in the right direction.”


could be generated. Unfortunately, the Texas

District also initiated its own War Memorial

campaign to be run at the same time. Still, the

Leaguers were able to raise nearly $7,000 for

camp construction.

The year of 1944 brought sad news to Lone

Star District Leaguers. Their former president,

Eric Robert, of Dallas, who had joined the Army

in 1943, was killed in action in the Battle of St.

Lo, in Italy, in 1944. In a letter addressed to

Lone Star District Walther Leaguers for their

1944 convention, dated April 30, 1944, from

“Somewhere in England,” Robert reminded

Leaguers that, “Some of my happiest moments

have been spent in doing the work of the

League, and its cause has come to be very close

to my heart.” He signed his letter, “God bless

you and your work and keep you all until we

shall meet again.”

Lieutenant Eric Robert was killed in a

friendly fire incident on July 26, 1944.

At the 1944 convention, as the inevitable

conclusion of the war became apparent, plans

began in earnest for a summer camp. A

convention resolution resolved, “that the

department of Christian Knowledge in

consultation with the Executive Board be

instructed to endeavor to conduct a summer

camp at La Grange next summer, if at all feasible.”

The same resolution also noted that the camp

was equipped, at that time, with “physical

facilities” to accommodate groups of up to 30

persons. A second resolve asked that facilities be

expanded over the next year to accommodate

larger groups.

Of further encouragement to the Walther

League was the action of the Texas District in

convention, in 1945, affirming that, “Since the

Camp Program is a vital part of Christian

education, we would urge the delegates to

encourage their young people to attend the

Camp and their congregations to assist in

building and improving and supporting the

Camp at La Grange.” That same year the

Lutheran Layman’s League district convention

resolved, in regard to the camp, “that we pledge

our cooperation to the Walther League in this

worthy endeavor.”

A group of men, primarily from La Grange

and Houston, formed an organization they

called, “Association for the Purchase of Land and

the Development of the Camp.” The group was

ultimately responsible for the purchase of

additional land from Mr. Wilkens, bringing the

total acreage to 63. At this time a clause in the

original deed was changed, in cooperation with

Wilkens. The clause had provided that the camp

property would revert to the ownership of

Wilkens and Hermes and their heirs, in the event

Above: Eric Robert shown with his

Biar cousins just before shipping out

for service in Italy.

Below: The cover of the program for

the 1941 Walther League Convention,

held in San Antonio, at which the La

Grange camp site won out.

Chapter 1 ✦ 13

Above: Ted Lammert became the first

Resident Camp Manager of the

Walther League Camp in 1945. He

also served as president of the

Walther League Lone Star District

from 1943 to 1949.

Below: Walther League officers met in

the outdoors of the new camp in 1945

to make plans for the expansion of

the camp.

the property was no longer used as a “youth

camp”. The new language left out any reversion

of the property to Wilkens and Hermes.

By early 1945, plans were well under way for

the first camp sessions in July. The first camp

director, officially titled “Resident Camp

Manager,” was appointed by the Camp Board,

the current president of the Walther League

Lone Star District, Ted Lammert. There is some

question as to whether Lammert was hired, or

simply appointed, as there is no record of a

discussion about compensation.

In either event, Lammert accepted the task

and responsibilities. At the time he was a high

school teacher at Katy High School. With his

summer free, it allowed him to devote time to

the Walther League camp.

Lammert was a native Texan, born in The

Grove, son of Rev. and Mrs. F.W. Lammert. He

attended Concordia Teacher’s College-Seward,

Nebraska and received a two-year teaching

diploma. His first, and only, call was to the

parochial school at St. Paul Lutheran Church in

Vernon. There, during the 1930s, he was

principal and teacher to eight grades of students

in one classroom. In Vernon, Lammert met and

courted Ruth Teinert. The two were married

in 1934.

He also continued his education and completed

his B.A. in education through West Texas State

University in Canyon. He later completed a

graduate degree at the University of Houston.

In 1941, the Lammerts moved to Houston,

and eventually Katy, where Ted’s classmate at

Seward, T.J. Heinemeier, had been hired as

Superintendent of Schools for the Katy

Independent School District. Lammert was

hired as principal at Katy High School. He later

gave up the administrative position to teach,

and became a teacher of history and

government at Katy High for the next 40 years.

After retiring from teaching Ted Lammert did

not slow down, being involved as a regional

director for AARP, and serving as president of

the Texas Wendish Heritage Society.

Lammert was a logical choice to be Resident

Camp Director in 1945. He had a long history of

work with the Walther League and was a

popular and dedicated Lone Star District

president since 1943. As a teacher, he certainly

knew about working with children. Many

remember Ted Lammert as a natural leader with

a jovial personality, and a drive to make things

happen. He also brought two other assets to the

table. First, he had a high level of self-taught

carpentry and building skill. This would be an

asset as camp structures began to rise, using

volunteer labor. Second was a wife who was a

skilled cook, and also a talented pianist. Ruth

Lammert became the chief cook, in charge of

the camp kitchen, and was also available to

accompany songs and hymns on the piano.


To the delight of Walther Leaguers and

members of Lutheran churches in Texas, two

one-week camp sessions were held from June 24

through July 8, 1945. The first session was full

with 30 campers and the second had 29. The

only negative event recorded that first summer

was the torrential rain that caused havoc as

campers arrived for the first session. The dirt

and gravel road to camp was impassible for

most vehicles. Several trucks were quickly

rounded up to ferry campers from the Highway

77 intersection to camp.

A report by Rev. Robert Nerger, a Camp

Board member and active in leading 1945 camp

sessions, was given to the Walther League

Executive Committee in which he described the

“success” of the camp. In addition to the two

weeks of camp, Nerger also mentioned that

another 140 attended “Campers Reunion Day,”

evidently a one-day event for Senior Leaguers.

Profit from the first summer of camp was

reported as $196.69.

Enthusiasm over the first sessions of camp

spring-boarded Walther Leaguers into high gear

for fund raising and camp improvements. In

February 1946, Missouri Synod President Rev.

J.W. Behnken was guest speaker at a banquet in

Houston to benefit theLone Star Walther

League Camp.” More than 340 tickets were sold

to the banquet, held at the San Jacinto Inn. The

event netted in excess of $5,000, which went

toward purchase of additional camp property.

The Leaguers also organized, during this

time, a booster club of camp donors. More than

200 joined the Booster Club, with a minimum

$1.00 contribution to the camp.

In the 1946 Lone Star District convention

handbook, titled “Build The Camp Special

Edition,” Camp Board Secretary John J. Socha

reported on camp improvements. The first

priority, he noted, was the completed all-weather

road to and from camp. “The road leading to the

camp,” he reported, “was widened, graded and

completely graveled.” He praised the Fayette

County authorities and the La Grange Chamber

Above: Tents were the sleeping

quarters for the first years of camp.

Fortunately many surplus tents were

available as the wars in Europe and

the Pacific came to an end.

Below: Popular Synodical President

Dr. J. W. Behnken speaking at the

camp benefit banquet held in 1946.

Chapter 1 ✦ 15

Above: The lake under construction.

Right: The completed lake is filled, but

had a few remaining obstacles.

of Commerce for their “splendid cooperation” in

getting the road improved.

Second priority mentioned by Socha was that

“a five to seven acre lake is almost completed at

the writing of this report. The lake is situated on

the bed of the creek which leads to the Indian

Well. Its beauty can only be enjoyed by those

who behold it from the newly cleared area atop

Devotion Hill.” (Devotion Hill is now referred to

as Alleluia Devotion Site.)

He also mentioned the barn red color added to

all the existing buildings: “Buildings have been

given an inviting look by a coat of rustic stain. The

work was done by our genial District President.”

Socha referred to the Four Year Plan, begun

at the start of 1946 to raise funds for future

building projects. Congregations and societies

were encouraged to contribute so that work can

continue on “the next permanent projects,”

which he listed as Sanitary Plant, Kitchen

Cafeteria, Dormitories, and Recreation Hall.

The first Girl’s Dorm was built in 1946 in

time for the summer camp sessions. Boys would

still sleep in tents for another year. Before the

end of 1946, the camp had electric lights,

sanitary sewerage and 100 cots and mattresses

for campers.

A promotional brochure for the 1947 summer

camp described the “temporary” accommodations:

“The camp, located three miles south of La Grange

is temporarily set up to accommodate eighty

children or adults, officer’s quarters being furnished


Top: The first girl’s dorm.

Middle: The one-room camp

manager’s cabin.

Bottom: The camp’s first aid building.

for staff members. Two dormitories, each holding

twenty bunk beds, are located at the temporary

location on the south-east end of the camp site. All

children are housed in well-ventilated dormitories

with ample and healthful facilities. In addition to

these accommodations, there is a clean kitchen and

a conveniently located dining hall. All buildings are

equipped with electric lighting facilities, running

water, and clean toilets and showers. An outdoor

canvas covered hut provides shelter for meeting,

classes, lectures, etc.”

“Ample space for recreational activities of

various types is provided on the large,

beautifully wooded camp site. It might be

mentioned that although the present buildings

and accommodations are not a part of the

permanent camp plans, they are very adequate

for the present time, being well constructed and

conveniently located.”

The permanent Girl’s Dorm and Recreation

Hall (now the Celebration House) were built in

1948, along with a one-room Manager’s Cabin.

The Dining Hall and Kitchen, funded by the

first of many grants from the Lutheran Women’s

Missionary League (LWML) was constructed in

1950. The previous “temporary” kitchen and

dining hall was built onto the end of the boys’

dormitory. The old dining room was so small

that many campers chose to eat outside under

the trees. Also built in 1950 was the enlarged

office and trading post, funded by a donation

from Mrs. A. E. Kramer, of Wichita Falls.”

The entrance to the Walther League Camp

was marked by a massive twin monument gate,

named after the deceased former Lone Star

Chapter 1 ✦ 17

Top: Office and Concessions.

Middle: The Rec Hall, today known as

Celebration House.

Bottom: New girl’s dorm.


Top: The Staff Building.

Middle: An architectural sketch of the

Eric Robert Memorial Gate.

Bottom: The Eric Robert Memorial

gate was the main entrance to the

camp from 1950 until the late

1980s. A plaque on the back side

of one of the monuments tells

about the dedication to Eric Robert,

former Walther League Lone Star

District President.

Chapter 1 ✦ 19

To help encourage camp registrations, the 1947 brochure gave

prospective 8 to 12 year old campers a description of “A Day At Camp”.

We were up by 7:30…muscle builders out in the open air woke those who

still may have walked about with their eyes a bit shut…Five minutes of these

“brawn-builders” and back to our dormitories we scampered…Washed, dressed,

readied for breakfast by 8…After breakfast we made our beds and tidied the

dormitory. Some helped with the dishes…A brief period of silent meditation

came just before the nine o’clock devotional period…”Deacon” Strickert spoke

to us about the Theme: “I’m God’s Boy.” God created me and I belong to Him…

”Capp” Socha helped us in organizing some games and we decided what

activities we were going to plan for the rest of the day…Before we knew it we

were getting washed up for lunch. “Mom”—“Happy” Temme sure is a good

cook…After helping my tribe with the dishes we spent some time resting

“quietly” in our bunks…Then out for a long hike after “Pop” Lammert told us

all about the Walther League and “Cutie-Cura” Stelzer (We called her that

because she cured our ailments, and we thought she was quite cute) taught us

the Walther League Song…We played some games of volley ball and other

games before getting ready for supper…Our Bible and Catechism adventure

took us through parts of the Bible and the Catechism which show that we are

God’s children…We couldn’t wait until we started on the surprise Treasure Hunt

which took us to all parts of the camp grounds…We found the treasure on top

of Devotion Hill where we played some games and had our evening devotion

under the stars…”Left, left, you’ve got it, now keep it, now keep it, you’ve got

it, you’ve got it, now keep it in step. Left, left, etc…” Back to camp for a snack.

Bed sure felt good when the lights went out at 9:30.

more than 500 Leaguers and friends of the camp.

The Texas Messenger section of The Lutheran

Witness reported on the dedication: “Three

sisters of Eric, the sainted youth worker, took

part in the dedication ceremony. Alice Robert cut

the gate ribbon, Ann Robert unveiled the bronze

dedicatory plaque, and Mrs. H.T. Biar placed the

memorial wreath at the foot of the Gate

Foundation. Rev. George Buchschacher of Waco

conducted the memorial service.” The gate was

designed by Casper Winter of Pasadena.

Through this period the Walther League

Camp operated only during the summer

months, and could be rented on special request

at other times of the year. Summer camp

continued to grow and prosper. Each session of

camp had Bible Study and worship led by a

“dean,” who was a pastor. Activities at each

session were directed by a “Camp Manager,” not

to be confused with the Resident Camp Manager.

As the camp became more popular, each summer

added additional activities. The camp

schedule for 1948 shows a full agenda of camp

sessions stretching from early June to Labor Day:

June 13-19

June 20-July 3

July 3-5

July 11-17

July 18-24

July 25-31

August 1-7

August 8-14

August 29-Sept. 4

Sept. 4-6

Boys Camp

Girls Camp

Fourth of July Camp

Walther League Camp

Walther League Camp

American Lutheran Camp

Adult Camp

Houston Men’s Society

Junior Walther League

Labor Day Camp

Campers line up in pajamas for morning calisthenics.

District President Eric Robert. The Eric Robert

Memorial Gate was dedicated on June 30, 1950

at a solemn dedication ceremony attended by


Walther League Camp $17.00 per week

$3.00 per day

Junior Camp $15.00 per week

$2.75 per day

Boys and Girls Camp $13.00 per week

Ages 13-14

$13.00 (5 days)

Adult $17.00

One of those with vivid memories of the

early years of camp is Kathleen Hite of

Georgetown. Kathleen grew up in Vernon, as

Kathleen Kunkel. She was a niece to Ted and

Ruth Lammert, and, as such, she became a

fixture at camp from 1946 to 1952. Kathleen


said she did “just about everything that needed

doing at camp.” Initially she was a camper

and then took on all kinds of jobs from

kitchen help to manual labor to eventually

working as a counselor. She also had the job of

babysitting the Lammert’s son, Ronnie, who was

born in 1946.

She recalls the early years when boys slept in

army tents and the main activity center was an

“arbor” made with poles planted in the ground

and covered with branches and some canvas.

This was in the same location where the

Recreation Hall was eventually built.

“Bible Study and singing were held under

that arbor,” she said. “It was really nice so long

as it wasn’t raining.” All singing, she said, was

acapella until the Recreation Center was built in

1948 and an upright piano installed.

“Somebody was always playing the piano,

from chopsticks to hymns,” Kathleen related.

“Some of the camp staff were students from

Concordia College in Austin, who had to

practice their piano through the summer. That

piano got a lot of use.”

Hikes to nearby Monument Hill, now a State

Park, were a feature from the earliest days of

camp. After the two to three hour hike, the

campers were met by a camp truck filled with

ice cold watermelons. The Monument Hill

watermelon feast tradition continued at least

until the 1970s.

Kathleen said the campers were organized as

Indian tribes and tribes given common tribal

names, such as Comanche, Apache, Cherokee

and Choctaw. Ted Lammert even built four

totem poles from trees cut for that purpose.

For a period of time Kathleen worked in the

kitchen, at her Aunt Ruth Lammert’s direction. She

was given the job of trying to estimate the cost per

person for meals based on various menus. She said

the food was always delicious, but her aunt came

up with lots of ways to keep food cost down.

“We’d always have fried chicken and mashed

potatoes on Sunday night,” she said, “and then

from the chicken that didn’t get eaten, we’d have

Chicken Ala King on Monday. We had rice one

day with our meal and next we’d have rice

pudding. Early in the week the kitchen staff

would make a large Brownstone Cake that

would last through the week for dessert.”

Skits have long been a camp tradition.

What stories are being acted out here?

Chapter 1 ✦ 21

The granite monument at Monument

Hill, now a state park, is a memorial

to men who died in two separate

events in the 1840s, the Dawson

Massacre and the infamous Black

Bean Death Lottery. The park

provided campers a place to enjoy

watermelons and picnics…and a

beautiful bluff view of La Grange.

Below: Archery was an important

activity in early camp days, even

before a formal archery range

was built.

According to Kathleen, a former Marine,

home from the war, set up the first archery

range at camp. She was thrilled to be his helper

because the archery instructor was such a good

looking young man.

The camp day, she said, began with Reveille

played over a loudspeaker. After breakfast, the

campers would raise the U.S. flag on a pole

outside the Dining Hall. They would then go to

the Arbor, or later the Recreation Hall, for Bible

Study. Activities, from shuffleboard to volleyball

to hiking to swimming to archery to wiener

roasts, filled the day. Crafts, particularly

lanyard-making, were also popular. In the

evening the campers trekked to Devotion Hill

for the evening devotion and song. Bedtime was

signaled by the playing of Taps.

Kathleen became close friends with three

members of the Kramer family, from Wichita

Falls. The two Kramer boys, Clinton Kramer

and Clayton “Buddy” Kramer were the camp’s

maintenance crew for several years in the late

1940s. This was at a time when Clinton was a

medical student at Baylor Medical School, and


ABove: Campers gather for Bible

study in the Rec Hall.

Below: Old Glory was raised each

morning on a wooden flag pole in

front of the LWML Dining Hall.

Bottom: The Resident Camp

Manager, Ted Lammert, also served

as camp nurse during check-in of

arriving campers.

Buddy had already completed law school.

Kathleen describes Buddy as “Ted’s Shadow,”

always ready to do whatever the Camp Manager

needed done. The Kramer’s sister, Sherry Lynn,

became Kathleen’s close friend. The experience

at camp led the Kramer’s mother, Mrs. A. E.

Kramer, to share her wealth with the camp, and

become a major donor for a number of projects.

Kathleen’s favorite memory of camp, like so

many others, was the evening trip to Devotion

Hill for campfire devotions. “It is something I

can never forget, and something that was so

meaningful to me.” Kathleen’s sentiments

echoed a piece in the July, 1953 Lone Star

Leaguer, titled, “Campers Do Not Forget”: “What

do the campers remember most? The majority of

them remember the moments spent on Devotion

Hill. The cross, the stars, the singing of familiar

songs without accompaniment, a quiet voice

that speaks of the love of God to sinners—all of

this leaves a deep impression in the hearts of the

campers. ‘Never before have I felt so close to

God’ is a common reaction.”

Howard Lacey, of Austin, a former business

professor at Concordia University-Texas, is

another person with vivid memories of the early

years of camp. He was a camper in the late

1940s and then joined the camp staff for the

summers of 1952 and 1953.

“On Sunday night,” Howard recalls, “all the

campers who had just arrived went to the Rec

Hall and sat in a circle. There you did away with

your name and got a nickname for the week,

Chapter 1 ✦ 23

Volleyball and softball were two of the

most popular recreational activities

for campers and Walther Leaguers.

although some lasted far longer.” Howard said his

sister, Marlene Fay Lacey, (now Parker) was given

the nickname “Sleepy”. She has kept it all these

years, and is known to friends and acquaintances

as “Sleepy”.

Another camp nickname that has lasted

through the years belongs to Puddin Krueger.

Puddin says she registered for camp, in 1951, as

Bertha Domaschk, and came back as Puddin

Domaschk. She has kept that nickname through

the subsequent 65 years.

Howard also recalls that many of the

counselors during the early 1950s were

Lutheran parochial school teachers. He recalls

that Betty Bartsch, who taught at Houston

Trinity, helped recruit, train and coordinate

counselors during the years of 1952 and 1953.

Howard takes a lot of pride in his job as the

driver of the old orange panel truck, a 1929

Chevrolet, with the Walther League logo boldly

painted on the side.

“I picked up ice for the kitchen and the

trading post every day, and I got eggs and

vegetables for the kitchen every day,” Howard

says. “I had to be up really early to go into La

Grange and pick up the kitchen helper,


Henrietta “Etta” Kaase, so she could cook

breakfast for the campers.”

On Sundays and Saturdays Howard would

make runs to the bus station and the train

station to pick up and return campers. And

daily he would run the camp’s garbage to the

dump on the east side of La Grange.

He boasts of the slab for the Handicraft Shed

that was hand-poured by the camp staff in 1953.

“The cement, sand and gravel we hauled in a

trailer behind Ted Lammert’s 1943 Chevrolet

Coupe,” Howard said. “I had to back the

trailer up to the cement mixer using no side

mirrors, because they didn’t have them in

those days. It was hard work, but we got it

done and then built the Shed.” The Shed, he

said, is no longer standing, in the area near the

present playground equipment, but the slab is

still there.”

Howard was also there, in 1953, to hoist the

locomotive bell atop the recently-completed Staff

Building (subsequently named the Ding Dong

Dorm). The bell was the result of a discussion

between Ted Lammert and Rev. Ad. H. Hoyer, of

St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Big Spring,

regarding the need for a bell at the camp to signal

meals and other events. Rev. Hoyer wrote the

president of the Texas and Pacific Railroad, Mr.

W. G. Vollmer, asking for a bell from a steam

locomotive that was being dismantled.

The original camp truck was a 1929

Chevrolet panel truck boldly

emblazoned with the Walther League

logo on an orange background. The

iconic vehicle served as transportation

for campers, staff and also was used

to haul food and, at times, garbage.

Chapter 1 ✦ 25

Above: Weiner roasts were a staple of

just about all Children’s and Walther

League camp sessions.

Right: A popular meeting place in

front of the Rec Hall and Trading Post

was the stone and concrete water


Mr. Vollmer wrote back the following: “After

reading your letter, I believe we can make available

a locomotive bell for your Lone Star Camp,

which is devoted to the training of boys and

girls of Texas. We have a very strong feeling

towards activities such as yours which are dedicated

to the sound development of the character

of young boys and girls.”

True to his word, Mr. Vollmer provided the

bell and even transported it to La Grange at no

cost to the camp.

The staff building had been prepared for the

installation of the bell on a platform on the top

of the building. Ted Lammert and three staff

members, including Howard, stood atop the

roof hoisting the heavy bell with ropes.

According to Howard, the job went well until

they got the bell to the edge of the eave of the

roof. It took a huge effort and a long period of

time, with the four balancing on a precarious

perch, to finally pull and put the bell in place.

Fortunately a photographer was present to

record the heroic event.



Songs enjoyed by campers in the 1940s and ’50s were from two sources. First were hymns from the Lutheran Hymnal, that

most campers knew by heart. The other source was Sing Again, the official song book of the Walther League. Following are a few

of the popular songs sung at camp during this period.


Tell me why the stars do shine,

Tell my why the ivy twines,

Tell me why the ocean’s blue,

And I will tell you just why I love you.

Because God made the stars to shine,

Because God made the ivy twine,

Because God made the ocean blue,

Because God made you,

That’s why I love you.


We are climbing Jacob’s ladder,

We are climbing Jacob’s ladder,

We are climbing Jacob’s ladder,

Soldiers of the cross.

Ev’ry rung goes higher, higher…

Sinner, do you love my Jesus?...

If you love him, why not serve Him?...

Rise—Shine—Give God glory!...

We are climbing higher, higher…


Beautiful Savior,

King of Creation,

Son of God and Son of Man!

Truly I’d love Thee,

Truly I’d serve Thee,

Light of my soul, my Joy, my Crown!

Fair are the meadows,

Fair are the woodlands,

Robed in flowers of blooming spring;

Jesus is fairer,

Jesus is purer,

He makes our sorrowing spirit sing.

Camp Staff—Howard Lacey on the

left, an unidentified staffer in the

center and Ted Lammert on the

right—struggle with lifting the

locomotive bell atop the Staff Building.

The building was later renamed the

Ding Dong Dorm. The bell today

hangs on a modern tower donated by

Mike Schmidt and his family as a

memorial to his father.

Chapter 1 ✦ 27


There is a second legend about Camp Lone Star. From the earliest days of

camp, there have been rumors about buried gold on the camp property.

These rumors were accelerated in the early 1950s, when Fred Wilkens told

his buried treasure story to a writer for the Houston Chronicle Magazine.

In the published article, by Oswald Mueller, Wilkens tells about the

previous owner of the land he purchased along the Colorado River, Wardin

Barden. A portion of that land, of course, became the first 50 acres of Camp

Lone Star.

According to Wilkens, Barden returned from the California Gold

Rush, in 1850, flush with a fortune in gold coins. Because he did not trust

banks, Barden apparently buried the gold on the land subsequently

purchased by Wilkens.

During a hunting trip in Wyoming, Barden died of pneumonia, without

ever telling anyone, including Wilkens, the location of the buried gold,

Wilkens told the reporter.

So how did Wilken even know about the buried treasure? The article does

not answer this question, but one must assume that Wilkens knew Barden

and learned that there was buried gold from the Gold Rush adventurer.

For many years it was always possible that any buried treasure could be

on either Camp Lone Star property, or on the Wilkens farm. But the

acquisition of the entire Wilkens property by the camp in 1992 made it

certain that the gold, if it exists, would be under Camp Lone Star soil.

In the Chronicle Magazine article, Mueller surmises thatthe accidental

discovery of the treasure may be reserved for some Huckleberry Finn

sojourning at the Walther League Camp.”

But, before you start digging for buried treasure around camp, remember

this wisdom from Martin Luther: “For in the true nature of things, if we

rightly consider, every green tree is far more glorious than if it were made of

gold and silver.”

The bell now hangs in a bell tower near

the Sugar Shack. It is used for the call for

morning devotions.

So far, we have referred to the camp as either

the camp,” “the Walther League Camp” or “the

Lone Star District Walther League Camp”. We

have done this because up until 1951 most

Lutherans in Texas referred to the camp by one

of those names.

As early as 1942 there was an effort to hold a

contest to name the camp. Whatever was the

result of this contest is lost to history, and the

camp continued to be called, officially and

unofficially, by the generic names in use.

However, in 1951, Marie Bornemann, a

Camp Board member and long-time supporter

of the camp, was authorized to conduct another

A portion of the article in which Fred Wilkens tells about the gold

allegedly buried on his farm, now the property of Camp Lone

Star. Unfortunately, there is no copy that could be found of the

entire article, published in the Houston Chronicle Magazine.

“name the camp” contest by resolution of the

District Walther League convention.

Before the camp name contest began,

however, the editor of the Lone Star Leaguer, the

irrepressible John J. Socha, gave his strong

editorial view in support ofCamp Lone Star”.

Socha wrote: “One of the important resolutions

passed puts the naming of the camp where it

belongs—in the lap of the Leaguers. The name

will come, and it will be a good one, as a result

of the “Name the Camp” Contest which will be

held. This department enters the contest with

the suggestion “CAMP LONE STAR.” What is

your suggestion?”

Apparently there were few, if any, alternative

names and Socha’s entry won the day. From 1951

on, the official name was Camp Lone Star. There

were a few slip-ups in official minutes, and

probably in conversations, in which the camp

continued to be referred to as “the Walther League

Camp”. But eventually Camp Lone Star stuck.


After the donation of the original 50 acres, by

William Hermes and Fred Wilkins, a series of

purchases of additional tracts took place until,

by the early 1950s, the total area of Camp Lone

Star consisted of 125.58 acres. This included

over 2,000 feet of frontage on the Colorado

River. This camp acreage remained constant

until 1992.

From the start of camp sessions at Camp

Lone Star, campers and Walther Leaguers

wanted to swim…especially in the hot Texas

summer. By 1947 a plan was in place to bus

summer campers to a location where a pool

existed. A few waded into the lake, of course,

but that made those brave souls even more

adamant about having a pool at Camp Lone

Star. The first place campers were bused was to

the pool at Bastrop State Park. Eventually a pool

was built in Smithville and arrangements were

made for campers to swim there. But the interest

in a Camp Lone Star pool could not be quelled.

As early as 1945, Leaguers began to talk

about where a pool could be situated on the

camp property. And they started discussing how

many dollars would have to be gathered to build

a pool adequate for the growing camp

participation. By 1950 a site was selected and

estimates for construction were prepared. It

appeared the Leaguers would need nearly

$15,000 to realize their dream of a swimming

pool at Camp Lone Star.

The 1951 District Walther League

Convention authorized the Camp Board to

move forward with selecting a contractor for the

pool. On January 27, 1952, Arnold Mathias,

former Lone Star District President, and now a

Camp Board Member, reported to the Walther

League Executive Board on the pool plans.

According to the Executive Board minutes,

“Mathias stated that the bids for the swimming

pool were all within the previously estimated

$13,500. All the Camp Board is waiting for now

is for the Walther League to tell them which

firm and when to start. The Walther League-

Lone Star District, however, does not have the

money to build the swimming pool. All

individuals were encouraged to send in their

pledges and further contributions so that it will

not be necessary to borrow so much money.”

Camp Board member Marie Bornemann

reported that only about $2,000 had been

collected for the pool, and another $2,000 to

$3,000 was expected to “come in, if it would.”

But three months later, in April, 1952, the

Camp Board, with approval of the Lone Star

District Executive Board, borrowed $15,000 to

build the pool. The construction of the pool

took less than a month, and on May 18, 1952,

the swimming pool at Camp Lone Star was

dedicated. It was the first swimming pool to be

constructed in Fayette County, Texas.

The pool was not the only thing happening at

Camp Lone Star in 1952. Ted Lammert reported

to the Walther League Executive Board that a

16mm film on Camp Lone Star, produced by

Reinhold Hunger, a teacher in Caldwell, Texas,

was completed and ready for distribution. There

were also two slide lectures ready for use, one

on Walther League camping and one on

Children’s Camp. The media presentations were

being offered to Walther League societies and

also to congregations to help promote the

activities at Camp Lone Star.

Camp Lone Star got telephone connections

in 1952, as well. Through a contribution of a

telephone lineman, W.G. Meyer of Beasley, two

phone instruments were installed at Camp Lone

Star, with the camp only paying for the lines.

This brought Camp Lone Star into the “analog

age” and allowed important business and

Above: Campers enjoy swimming and

rafting in the recently-constructed

lake at the Walther League Camp.

Below: Arnold Mathias served as Lone

Star District Walther League

President from 1950 to 1951, and

also was a member of the Camp

Board. His claim to

fame, however, is that he is the

only living attendee at the infamous

1941 Walther League Convention

when the La Grange site won out

over Lampasas.

Chapter 1 ✦ 29

The new swimming pool immediately

boosted attendance at Camp

Lone Star, starting with the 1952

summer session.

personal phone messages to be delivered

directly to the camp office.

The summer of 1952, with a new swimming

pool in place drew a record attendance. Ted

Lammert reported the numbers to the District

Executive Board: 376 at children’s camping

sessions, 55 during Walther League camp

sessions and 38 at LSV School. In addition to

these were many groups who used the camp for

one or several days or a weekend, including

Labor Day weekend camping.

Before the end of the summer of 1952,

floodlights were installed at the swimming pool

so night swimming was possible. The lights were

donated and installed by Bob Noack of Waco.

Camp attendance continued strong through

1953, 1954 and 1955. During the following

years these improvements were made. The

Kramer staff building was constructed in 1953,

funded by Mrs. A.E. Kramer, the new Boy’s

Dormitory, funded by the LCMS Texas District,

was built in 1954 and a new refrigerator unit for

the kitchen and a garage and washing facility

were added.

Attendance in 1953, according to the

Walther League Convention Workbook for that

year, was over 1,000 participating in camp

programs and other use of the camp. Net

income above expenses was reported as $1,700.

But there was a problem at Camp Lone Star.

The Texas District Board of Parish Education,

wanted, and had gained, a role in the content of

camp sessions. In 1951, the Board of Parish

Education was promoting camping sessions, as

though the Board of Parish Education was in

charge of summer camp. There was a conflict

between Ted Lammert, supported by the Camp

Board, and the Board of Parish Education, with

support of the Walther League District

Executive Board, although the details are

difficult to clearly identify. At some point in

1955 accusations were made by someone that

led Ted Lammert to believe his integrity was

being questioned.

Adding to his stress was onset of serious fatigue

and weakness by Ruth Lammert. Her condition

was later diagnosed as chronic leukemia. Although

she lived with the disease for another nine years,

her illness would have kept her from another

summer in charge of the camp kitchen.

Ted Lammert resigned as Resident Camp

Manager in November, 1955. His resignation was

sent and accepted “with regret” at the December

meeting of the Walther League Executive Board,

the same meeting in which it adopted a motion to

run the Children’s Camp under the jurisdiction of

the Board of Parish Education.

Included in this motion was the provision

thatthe Walther League rent the camp, furnish

housing, meals, physical facilities; all mail and

program staffing shall be handled by the Board

of Parish Education; insurance shall be taken

out by the Board of Parish Education so that

the Walther League Camp will not be liable

for any personal injury, and that the Board of

Parish Education submit application for

Children’s Camping Sessions to the Executive

Board of the Walther League no later than

January 1 of each year.”

At the December meeting of the Walther

League Executive Board was a “recommendation

that Ray Gerhardt (Lone Star District President)

and Carl Dunk speak to Ted Lammert, the former

Camp Manager, and reach a peaceable

concurrence in all matters concerning the camp.”

The board ordered an audit of the camp’s

books by Camp Board member Edgar Roitsch of

La Grange. No discrepancies were found.

Ted Lammert had shared with his fellow

Leaguers the dream of building a Walther

League Camp in Texas, and now it was a reality.

During his tenure at Camp Lone Star, Ted

Lammert supervised the construction of

buildings and infrastructure that served the

camp from 1945 to 1955, and for the next two

decades. And he helped create the programs and

structure for a growing camp for youth and

adults founded on the Gospel of Jesus Christ.




With the resignation of Ted Lammert, the Lone Star District Walther League Executive Board

immediately set about finding a replacement. The first suggestion, in December, 1955, was Jerry

Speckhardt, a faculty member at Houston Lutheran High School. According to the Executive Board

minutes, Speckhardt “is very interested to serve in this capacity; although before making a final

decision, he is awaiting additional information concerning this work.”

Members of University Lutheran

Church pose with Rev. Frank.

Chapter 2 ✦ 31

Above: Rev. Edmund Frank became

the second Resident Camp Manager of

Camp Lone Star, and presided over

summer camp sessions of 1956.

Below: Members of the Gamma Delta

chapter of the University of Texas, in

1953, include (left to right) Gus F.

Mutscher, Shirley Jean Dittmar,

Robert W. Bubolz, Louis Edward

Hoffman, Jane Winkler and Rev.

Edmund Frank (seated). Gamma

Delta was the formal organization of

LCMS campus ministries, founded in

1934 and disbanded in 1968. The

UT Gamma Delta Chapter often held

retreats and other activities at Camp

Lone Star during Rev. Frank’s tenure.

Whatever the reason, Speckhardt turned down

the offer. This left the Executive Board scrambling

for a new Resident Camp Manager, as a full

summer of camp sessions was due to start in May.

The Executive Board turned to an active

participant at Camp Lone Star, with a full resume

of previous Walther League camp experience.

The offer of the position was accepted by Rev.

Edmund P. Frank. Rev. Frank was the pastor of

University Lutheran Church in Austin, the

campus ministry of the University of Texas.

Frank was the first campus pastor in Texas

appointed by the LCMS Texas District.

Rev. Frank was a native Kansan, and was

reared in Winfield, Kansas, where he attended

Trinity Lutheran School, St. John’s Academy and

St. John’s College. He completed his seminary

training at Concordia Seminary in St. Louis in

1941. Rev. Frank, and his two brothers, Walmar

and Victor, were the fourth generation of Franks

to be ordained as Lutheran ministers. Rev. Frank

married Esther Grace Johnson, whom he met at

a Walther League convention, the same year he

finished seminary.

After a few months as chaplain of the Boy

Scouts in the St. Louis area, Rev. Frank accepted

a call to serve at Trinity Lutheran Church in

Norman, Oklahoma. While serving at Trinity

Lutheran, he became the student pastor for the

University of Oklahoma and remained in that

position for ten years.

He also became involved in Oklahoma’s

Walther League camp, Lutherhoma, where he

served as secretary of the camp’s board of

governors. He served as lecturer and recreation

director at the camp. In 1952 Frank went to

Illinois where he served at the Walther League

Camp CILCA. Frank also had camp experience

at Camp Lake Geneva in Wisconsin and Camp

Arcadia in Michigan.

During Rev. Frank’s time in Oklahoma, he

earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the

University of Oklahoma. In addition to his

studies and ministry duties, Rev. Frank had his

hands full as father to six children, with another

on the way.

The Franks moved to Austin in 1953 and

Rev. Frank accepted the appointment as the

Walther League International Representative to

Camp Lone Star. He was installed as the first

campus pastor for the University of Texas on

September 27, 1953. Frank also served as

instructor of Bible for the University of Texas

Lutheran Bible Chair.

As campus pastor, Rev. Frank took the UT

Chapter of Gamma Delta on retreats at Camp

Lone Star, and served on the staff of several

youth and Walther League camp sessions. Frank

was ready, when the Executive Board called, to

accept the role as Resident Manager of Camp

Lone Star.

In preparation for his first summer at Camp

Lone Star, Rev. Frank, wrote a column in the


May, 1956 edition of the Lone Star Leaguer, titled

“Grow-Play-Rejoice at Camp Lone Star”. In the

column he emphasized the spiritual side of

camp life: “Have you ever wondered why God

made the world so beautiful? Or does the fact

that you live in the city permit you only to see

so many wooden structures, brick buildings,

and concrete streets? If so, you need to come

apart for a while and let God reveal Himself to

you in nature. The place to do this is at our own

Camp Lone Star in La Grange.”

“If you pack your bag and head for camp

sometime this summer, God will speak to you as

He fills the night sky with its myriads of stars, or

early some morning at the hush of dawn when

you eat your breakfast beneath a beautiful tree,

or at night when you see the glory of the sunset

from some plateau of rocks. It will help make

you big!”

“At camp you will grow—‘in the grace and

knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.’

2 Peter 3, 18.”

In the same issue of the Leaguer the camp

promotion committee announced the design of

the official Camp Lone Star flag. The design, by

Martha Nerger, of Hamilton, was the winner of

a “flag designing” contest sponsored by the

Walther League. The design incorporates a

cross, a star and a life preserver in colors of

green, white and black on a background of gold.

There was a full complement of camp

sessions in 1956 and, using the models already

established, the camp season was again

successful. Assisting Rev. Frank was a summer

staff consisting of Frank’s wife, Esther (called Es

by her family), and Ted Schroeder of La Grange,

as well as several other workers. Etta Kaase, the

former kitchen staff helper, was promoted to be

in charge of the kitchen.

The tradition of a barbecue and Walther

League reunion continued during the summer

of 1956 and 1957.

By the end of the 1956 summer camp, Rev.

Frank had learned some important lessons

about camp management which he

incorporated into a “Set of Camp Directives”

presented to the Camp Board for approval.

Among the directives were:

• From the physical side of things, the manager

of the camp shall be in complete charge. Any

changes in the rules must have his approval.

• No person attending camp shall try to do the

Manager’s work without his permission.

• All persons in attendance (counselors

included) shall be on time for their meals—

especially breakfast at 7:30 (not 7:45).

Above: Attendees of a University

Lutheran Church retreat.

Below: Ed Frank and his daughter,

Sara, enjoy the cool waters of the

Camp Lone Star swimming pool.

Chapter 2 ✦ 33

Above: Rev. Edmund Frank, on the

left, served as International

Representative for the Walther League

to Camp Lone Star in 1953. He is

shown with the summer staff (left to

right): Rev. Herman Newnaber, Dean;

Miss Elaine Schrank, Girl’s

Counselor; and Rev. Frank Gruell,

Recreation Director.

Right: Although the Rec Hall was used

for multiple purposes, it was furnished

with an altar that often served as the

focal point for worship services.

• No dogs, cats, or pets can be allowed at

camp. (Please leave these at home with the


• No squirting of water guns is allowed on the

inside of any building.

• Pillow fights are taboo. They destroy

property. The person caught in this

misdemeanor will have to pay for the

destroyed property.

• No person is to charge items in the name of

the camp with merchants in La Grange

without the manager’s instructions to do so.

The directives were approved at the

September meeting of the Camp Board, with

instructions that they be sent to all Board

members. At that meeting, approval was given

for construction of a new Camp Manager’s

residence. The Franks, including seven

children, spent their first summer in the

rudimentary manager’s cabin that had been in

use for the past decade.

In addition to the new manager’s residence

building, several other projects were completed

prior to the 1957 camp season. In a letter from

Camp Board chairman, Edgar Roitsch, of La

Grange, to Rev. Frank and Ray Gerhardt,

Walther League District president, some of these

accomplishments were outlined.

Roitsch reported that the original water well

was decommissioned and a new well drilled on

May 15. “It is 94 feet in depth and water comes to

within 44 feet from the top. Do you want to

believe the “Switcher” said this is where we would

find water? The driller (Mr. Lange of Columbus)

pumped the well steadily for 3 ½ hours and stated

that he felt confident that it would produce

around 900 gallons an hour at ease.”

Fish stocking of the lake was also a topic of

Roitsch’s letter: “Pastor Frank, have you told Ray

that I had the Game, Fish and Oyster

Commission stock the camp tank with 250

channel cats, 250 bass, and 500 bream? If not,

he knows it now.”

He also mentioned that repairs requested by

Rev. Frank on various camp buildings were

about to get started. And he noted that Ted

Schroeder “is relieving me of the job of cleaning

the camp pool this year.” In the days when

Camp Lone Star was only open during the

summer, the pool was drained and shut down at

the end of each summer session. Rain, algae,

dirt, frogs and snakes made the pool a mess to

clean and put back into useable shape each May.

Thanks to a volunteer team of Leaguers, the

pool was drained of the vermin, and scrubbed

with wire brushes and chlorine solution to bring

it back to life.

Following are some of the Frank family

camp memories.

In 1953, Ed brought Es and Sara along to

camp, where he served as the Walther League

International Representative. Es wanted to

have fun with the campers, so she taught

Sara how to short-sheet their beds, crawl

under toilet stalls to lock the doors, so no

one could get in, unscrew light bulbs and


mix up suitcases. Ed was well aware of Es’


• Ed was Manager and Counselor of Camp

Lone Star for two years. Because he had the

summers off from his UT duties, he was able

to help out.

• Ed and Es received a $250 bonus for their

work at the camp during 1956.

• Ed loved going to camp because he would get

to stay on his favorite diet of fried chicken

and ice cream.

• While the family was at camp, they were

housed in a cabin on the outskirts of camp.

One day Charlotte was sitting on the toilet

when she heard a rattle coming from the

ceiling, only to see a snake in the vent! She

was so scared she didn’t even pull up her

pants, but went waddling out screaming for

help from her daddy.

• During the summer of 1957 Ed put Sara in

charge of ordering all the candy, gum and

soda for the concession stand. She was 11

and Ed wanted to teach her how to count

money, make change and order supplies.

• The camp profited under Ed’s two summers

as Manager, and along with his and Es’ frugal

methods, the camp had enough money to

build new housing for the Resident Camp

Manager and family.

• On Saturday mornings, Ed would take the

family on morning hikes to Monument Hill

where they had breakfast. Then some would

ride with him in the truck to get ice in La

Grange. Es would drive back to Austin with

Jane and John for John’s cello lesson. Jane

helped her mother with grocery shopping,

getting mail and doing laundry.

• One day of each camp session the campers

would hike to Monument Hill singing “We

Are Climbing Jacob’s Ladder”. Then Ed

would lead them in evening devotions.

Returning back to the camp kitchen, they all

enjoyed a bedtime snack of Hydrox cookies

and bottles of ice cold milk.

• If a camper was late for a meal, all the

campers would sing:

Round the table you must go, you must go,

you must go.

Round the table you must go.

You’ve been naughty.”

Another fun tradition to teach table manners

was to say:

Mable, Mable, strong and able,

get your elbows off the table.

This is not a horse’s stable,

but a first class dining table.

Above: Rev. Ed Frank (right) is shown

talking to a staff member outside the

Rec Hall.

Below: “Mable, Mable, strong and

able, get your elbows off the table.”

You’ve been primping; you’ve been primping.

Now you’re late; now you’re late.

Start a little earlier; start a little earlier.

We won’t wait; we won’t wait.

Chapter 2 ✦ 35

Top and middle: In 1956 Camp Lone

Star announced the winner of a

design contest for an official camp

flag. The winner was Martha Nerger

of Hamilton, Texas. The finished flag

is shown displayed in front of the

LWML Dining Hall.

Bottom: This is the last family photo

of the Frank family taken while Rev.

Edmund Frank was living. Front

row (left to right): Charlotte, Janet,

and Edmund, Jr. Middle row: Mary,

Sara, and John. Back row: Esther,

Jane, and Edmund. The photo was

taken in February 1958.

• There was a pet monkey in a cage in the

center of the camp. (Author’s Note: this was

likely the same monkey brought to camp by

Ted Lammert in 1954 or 1955. Where did he

live when camp was not in session? RL)

• Frank children were often invited to join in

square dancing with the campers.

Kitchen snacks often consisted of Hawaiian

or Delaware punch, celery sticks, carrots,

ham and peanut butter sandwiches.

• It was fun counting Daddy-long-legged

spiders that clustered in the cabin corners.

• Ed asked the children to pick up dried cow

manure for his garden in Austin.

• One of Ed’s favorite devotions for camp

was titled, “Sampling Mud Puddles?” It went

like this:

A God-fearing young man was being

ridiculed by his worldly-wise companions

because he refused to go along with them to a

place of unsavory reputation.

“How do you know it’s bad?” they asked.

“You’ve never been there!”

The young man gave this pointed reply: “I

don’t have to fall into a mud puddle to find out

that it is dirty.”

There are some things in life of which we are

better off without first-hand knowledge. Over

against the sophistication of our age, which

urges us to sample sin to see if it really IS sinful,

the Bible advises: “Be wise concerning that

which is good. Be simple concerning that which

is evil.”

Have you ever asked yourself how you

stand on this score? Have you been sampling

mud puddles? Let’s not deceive ourselves—

there is much on our record! And there is only

one cleansing power that can remove the soil of

sin from our soul. The Bible tells us: “The blood

of Jesus Christ, God’s Son, cleanseth us from

all sin.”

Rev. Frank and his family served at Camp

Lone Star during the summers of 1956 and

1957. As he was preparing for the 1958 camp

season, Rev. Frank suffered a fatal heart attack,

while home with his family in Austin. The

Camp Manager, Campus Pastor, University

Professor, husband and father was called to

Glory on April 19, 1958.




With the death of Rev. Frank, and the 1958 camp season fast approaching, the Walther League

Executive Board had to scramble to find a new Resident Camp Manager. The Board again turned to

an experienced Walther League activist, John J. Socha, who had served the Lone Star District as

editor of the Lone Star Leaguer and as secretary of the Executive Board. He had also helped lead

programs at Camp Lone Star.

John Socha, better known as Mr. John by campers and Walther Leaguers, was a man of many

talents: an educator, a coach, a musician, a prolific writer, a theologian, an organizer, a humorist, a

natural leader and, above all, a skilled promoter of any cause he was involved with. If you ever met

John Socha, you never forgot him.

Socha was born in New Jersey, one of 11 children of Slovakian immigrant parents. He finished

high school at Concordia High School in River Forest, Illinois, and college at Concordia Teachers

College in River Forest. He was a teacher in Lutheran schools for 24 years, serving at schools from

Forest Park, Illinois, to St. Paul, Austin, Texas, to Immanuel, Giddings, Texas, where he was serving

as principal, teacher, organist and choir director, when the call came from the Walther League

Executive Board.

John J. Socha was an avid

horseman. But that was only one of

his many talents.

Chapter 3 ✦ 37

Above: Elsie Socha (left) working

with long-time kitchen staffer,

Johanna Pietsch, preparing a

hearty camp meal.

Below: Shown is a copy of the General

Warranty Deed that provided

“recreational rights” to a miniscule

parcel of Camp Lone Star property.

The fund-raising program apparently

was not overwhelmingly successful,

and was quickly discontinued.

Fortunately for Socha, Camp Lone Star was

near his new home in Giddings, and he had

ongoing support of Rev. Frank’s camp staff, like

Ted Schroeder, a teacher at Zion, La Grange. Like

his predecessors, Socha was an educator and had

the summer free to work at camp. In addition,

camp programs were established and the camp

was at a place where no new buildings needed

building and no infrastructure was close to failing.

Socha had another resource, a large family.

His wife, Elsie, and his six children all became

important fixtures at Camp Lone Star for the

next 10 years. Elsie was in charge of the kitchen,

where she supervised the cooks and did menu

planning and ordering of food and supplies.

Elsie also helped as the camp nurse and as a

counselor. Daughters Janet and Dottie were

counselors at Children’s Camp. Suzanne,

Margot, Jonathan and Robert were youngsters

when Socha became Resident Camp Manager,

but they helped where they could and,

ultimately, grew into regular camp staffers.

Besides hiring a new Resident Camp Manager,

the District Executive Board had another

challenge, paying off the debt on the swimming

pool. The board came up with a creative fundraising

plan to address the need. They printed

official-looking “General Warranty Deeds” which

conveyed “recreational rights” to a tiny parcel of

Camp Lone Star, usually a few square inches.

These parcels of camp were sold, generally, for

twenty-five to fifty cents per square inch. The

front of the deed included an imprinted number

and the text: “General Warranty Deed-Including

Recreational Rights Only-From Lone Star District

to (recipient). Proclaiming above recipient a titled

property owner in Camp Lone Star.”

The deeds were dated and signed by Edgar

Roitsch, Camp Board Director; Ray Gerhardt,

Lone Star District President; Jimmie Fuchs,

South Texas Vice President; and Buddy Hingst,

North Texas Vice President.

No record remains of how many deeds were

actually issued and how much money was

raised. But a record does exist of one zone, the


Bluebonnet Zone, which “protested” against the

“money making affair”. A resolution passed at

the Bluebonnet Zone Rally in 1958, and

forwarded to the District Executive Board,

revealed the ire of the Central Texas Leaguers:

Be it resolved:

Whereas, the Camp Committee within the

District is planning to eliminate the camp deficit

through the selling of deeds to miniature plots

within Camp Lone Star, and

Whereas, this method is a money making

affair, substituting buying and selling for

Christian giving, and

Whereas, nowhere in the Bible does the Lord,

the head of the Church, say that we are to raise

money above and beyond what His people are

willing to give him directly through their

offerings, therefore be it

RESOLVED: That the Bluebonnet Zone go on

record as protesting against the use of this

method in eliminating the Camp Lone Star debt

and be it further

RESOLVED: That we continue to support the

camp through contributions.”

The Executive Board decided to go ahead with

a mail campaign to sell deeds, but to exclude the

Bluebonnet Zone. Most likely, the plan failed to

generate the income hoped for, as the swimming

pool debt was not cleared until 1964.

Initially, under John Socha, the structure of

summer camp followed the pattern set under

Ted Lammert and Rev. Edmund Frank. Peggy

Schneider (now Peggy Berry), was a leader upon

whom Socha depended. She served on the camp

staff from 1960 to 1965, as athletic director,

counselor, head of children’s camp and even

kitchen helper. She was left in charge of camp

during 1965 by Socha, while he was in St. Louis

finishing his degree work at Concordia Seminary.

Peggy describes Socha as “energetic” and “a

creative thinker”. He initiated a number of

contests, shows and awards for campers, she said.

the Beatles were popular at the time. The

counselors would pretend to be the Beatles with

our broomstick guitars and lip synching to our

favorite Beatles’ songs.

But John Socha had a personal pursuit which

he brought along to camp, changing the scope

of the camp’s leisure activities for the next two

decades. Socha, although born in New Jersey,

and reared in a suburb of Chicago, was a

devoted horseman. The entire family loved to

ride their horses on the Socha acreage near

Giddings. Socha looked at the 125 acres of

Camp Lone Star as an untapped resource for

riding and for teaching city children about the

joys of equestrianism. There was no budget to

Above: Resident Camp Manager John

Socha attaching a Camp Lone Star

bumper sticker to his Pontiac.

Below: The study of God’s Word has

always been a part of Camp Lone

Star. Here young men are engaged in

study outdoors with counselor Ace

Henry Stiebens.

One I recall was a competition for the best

Bible Reader. It meant a camper, with the help of

his or her counselor, would choose a portion of

the Bible to read aloud. It was usually one of the

Psalms,” Peggy said. “He also hosted a Talent

Show for the campers and staff each week. Since

Chapter 3 ✦ 39

Top: Resident Camp Manager John

Socha and his two sons, Robert

(left) and Jonathan (right) enjoying

their favorite pastime, riding the

family’s horses.

Middle and bottom: Typical scenes at

Camp Lone Star in the 1960s as

campers learned the finer art of

horsemanship. Note the equestrian

party includes a rider on Cactus, the

camp donkey.

Opposite, top: Professor E.F. (Pete)

Gummelt began leading nature hikes

on a nature trail he built in the late

1950s. His guided nature hikes

continued into the 1960’s, when

the nature trail doubled as a horse

riding trail.

Opposite, middle: Campers were

invited to pile on the pickup and

trailer for a “hayride” around camp.

Opposite, bottom: Campers were

organized into “tribes” from the

earliest days of camp, most often

bearing the names of native American

tribes. These campers took the Indian

connection to heart with authentic



purchase horses for Camp Lone Star, so, in

1959, Socha brought his horses to camp.

There was Socha’s favorite steed, Maggie.

Jonathan’s horse was Shorty Boy and Robert’s

was Prince. Other Socha horses which found a

new home at Camp Lone Star were Wonder Boy,

Dynamite and Midnight, the latter two being

Shetland ponies.

Eventually other horses were donated to

Camp Lone Star until at least 14 horses were

available for horseback riding. Jonathan was the

main wrangler for the horse program, working

under the supervision of August Hempel, the

camp’s maintenance director.

According to Jonathan, “Campers loved

riding horses. Just about every camper

participated. They stood in line to ride. For

younger kids, we would lead the horse, but

older kids could ride on their own. “

In the late 1950s a Concordia College

professor, E.F. (Pete) Gummelt, constructed a

nature trail through the camp property.

Although it still functioned as a nature trail,

with identification signs for various plants and

trees, the trail also became a horse riding trail.

Jonathan said the campers “would either ride

on the horse trail, or they sometimes got to ride

down to the river and back.”

The horse stables and riding pen, along with

a pump house and wash room were the only

structures built at Camp Lone Star during John

Socha’s tenure.

Children’s Camp, according to Peggy,

spanned much the same schedule as today. A

camp session started on Sunday afternoon and

ended at noon on Friday.

“There were two boys’ dorms and two girls’

dorms,” she recalled. “On Sunday evening we

would divide the children into their groups or

tribes. The tribes would not always have Indian

names. I remember one of my groups being

called the ‘Itsy Bitsy Yellow Polka Dot Bikinis’.

We would pick names for our tribes and make

up a group song. Counselors were in charge of

their group for the entire week, whether eating,

swimming, singing, hiking, whatever.”

Singing, she said, was mostly done acapella,

“I don’t recall having guitars, but Mr. John, and

others, played the piano at times.”

Peggy said that most of the indoor activities

took place in the Rec Hall (now called

Celebration House). Close by was the Trading

Post and Camp Office. Here campers could

purchase drinks, candy and souvenirs.

Chapter 3 ✦ 41

Above: Campers file past the Gum

Tree en route to a meal in the LWML

Dining Hall.

Right: A new cement pavilion was

added to the Recreation Hall in

the mid-’60s, complete with a

basketball net.

Peggy recalls, “Every evening we would have

devotions with the campers, usually at Devotion

Hill overlooking the lake. One of the counselors

or Mr. John, would lead the devotions. At the

close of the devotions, the counselors would

sing ‘Day is Done.’ We usually stood in the

woods behind the campers so they couldn’t see

who was singing.”


Day is done, gone the sun,

From the lake, from the hills, from the sky;

All is well, safely rest, God is nigh.

Peggy’s recollections continue: “All the

campers would eat in the Dining Hall (officially

the LWML Dining Hall). Outside the Dining Hall

was a leaning oak tree. This tree became known

as the “Gum Tree” because the campers had to

stick their gum on the tree before entering the

Dining Hall. After praying all together, the

campers would be served family style. Of course,

it would be plenty noisy with songs about

keeping elbows off the table being very popular.”

(Somehow the old Gum Tree survived the

hundreds of pounds of chicle applied to it over

the years. It still stands near the entrance to the

current Trading Post in the old Dining Hall

building. I’m sure the popularity of the Australian

Kookaburra song with campers, had a lot to do

with Camp Lone Star having a Gum Tree. RL)


Kookaburra sits on the old gum tree,

Merry, merry king of the bush is he,

Laugh, Kookaburra, laugh,

Kookaburra, gay your life must be.

(sung as a round)


Top: Senior Counselor Peggy

Schneider with some of her campers.

Middle: The Kramer Staff Cabin

was home to maintenance staff for

the summer.

Bottom: The office and concessions

building had a handy rail,

very convenient for hanging out in

’60s style.

Chapter 3 ✦ 43

Peggy also recalls a snakebite story, (which

will be the only snakebite story contained in this

camp history), “One Sunday afternoon, when a

new batch of campers arrived, one of the boys’

counselors, Ace Stevens, was trying to show his

boys how to catch a snake, a copperhead

crawling near the edge of the dorm.

Unfortunately, the snake had a different idea

and bit Ace on his thumb.”

Time off for camp staff was as rare in the

1960s as it is today. According to Peggy,

Fridays were hectic because as soon as the

campers left, everyone would pitch in and help

get the dorms ready for church groups or

families who would come for the weekend. The

counselors would also become the kitchen help.

We stayed in a couple of rooms off the kitchen,

complete with bunk beds, one for boys and one

for girls. In between was a group bathroom and

showers. You had to be very careful that you

locked both doors before using those facilities.

On weekends between serving tables at

camp, we would head to La Grange and do our

laundry. If we had time, we would eat out at the

Bon Ton Restaurant, famous for its homemade

bread. Sometimes we would catch a movie at the

local theater.

When campers weren’t there, some of the

staff went fishing. We would set out a trot line in

the lake, catch a few catfish and have a fish fry

near the picnic table behind the dam. Sometimes

we would hike down to the Colorado River and

camp out on one of its islands. We would play

around in the shallow water, skip rocks and

swim in the deeper parts.

Peggy got to spend a lot of time with the

camp lifeguard, Gayle Berry, who would become

an important part of her life. Peggy recalls:

“Gayle and I were also responsible for picking up

the cooks, Frieda Kleiber and Johanna Pietsch, at

5:30 a.m. every morning in La Grange, and then

taking them back home in the afternoon. We had

to use the camp’s old green panel truck for this.

It was scary to cross the ancient rickety wooden

bridge over the Colorado River. Besides the

narrow lanes, the truck’s steering had so much

play in it that it was hard to keep that old truck

on the road. Once Gayle had to drive the panel

truck to McDade to pick up a load of

watermelons. He was lucky to make it back to

camp with that heavy load.”

Peggy and Gayle became another couple in a

very long line of Camp Lone Star marriages. She

recalls, “One weekend when I had gone home to

visit my parents and Gayle was at camp by

himself, he walked the 18 miles to my house for a

surprise visit. At the end of the summer of 1965,

on August 7, Gayle and I were married. It is a

marriage that has lasted more than fifty years.”

During the Socha era, the tradition of a hike

to Monument Hill on Wednesday afternoon

continued. The cold watermelons were still

delivered to the Monument Hill picnic area for

the hot and tired campers. But, according to

daughter Suzanne, John Socha added a new

component. Since the hiking trail passed close to

Camp Staff and the Socha family

show off their catch from trot lines set

in the camp lake.


La Grange’s KVLG radio station, Socha arranged

for a 30 minute radio program each time

campers made the trek. The group would stop at

the station where songs would be sung and camp

stories would be told, live over the radio

airwaves. A brief inspirational Gospel message

would also be given. The MC for the program, of

course, was none other than Mr. John.


Just plant a watermelon vine upon my grave,

And let the juice SHHHH SHHHH run through.

Just plant a watermelon vine upon my grave,

That’s all I ask of you.

Put me under a melon patch,

Just any old place will do.

So plant a watermelon vine upon my grave,

And let the juice SHHHH SHHHH run through.

Suzanne also recalls some other significant

aspects of camp life, “We had a rifle range down

below the dam of the lake. I think they shot .22’s

at targets. Later archery was incorporated into

the rifle range. And crafts were really popular.

We made so many lanyards, I could make them

in my sleep. We raised the flag every morning,

and at the end of the day we built a fire on

Devotion Hill for the evening devotion.”

One of Jonathan’s vivid memories was, in

September 1961, when Camp Lone Star was

used to house refugees from Hurricane Carla.

Dozens of hurricane victims, from the Houston

and Galveston area, escaping the vicious storm,

made camp their home for a week or more.

“We really didn’t have a plan,” Jonathan said.

“My dad just opened up the camp to people

who needed help.”

“After they left there was trash and diapers all

over the floors. We got to clean it all up, of

course,” he reported.

The mid-1960s was a tumultuous time for

the International Walther League. Issues that

divided the nation and the LCMS also served to

divide the Walther League. The Walther League

tried to slow its decline by becoming more

“relevant”. The League tried to focus on issues of

the day, like world hunger. But this served only

to anger some members of the LCMS, who

thought the Walther League was placing the

social gospel ahead of the saving Gospel of Jesus

Christ. The decline affected the Lone Star

District, as well. By 1967 the Lone Star District

was barely in existence. Operation of Camp

Lone Star was transferred from the Lone Star

District Executive Board to a self-perpetuating

Camp Lone Star Board of Directors.

One bright piece of camp news for 1967

appeared in the May issue of The Lone Star

Leaguer. In an article title “Hot Water at Lone

Star? Go Ahead; Believe It!” upgrades to Camp

Lone Star were announced:

Finally, campers and staff members can take

hot showers. And the showers are all tiled. One

Left: The kitchen staff, led by Elsie

Socha, sets up for the weekly picnic at

Monument Hill.

Right: The hike to Monument Hill was

not long by hiking standards. But

making the trek without shoes added

to the challenge.

Chapter 3 ✦ 45

Top: The rifle range was enjoyed by

both boys and girls. Here female

markspersons engage with their


Middle: Under John Socha, Camp

Lone Star built a new archery range.

Bottom: The photo of Senior

Counselor Peggy Schneider

impersonating Elvis Presley (right) is

the first photo that can be found of a

guitar at Camp Lone Star. A second

photo from the same period shows,

not only a guitar, but an accordion

as well.

girls’ dorm and one boys’ dorm have panel ray

heaters for keeping warm when it is cold outside.

The dining hall has a new roof and fluorescent

lights and has been sealed out so that it, too, can

be heated. Now that there is heat, it is hoped that

Zones and Leagues will make use of the camp for

spring and fall retreats.

During this same time, John Socha had

begun to study at Concordia Seminary in St.

Louis, under the Colloquy program. Graduation

from this “distance learning” program, gave

Socha an advanced degree and ordination as a

pastor in the Lutheran Church Missouri

Synod. Upon his graduation, in 1966, Rev.

John Socha received and accepted a call to

serve Grace Lutheran Church in Freeport,

Texas, and St. Luke’s Lutheran Church in

Sweeney. Socha tendered his resignation as


Resident Camp Manager to the Camp Lone

Star Board of Directors in 1967, but he

continued to be a fixture at summer camp for

the next few years.

In 1971 Socha became the pastor of Zion

Lutheran Church, Fort Worth, and in 1980, he

accepted a call to Trinity Lutheran Church,

Dime Box. While a pastor at Dime Box, Pastor

Socha served as the manager of the Giddings

Chamber of Commerce, and he was involved in

everything from the Texas Wendish Heritage

Society to the Lee County Sheriff’s Posse.

In the late 1980’s Pastor Socha began a battle

with cancer. He died on December 19, 1988. At

the time of his death Pastor Socha wrote a

weekly column for the Giddings Times & News.

His “Horsin’ Around” column of December 1,

1988 included this thought: “Many times in the

past when I conducted funeral services at

Christmas times, people could be heard saying,

‘How sad that it had to be right at Christmas!’

Since I know my days are numbered I have a

strong feeling of the joy that would come to one

taken to heaven at Christmas time.” That’s the

kind of man John J. Socha was.

Socha’s resignation as the manager of Camp

Lone Star, in 1967, opened the most turbulent

of times for the camp. Under the constitution of

the Walther League’s Lone Star District, in the

event the Lone Star District ceased operations,

all assets were to be transferred to the LCMS

Texas District. There is no record of any funds,

held by the Walther League Lone Star District,

being transferred to the Texas District. And the

actual camp property, the major asset of the

Lone Star District, was not deeded to the Texas

District until 1973.

The years 1968, 1969 and 1970 were a time

when Camp Lone Star could have easily ceased

to exist, had it not been for camp supporters,

led by four men who formed an ad hoc

committee, which kept the Camp Lone Star

dream alive.

The four men who stepped forward to keep the

camp functioning were Rev. Gene Gruell, Rev. Ray

Schkade, Keith Loomans and Dick Rathgeber.

During these years, Gene Gruell served as

the Executive Director of the LCMS Texas

District’s Board for Mission Administration. Ray

Schkade was Executive Director of Parish

Services for the District, and Keith Loomans was

the director of the Board of Parish Education

for the District. These three men worked under

the leadership of District President Rev. Carl

Heckman, another Camp Lone Star supporter.

Dick Rathgeber is a prominent Austin

businessman. While the District Staff members

on the ad hoc committee kept camp programs

moving forward during the tenuous period,

Rathgeber is credited with keeping the camp

solvent, financially.

Given the obvious connection to the Texas

District, one wonders why camp was not

embraced by the District. Why did the Texas

District not immediately accept title to the

Walther League’s prized asset of 125 acres

complete with a fully functional camp?

The answer lies in the complex world of

church politics. Those who were around the

Texas District at the time, recall that President

Heckman and his associates, Gene Gruell, Ray

Schkade and Keith Loomans, were fully on

board with the idea of the Texas District running

the camp. But there were parish pastors in the

Texas District who did not see the value of a

church camp. The issue of the Texas District

accepting the title to the camp property came up

at the District Convention in 1968. One of the

memorable comments reportedly made by a

pastor during the debate was, “Camps don’t do

anything but take people out of the pews on

Sunday.” Whatever else may have been said in

favor of, or against, Camp Lone Star, the 1968

Convention failed to embrace action authorizing

the District to take over the camp.

The ad hoc committee, and other camp

supporters, continued to operate summer camp

at Camp Lone Star during 1968, initially

without any official authorization or sanction.

Later a Camp Lone Star Board of Directors was

established under the Youth Ministry

Committee of the Texas District.

Fortunately, the ad hoc committee and

ultimately the newly-created Camp Lone Star

Board of Directors had a qualified person to run

Children’s Camp during the summer. Betty

Bartsch, a parochial school teacher in Houston,

began leading Children’s Camp in 1964, under

John Socha’s direction. Betty and her husband,

Eddie Bartsch, became the on-site managers of

summer camp during 1968, 1969 and 1970.

Betty had experience with camping, prior to her

Chapter 3 ✦ 47

approved a resolution declaring “outdoors

ministry” to be a legitimate mission outreach, to

be supported by the District, under its Board of

Mission Administration.

The resolution was titled “To Support A

District Camping Ministry”. It read:

This camp sign stood near the

entrance to Camp Lone Star in the

mid 1960’s. Note the sandstone

Walther League logo that is now

housed in the Retreat Center.

work at Camp Lone Star, and she participated in

activities of the American Camping Association.

Eddie was employed as an engineer in Houston,

but took summers off to work at camp.

An article in the Texas Messenger in the spring

of 1968 announced the camp sessions planned

for that summer:

Mrs. Betty Bartsch of Houston has been

selected by the Board of Directors of Camp Lone

Star, La Grange, to again direct the summer

children’s camping program.

The program begins on June 9 and will

continue through Aug. 3. It includes Bible study,

worship, hiking, riflery, nature study, outdoor

cooking, handicraft, horseback riding,

swimming lessons and canoeing. Qualified Red

Cross instructors will be employed for

swimming and canoeing.

Cost for a week’s camp is $35.

Thanks to the advocacy of the District staff,

including Gruell, Schkade and Loomans,

delegates to the 1970 District Convention

heard a very positive report about activities

during the 1969 camping season. At the next

biennial convention, in 1972, delegates

WHEREAS, Christian camping has been

carried on in our District for many years under

the sponsorship of varied organizations and local

groups of congregations, and

WHEREAS, In the past the District has served

as a coordinator of these efforts through the

Board of Parish Education and the Board of

Parish Services, and

WHEREAS, It has become evident that the

District should assume more responsibility for a

vital camping program as a ministry, and

WHEREAS, As upon studies of a special “adhoc

Committee” and the Board of Parish Services

and Board of Mission Administration, the Board

of Directors has established a “camping

Ministry” under the Board of Mission

Administration which became effective January

15, 1972, and

WHEREAS, The board of Mission

Administration will seek budgetary funding to

cover basic needs but may still require additional

funding if the outreach is to be effective,

therefore be it

RESOLVED, That the Texas District authorize

the Board of Directors to urge interested

congregations to augment available funds

through special offerings as needed in support of

the total Camping Ministry of our District, each

congregation to determine how these funds will

be gathered.

This resolution appears to represent a

dramatic shift, since 1968, in the attitude of

Texas LCMS church leaders toward camp

ministry. But even more significant, this

resolution laid the groundwork for the

continued operation of Camp Lone Star under a

legitimate administrative board. It also provided

for the transformation of Camp Lone Star into a

full-time, year-round camp and retreat facility,

serving not only Lutherans, but other Christian,

civic and business groups—and all this under

the leadership of a visionary Camp Director,

who served for the next 35 years.




In the spring of 1971 Garland Midgett was a young teacher at Redeemer Lutheran School in

Austin. He and his wife, Stell, were parents of a two-year-old daughter. Stell was pregnant with their

son, born in October.

To get the teaching position, Garland had taken over the teaching contract of a female teacher. At

that time, most female teachers were offered nine and a half month contracts, instead of the twelvemonth

contract offered to men. By taking over a nine and a half month teaching contract, it meant

the family had less income for the year, a challenge for the young couple.

To help Garland and Stell make ends meet, the school principal, Norm Stuemke, and the Director of

the Texas District’s Parish Board of Education, Keith Loomans, approached Garland with a proposition.

“We met one day and they asked me if I would mind going out of town for the summer, for some

additional pay,” Garland said. “Keith Loomans said, ‘Let’s drive down to La Grange. We have a camp

there. If you are interested, you could be the summer camp director’.”

“So we drove over to Camp Lone Star and he showed us around. It was a beautiful place. But I

knew nothing about running a camp. And there was no owner’s manual go to with it, and no one to

teach me how to be a camp director. But it looked like fun and so I took the job.”

Garland said that although his fee was paid through the District’s Board of Mission Administration,

it was clear that he would have to help raise funds to operate through the summer of 1971.

Despite a lack of specific knowledge about running a summer camp, Garland had a set of life skills

that more than made up for his deficit. Garland describes himself as an “Army brat,” growing up the

son of a serviceman, who traveled more than most.

“I lived in 47 different states, growing up,” Garland said. “In doing that, I had to deal with a lot of

different and diverse situations. It required learning a lot of different skills. I think that prepared me

more than anything to be a camp director. I’ve seen a lot of young men and women who grew up in

very stable environments, stable communities, who found it difficult to adjust to situations that change

rapidly and unexpectedly. But that’s the nature of camp. You never know for sure what the day will

bring and what challenges you will face.”

The trail ride camp took campers

throughout a large part of Fayette

County on horseback.

Chapter 4 ✦ 49

Garland and Stell Midgett.

Garland also attributes his bent for statistics as

an asset for being a camp director. “I don’t think

anybody in previous years had ever counted

‘camper days,’ Garland noted. “That’s one person

at camp for one day. I kept records about

everything and that analysis helped with planning

for camp needs when we really started to grow.”

Garland was born in Uvalde, but did not stay

in Texas long, due to his father’s need to travel.

He was educated in a number of elementary and

secondary schools. And he completed a degree

in education at the University of Texas at Austin.

When the Midgett family moved to Camp

Lone Star prior to the start of 1971 summer camp,

their first surprise and challenge was living in the

camp director’s residence.

“Evidently the building, which is now the

nurses station, had been under renovation for

the Bartsch family,” recalls Garland. “Only they

never finished it. There were very few wall plug

covers and, in some cases, no plugs. You had to

connect your light or radio to a bare wire to get

electricity. And there were other things that we

had to fix quickly.”

Stell’s recollection of the director’s residence

was, “At least it had an attic exhaust fan. You

could sort of stay comfortable if you stayed under

that fan.”

Garland and Stell took close stock of the

buildings on the Camp Lone Star campus. Most of

the buildings in use were from the Lammert era,

and many were in marginal to poor condition.

Structures existing in 1971, according to the

Midgetts, were:

• Two boys dorms,

• Two girls dorms,

• Celebration House (the Rec Hall),

• LWML Dining Hall,

• Office/Concessions,

• Ding Dong Dorm (the staff dorm),

• Handicraft Shelter,

• Garage/Maintenance building,

• Kramer Cabin,

Camp Director’s Residence,

• Pool House,

• Well House,

• Mule Barn,

• Hay Barn,

• Archery range,

• Stables,

• Rifle Range,

• Canoe Shed.

Within a few years many of these would be

torn down and replaced.

Garland inherited some previous summer staff

members and recruited a few new ones, primarily

from Concordia College in Austin. And there

were some other veteran camp workers. August

Hempel continued his role as maintenance man,

while Johanna Pietsch was in charge of the

cafeteria. “But we had a full camp program in

1971, Garland added.”

A part of Garland’s first camp program, of

course, was the horse program. “We had all these

horses and saddles and so I thought, ‘What do

you do with horses?’ The answer, obviously, was

a trail ride.”

Garland tells the story of his trail ride camp:

We advertised a two-week-long trail ride

camp in the spring, with a limit on participants.

All of them had to be at least 15 years old. And

I scheduled it for August, at the end of camp.




We will rejoice in you and be glad

We will extoll your love more than wind

Draw me after you and let us run together

We will rejoice in you and be glad


Some trust in chariots and

Some in Horses, but

We will remember the name

Of the Lord our God

Some trust in chariots and

Some in Horses, but

We will remember the name

Of the Lord our God

Now know I that the Lord

Saveth His annointed

He will hear him from His

Holy Heaven

With the saving strength of

His right hand

They are brought down and fallen

But we are risen and stand upright


Kum ba ya, my Lord, Kum ba ya.

Kum ba ya, my Lord, Kum ba ya.

Kum ba yya, my Lord Kum ba ya,

Oh, Lord, Kum ba ya.

During the early part of the summer I spent a

lot of time going around the Fayette County area

talking to farmers about camping out overnight

on their property. Most agreed, but when one did

not, you had to change the route and that meant

contacting even more farmers. But finally we had

the route set out, starting and ending at camp and

going a long distance through Fayette County.

The trail ride campers checked in on a Sunday

and we had them immediately set out for their

first stop. When they got there, they set up camp

in a dry area that would be a wash if it rained.

And, of course, it did rain that night, for the first

time that summer. And it rained and it rained.

On Monday we knew there was a problem so

we picked up all the campers in a truck and

The old Rec Hall, now renamed

Celebration House, continued to be

the main meeting space at Camp

Lone Star until construction of the

Retreat Center.

Chapter 4 ✦ 51

The trail ride camp was a great

learning experience for the campers

and for the Camp Director. In the

end, all the campers and staff finished

the ride.

brought them back to the base camp. We dried out

the campers and their gear and sent them back.

It must have really been a stretch to assume

that 15 year olds could build a fire or cook a meal.

The counselors later reported the first few days

were a real learning experience for everyone.

The third evening we drove out to see how

things were going with the trail riders.

When we got there it was obvious that things

were really tense. Several of the campers wanted

to talk. So we did. Some of the campers just wanted

to go back to camp and get a shower. Some

others wanted to just go back to camp and stay. I

explained to them that we didn’t have room for

them at camp because we were full that week.

They were not happy, of course, but they had to

complete the trip.

And they did complete the trip. And you

know what, they ended up loving it. They

learned to work together and they became so

close. I think some of those people are still

friends today.

But it was the last trail ride we held as part of

our horse program.


After a successful summer session in 1971,

Garland continued to assist in arranging retreats

and meeting for various groups.

“I would take the reservations,” said Garland.

“And then when it was time, I’d contact Mr.

Hempel and he would open the gates. Since his

pay was being able to run his cattle on the camp

property, there were times when he would have

to move them to another pasture when there

was a weekend meeting. He would arrange for

cabins and drive Mrs. Pietsch to camp so she

could prepare meals.”

The summer of 1972 was staffed entirely by

students from Concordia College in Austin.

Garland was the director, and did all the

registrations for camp, but he had to spend most

of the summer completing his degree at UT.

Between the 1972 and the 1973 summer

camp session, a lot of changes were made to the

management of Camp Lone Star, and to its role

in the LCMS Texas District.

The resolution passed at the 1972 District

Convention had the effect of transferring the

responsibility for Camp Lone Star to the Texas

District Board for Mission Administration.

Under the guidance of the BMA Executive, Rev.

Gene Gruell, the Camp Lone Star Board of

Directors was replaced by the Texas Outdoors

Ministry Advisory Committee (TOMAC).

Then, on January 5, 1973, according to

records of the Fayette County Clerk, the Lone

Star District Walther League Camp Association

conveyed ownership of Camp Lone Star’s

125.58 acres to The Texas District of the

Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod. At the

time, since the Walther League Lone Star

District was no longer in existence, the deed

transfer was based on a resolution of the LCMS

Texas District Youth Committee of February 27,

1971. However, in 1979 the county clerk

required that the Texas District provide further

proof of their claim to the land. In response,

Keith Loomans, Associate Director of Parish

Services for the District, provided an affidavit in

a notarized deposition affirming the transfer of

the property.

But the biggest change during that eventful

year of 1973 was the hiring of Garland Midgett

as the first full-time Executive Director of

Outdoors Ministry for the Texas District.

Although operating Camp Lone Star was a

major part of Garland’s new job, the job

description extended to developing “outdoors

ministry” throughout the Texas District. The

new ministry, called Texas Outdoors Ministry

(TOM) began full time operation in June, with

its headquarters at Camp Lone Star.

“That first year, 1973, we spent a lot of time

cutting brush, clearing, and repairing buildings

so Camp could be more presentable,” recalls

Garland. “But I was also traveling a lot, making

calls on churches and schools. And I had other

responsibilities, like hiring summer staff and

planning summer camp programs. This all

increased over the next couple of years.”

“The District was very supportive, however,

and they allowed me to hire several part-time

staff to fill the needs.”

As summer camp of 1974 approached, a

report in The Texas Messenger supplement to The

Lutheran Witness outlined the activities at Camp

Lone Star:

“One of the finest summer staffs ever

assembled at Lone Star!” commented Mr.

Garland Midgett, as he perched one booted

leg on the Trading Post’s rail and reflected on

the staff for the regular summer camping

program, as well as on the special staffs for

weekends, Kaleidoscope (LSV) Kamps, and

Work Camps.

“There were 46 here for Work Camp and a

full 30 registered for Kaleidescope. We are

making money in this venture and not costing

the District a cent, except for a few of the

weekend camps during the winter,” continued

Garland. “I just wish the best for every camper

who comes here. They used to not come,

because the place was run down. Now, with the

improvements, new bunks, new mattresses, and

all the painting, people are finding Camp Lone

Star is a perfect place to camp. We will thrive as

people continue to support us. For instance, a

bridge was donated this year by Mrs. Gertrude

Johns of St. Andrew, Houston, and a trailer was

loaned to us by Mr. Glenn Wisemann, whose

wife is a member of St. John, Cypress, to move

the mattresses and bridge to Camp.”

The year 1974 also marked aggressive off-site

camping by TOM, including canoeing and

backpacking at off-site locations, thanks to a

grant from Lutheran Brotherhood. A part of the

off-site emphasis was an extension program at

Chapter 4 ✦ 53

The National Lutheran Outdoors

Ministry Association became a strong

force for Lutheran camping

nationwide, thanks to outdoors

ministry leaders like Garland Midgett.

Camp Lutherland, near San Antonio. This

extension program continued through 1977.

As Garland was learning and honing his

skills on how to run a camp, he began to reach

out to other Lutheran camp directors around

the U.S.

“One man who really helped me was Wayne

Jarvis, director of Camp Chrysalis in Kerrville,”

said Garland. “Even though Chrysalis was an

American Lutheran Camp, and part of a multicamp

organization, he was always ready to share

ideas and he invited me to any meeting he had,

including his board meeting. He let me sit in

and listen and learn.”

Garland also was in touch with camp

directors at other camps affiliated with the

LCMS. “At first we just got together informally,”

said Garland. “There were no memberships and

no dues. We’d just let everybody know where

we were meeting and they would show up.”

“Then we started calling ourselves Outdoors

Ministry-LCMS. But the Synod called up and

said we couldn’t use those initials in our name.

We had to come up with a new name and we

called it National Lutheran Outdoors Ministry

Association, NLOMA for short.”

A major issue for camp managers was

recruitment of college students to work as

summer counselors. Prior to the founding of

NLOMA, this was done individually by

each camp director. Generally, each director

would go to many of the Concordia universities

and also to nearby public universities.

There they would setup an information table

about the opportunity to be a counselor at a

Lutheran camp.

Thanks to efforts by Garland and other camp

directors in NLOMA, “joint recruitment” was

born. Instead of each director having to travel

across the country to reach prospective counselors,

a plan was put in place for directors to cover only

the campuses that were near to them. Prospective

counselors could then apply to any of the nearly

40 LCMS camps with any camp director.

Other opportunities for sharing techniques

and information about camp management made

NLOMA a force in Lutheran camping that

continues today. Garland is credited as one of

the founders of the organization.

The increase in activity at Camp Lone Star

from 1973 to 1975 continued the manpower

strain, with the camp being staffed by more and

more part-time employees. It became obvious to

Garland, and others, that there was a better way

to allocate camp labor.

Garland approached the TOMAC board and

Rev. Gruell and assured them, “I can save you a

lot of money by replacing several part-time

people with one or two full-timers.“ This led to

a search for a “camp manager,” and the hiring of

Mike Schmidt for the position in March, 1976.

Mike was a former teacher from Giddings, who

became a Camp Lone Star fixture for years to

come. Mike, and by extension, his wife Marilyn,

were hired to manage the facilities at camp, and to

periodically host retreat groups. Garland calls the

hiring of the Schmidts “a Godsend.”

“I was called to develop outdoors ministry

in the Texas District. And I was called to make

Camp Lone Star sustainable. To do that I had to

travel a lot,” said Garland.

Garland reported that he was racking up over

100,000 miles a year setting up off-site

programs, making presentations at churches

and schools, hiring summer staff and soliciting

donations for the ministry. “I don’t know what I

would have done without Mike and Marilyn, “

said Garland.

To facilitate the arrival of the Schmidts,

Garland and Stell moved off the camp property to

a house in La Grange, leaving the Camp Director

Residence to Mike, Marilyn and children.

“Mike’s first day on the job was a real camp

learning experience ,” said Garland. “They pulled

up with a moving van and their three children.

“I told Mike, ‘Glad to see you. I’ve got to be

in Amarillo tonight. Good luck.’


“That night some of the campers knocked on

his door and said they had a problem,” said

Garland. “The problem they reported was a tree

on fire.

“That happened because the ground was wet

from rain and the campers couldn’t get their

campfire lit. So, they decided to build the

campfire in a tree.

“Mike put out the fire and calmed everybody

down. Thank God he didn’t just pack up

and leave.”

The growing camp ministry was a mixed

blessing for members of the LCMS Texas District

Board of Directors. Although the camp was

being used by more and more Lutherans and

others, the board members were rightly

concerned about the liability such a facility

imposed on the District. Attorneys for the

District recommended that a separate

corporation should govern Camp Lone Star and

its programs. Thus, in 1977, was born Texas

Outdoors Ministry, Inc. Its board of directors

became the governing body for the camp. The

supportive bonds of the Texas District Board of

Mission Administration and the Texas Outdoors

Ministry Advisory Committee were cut as TOM,

and its board of directors, took over

management of Camp Lone Star. Two years later,

on November 27, 1979, the LCMS Texas

District filed an Affidavit of Resolution

conveying by Warranty Deed the 125.58 acres

comprising Camp Lone Star to Texas Outdoors

Ministry, Inc.

Camp Lone Star’s growth was marked, in

1977, by addition of another full-time staff

member, James Preece, who became the first

full-time Program Director. Preece, as did

subsequent Program Directors, worked with

creating programs for summer camp, including

the main summer theme and a Bible study based

on the summer theme. Preece also helped

provide programming for retreat groups and

other camp users.

The same year marked an interest in the

possibility of TOM having a camp in north

Texas. Garland began meeting with a committee

from north Texas to discuss how a camp could

be provided to serve that region.

The TOM Board seemed to be working

overtime during this period, laying plans and

dreams on the table to accommodate the future

of Outdoors Ministry in Texas. The Board

decided to move forward with the construction

of facilities to help replace some of the outdated

buildings that had been demolished and to

provide a new standard in facilities that would

facilitate year round use and better serve adults.

A major capital improvement program began in

1979 that forever changed the face of Camp

Lone Star and its ability to serve both youth and

adults. This construction effort would result in a

new waste water system, a new drinking water

system, a modern, air conditioned retreat center

and new youth cabins.

To finance these ambitious plans, Garland

approached a La Grange banker, Chester

Creuzbaur. His bank, La Grange State Bank, was

not big enough to underwrite all the needed

work, so Creuzbayr approached two other local

banks to join forces in this major improvement

project for La Grange.

The banks agreed and funded the project. At

the same time, Garland approached a family

foundation with Lutheran roots, the M.G. and

Lillie A. Johnson Foundation, of Victoria, Texas.

Mike and Marilyn Schmidt joined the

staff in 1976.

Chapter 4 ✦ 55

The Retreat Center was an ambitious

project for Camp Lone Star, but had

the strong support of the TOM Board.

A major grant from the Johnson Foundation

assured that the work could be completed

without relying on as much borrowed funding.

Funding was also forthcoming from the

ladies of the LWML. The 1978 convention

theme of “Living Waters” was a perfect

opportunity for Garland to approach the

convention for a grant to help fund the new

waste water system. To his delight, it passed.

The crown jewel of the construction project

was the Retreat Center. A designer, Richard

Scherk of Austin, was engaged to design the

building and to manage construction. Scherk did

this work as a contribution to Camp Lone Star.

The elaborate design included many elements,

such as solar panels, a huge wooden deck area

and a water hyacinth pond as part of the waste

water treatment facility. But Scherk’s plan was to

not hire a general contractor for the overall

project, but rather to contract each element of the

project separately, and to negotiate the best deal

for each part of the project.

This sounded like a reasonable approach at

the time, but a tight budget resulted in some

planned amenities not being included. One

cause of the financial squeeze was that the TOM

Board had agreed to accept a lease on a former

Boy Scout camp at Lake Texoma, as the site of


Texoma Lutheran Camp. Funds were needed for

improvements at Texoma, as well.

When the Retreat Center opened in 1980,

the side of the building facing the lake had a

severe dropoff, as this is where the wooden deck

area was to be constructed, but had been

dropped from the project. This area was

eventually filled and a concrete slab poured.

The end result, however, was a functional

and attractive building, named the M.G. and

Lillie A. Johnson Retreat Center.

In the final analysis, the building was a

compromise,” Garland said. “It was not

designed to be on par with a hotel resort facility,

but rather to be a utilitarian retreat center with

comfortable rooms, a good kitchen and meeting

space. It was a whole lot better than housing

retreat groups in cabins.

“And retreat business took off from the minute

it opened. We began to book up weekend retreat

groups from churches, schools, family reunions

and groups not affiliated with a church. But we

never enjoyed great success in keeping the

Retreat Center filled during week days.

“We also started pulling in a lot of Texas

District business, meetings, retreats and events.

We now had the facilities to serve needs for the

District that had gone to hotel meeting spaces

previously. Through the years we have had great

support from the District, and we still do today.

But in the years when the Retreat Center first

opened, it was really a blessing having people

like Keith Loomans on the District Staff, to

direct meeting and retreat business our way.

Above: A new water tower, as part of

an updated water system, was

included in the 1979 capital

improvement program.

Left: With the completion of the

Retreat Center, groups needing

retreat and meeting facilities found

a new reason to call Camp Lone

Star “home”.

Chapter 4 ✦ 57

Above: The finished Retreat Center

was a stunning contrast to the rough

hewn buildings that had been in use

at Camp Lone Star since the 1940s.

Right: The new youth dining hall

provided efficient facilities for feeding

hungry campers.


“From the start, no matter who was using the

Retreat Center, we wanted them to know they

were in a Christian environment. We decorated

the building with crosses and other Christian

artwork and banners, we always offered a table

prayer at mealtime and our staff was there to

talk to anyone about faith issues, if that is what

they wanted.”

Although the Retreat Center received positive

praise from almost all users, Garland said he

was surprised at the reaction of one group.

“We had been doing a very successful directed

retreat for a number of years, called September

Camp. It was for Senior Citizens, in the

September of their lives. The first year we held it

in the Retreat Center, some of the ladies in the

group came to me and said, ‘Garland, you know

we’re not all that poor and we live in nice airconditioned

homes most of the time. But what we

really used to enjoy about September Camp was

having those slumber parties in the dorm.’ That

proved once again you can’t please everybody.”

With the opening of the Retreat Center, it

quickly became apparent that another staff

position was needed to help promote retreat

business and to staff retreat groups. Lou Jander

was hired in September 1980, to work in these

areas, with the title of “Associate Director” of

Camp Lone Star. Lou became Garland’s on-site

assistant, so that Garland could continue his

ambitious travel schedule to promote Texas

Outdoors Ministry. Lou served in this position

until 1982.

Another 1980 milestone was the retirement

of Mrs. Johanna Pietsch, who had worked in the

Camp Lone Star kitchen since the time Ted

Lammert was Camp Manager.

By 1982 the TOM Board of Directors began

to realize that Garland Midgett was, after all,

a mere mortal and could only be stretched

so far, especially with the added responsibility

of Texoma Lutheran Camp in north Texas.

The Board adopted a new structure for the

ministry: an Executive Director housed in the

LCMS Texas District office in Austin, Garland

serving at La Grange as full-time director of

Camp Lone Star and an on-site Texoma

Lutheran Camp director.

The board chose to hire an ordained minister

as its new Executive Director. Rev. Karl Petzke

was hired for the position. Rev. Petzke was an

old camp hand, having served many years at

Camp Omega in Minnesota. As a pastor, Petzke

had access to his fellow pastors throughout the

District, in a way that no lay person could

match. This helped Petzke’s efforts to increase

Above: New cabins, built in clusters,

provided campers with clean, airconditioned

sleeping quarters, and

modern bath facilities.

Left: The year 1980 marked the

retirement of long-time kitchen staffer,

Mrs. Johanna Pietsch.

Chapter 4 ✦ 59

summer campers and also weekend retreats for

church groups. Since TOM could not issue a call

to an LCMS pastor, Petzke’s call was issued

through the Texas District.

Rev. Petzke immediately helped sell the board

on two steps forward. First, he proposed

changing the name of Texas Outdoors Ministry

(TOM) to Lutheran Outdoors Ministry of Texas

(LOMT). The name change was adopted. Second

was the hiring of a young rostered teacher, Keith

Lund, to serve as Camp Director of Texoma

Lutheran Camp. Keith’s formal call, like Rev.

Petzke’s, was through the Texas District.

The horse program had existed at Camp

Lone Star since John Socha brought his family

horses to the camp in 1959. By 1984, insurance

of the horse program, and other activities of

camp, was becoming a bigger and bigger part of

the camp budget. According to Garland, a lot of

camps had trouble getting liability insurance at

any price. Fortunately for Camp Lone Star, the

insurance carrier had, for years, allowed the

horse program to be included under the general

liability policy for the camp.

“We knew it was going to be a problem in

1984,” Garland said, “but I asked our agent to

do what he could.”

“Shortly after that, our agent came to me with

a big old grin on his face. ‘Garland,’ he said, ‘we

can still get you insurance for the horse

program, only it will be on a separate policy.’ I

asked him how much, knowing the previous

year the entire premium was $10,000. He

replied, ‘Only $8,000 extra.’ That was the

moment the horse program came to an end.”

“The horses,” Garland said, “were sold and a

few given away.”

“But when we lost the horse program, I

already knew what I was going to replace them

with. That was the Challenge Course.”



I danced in the morning when the

world was begun

And I danced in the moon and the stars and sun.

I came down from heaven and I danced

on the earth

At Bethlehem I had my birth

Dance then wherever you may be

I am the Lord of the dance said he

And I'll lead you all, wherever you may be

And I'll lead you all in a life that's free.


Father, grant that what we sing with our lips,

We may believe in our hearts.

And what we believe in our hearts,

We may show forth in our lives.

Through Lord Jesus Christ.

Amen. Amen.


Verse 1

It only takes a spark to get a fire going

And soon all those around can warm up

in its glowing

That’s how it is with God’s love

Once you’ve experienced it

You spread the love to everyone

You want to pass it on

Verse 2

What a wondrous time is Spring

When all the trees are budding

The birds begin to sing; the flowers

start their blooming

That’s how it is with God’s love

Once you’ve experienced it

You want to sing; it’s fresh like Spring

You want to pass it on.

Verse 3

I wish for you my friend, this happiness

that I’ve found

You can depend on Him, it matters not

where you’re bound

I’ll shout it from the mountain top:


I want the world to know: JESUS LOVES YOU!

The Lord of Love has come to me

I want to pass it on.


Garland first saw the activity now known as

a “challenge course” or “ropes course” at a

NLOMA conference in Carbondale, Illinois, a

few years earlier.

“They were working with juvenile

delinquents and handicapped kids,” Garland

said. “I saw these tough kids rappelling off a cliff

with a rope held by a handicapped youngster.

That really impressed me to see how you could

use challenge course to build trust between

these very different groups.”

“I’d always been interested in experiential

education, that is, learning by doing, which is

the basis for challenge course. We began to

study the subject in detail and found out several

things. One, challenge course had an

exceptionally high safety record, so insurance

premiums were low. Two, building a challenge

course was an affordable undertaking. We built

the first challenge course elements in 1985 and

it just grew from there, and was incredibly

popular with campers and retreat participants.”

Since 1985, the challenge course has grown

to include a total of nine high and nineteen low

elements. Some have been refurbished through

the years and there has never been a serious

accident. Trained camp staff facilitators are

always on site when the challenge course is used.

The first set of six base camp cabins was built

as part of the 1979 capital improvement

campaign. But the intention was always to build

a second set of six. This was completed in 1986.

One of Karl Petzke’s innovative additions to

the Camp Lone Star structure was the creation

of a Development Council. The group was

formed to help support the camp financially and

also through volunteer work. To head up the

Council, Petzke recruited a hard-working

businessman from Waco, Glenn Hurta. Glenn

and his wife, Janet, had found out about Camp

Lone Star only a few years before, when they

attended the 1982 annual barbecue. But both

saw the potential for camp to grow and prosper

through the Development Council.

“After I was selected by the LOMT Board to

be chairman of the Council,” said Hurta, “Karl

gave me a list of people who have been coming

to camp with their kids, coming to the barbecue

and to other events. On my own time and nickel

I started calling and asked them to join the

Top, left: Rev. Karl Petzke joined the

Camp Lone Star family in 1983 as

the Executive Director of TOM.

Top, right: After the Texas Outdoors

Ministry changed its name to

Lutheran Outdoors Ministry of Texas

(LOMT), board member Catherine

Burkhard was called upon to use

her calligraphy skills to prepare the

LOMT logo for production.

Below: Bucky was a tame pet deer

that was a part of Camp Lone Star

life for a several years in the early

1980s. Bucky was nursed back to

health by La Grange veterinarian,

James F. Tiemann. Bucky enjoyed

being around campers and always

wore a collar while a camp mascot.

He loved to be petted and had the run

of the camp property. But, as Bucky

grew into a mature buck, it became

more difficult for him to fill the role as

a friend to all. One hunting season

Bucky simply disappeared, never to be

seen again.

Chapter 4 ✦ 61

The challenge course, started at

Camp Lone Star in 1985, has been

one of the most effective tools for

teaching team and leadership skills, as

well as building personal self

confidence and maturity. The Camp

Lone Star staff has devised ingenious

ways to communicate Christian

values and virtues through the

challenge course elements.

Development Council. And they joined, or at

least most of them did. Our first big project was

to raise $3,000 to make the old well usable to

keep the lake full.

“We also invited Development Council

members to work days at camp. This really got

me excited about camp and the fellowship with


Council members. We did all kinds of projects,

like setting posts for a fence around the

maintenance building and helping set the bridge

at the dam.”

Glenn and Janet owned a recreational

vehicle, and so they suggested to Karl that

LOMT sponsor an RV camping ministry.

Glenn related, “We told him there had to be

hundreds of Lutherans in Texas who were

RVers. We could all meet up at a State Park and

have a great time. It took him a while to think

about it. Then one day he called me.

Karl said, ‘You remember when we were

talking about an RV camping ministry? Would

you head that up? I’ll do the advertising. You

pick a place and tell me what I need to do.’ I

said, ‘Let’s do it.’

“The first location we picked was Lady Bird

Johnson Park in Fredericksburg. We got there

about 2 p.m. and set up our RV. Karl was there

also. About 4 o’clock Karl came over with kind

of a long face and asked, ‘Do you think anybody

else is coming?’

“But by that evening, 22 rigs and 49 people

showed up and we had a weekend of activities.

“We kept trying new things,” Glenn said,

“and it kept growing. We had games, pot luck

meals, Bible study and worship on Sunday

morning. Occasionally people just staying in the

park would join us for worship. The biggest

group we had was at Fairfield, when we had

something like 80 or 90 people.”

The Hurtas kept leading the RV ministry into

the 1990s.

Another offsite program that developed

under Karl Petzke was the offshore fishing trip.

The trip was the brainstorm of long-time LOMT

board member Mike Linebrink.

“I always thought a lot of people would like

to experience fishing offshore, if they just knew

how to go about it,” Mike related. “So we sold

the idea to Karl. The idea was we would go to

Port Aransas, stay at a condo and go out on a

party boat. And we would have a shrimp boil.

The first year, in 1985, Karl, my wife Pixie and

I went early to buy and boil the shrimp. It was

more work than I had dreamed. We spent most

of the night boiling shrimp. After that first year

we started buying the shrimp in Austin and

boiling them at our house. Then we’d pack

them up in ice for the trip.”

Eventually Mike recruited Warren and

Betty Ressell to help with the planning

and organization for the fishing trip. He also

invited Rev. Marty Doering along to lead

worship on Sunday morning. One year the trip

had nearly 150 participants. The trip was an

annual event for LOMT, and lasted 10 years,

until 1995.

Camp Lone Star had operated financially

since 1941 on a combination of use fees and

donations. Although the ratio of fees to gifts

changed through the years, by the late 1980’s,

with increased usage, staff and facilities, the

contributions from supporters of the camp were

more important than ever. Adding more

facilities, such as housing for staff, upgraded

waste water plant, additional cabins and needed

improvements at Texoma Lutheran Camp

required an even more aggressive outreach for

contributions. To accomplish this, in 1988 the

LOMT Board approved a contract with a

professional fund raising company to conduct a

new capital campaign, called Equipping for

Excellence. Unfortunately, the campaign fell far

short of its goal and netted only a modest

amount of income. But the idea of having a

professional development component, as part of

LOMT, had taken root.

In 1990 Rev. Karl Petzke resigned as

Executive Director of LOMT to take a similar

position at Camp Lutherhaven in Idaho. The

LOMT board used this opportunity to

restructure the operation of the organization. No

longer would LOMT have an Executive Director.

The LOMT RV camping ministry

brought dozens of new participants

into LOMT activities. This photo is

from the very first RV weekend, at

Lady Bird Johnson Park in


Chapter 4 ✦ 63

The Bokencamp Pastoral Retreat

featured a functional meeting and

retreat facility, in a charming setting

near Burton, TX.

Instead, the ministry would be governed day to

day by a management committee, comprised of

the Director of Camp Lone Star, the Director of

Texoma Lutheran Camp, the Board President

and the Development Council Chairman. By

freeing up funds that were previously paid to

Rev. Petzke, the Board sought out a professional

fund raiser. In 1991 John Hawkins joined the

staff of LOMT as Development Director.

Hawkins came on board just in time to feel

the effects of the U.S. recession of 1990 and

1991, which affected Texas more than other

areas. It has always been an observable fact that

the financial health of LOMT and Camp Lone

Star has closely mirrored the financial health of

the state and nation. That became painfully

clear at the end of the summer of 1991. The

LOMT Board, meeting at the Bokenkamp

Pastoral Retreat, found summer camp expenses

in excess of $50,000, with virtually no funds in

the bank. The Board made several immediate

decisions that day.

Glenn Hurta recalls one decision was that “if

a camp vehicle stops on the side of the road, you

don’t call anybody to fix it. You just try to get it

back to camp and let it sit there.”

Another was that summer counselors

were released early and the final week of camp


But those actions were hardly enough to

resolve the deficit. So, the board did what Camp

Lone Star people do. They prayed and prayed

and prayed.

(Author’s Note: It was truly amazing and

affirming to see Board members, who had not

anticipated the camp’s financial situation being so

serious, going to God for guidance through the

stormy situation…and doing this before any

other action or discussion. Public prayer

continued through the day, and by adjournment,

there were some potential solutions on the table.)

Eventually the cash flow issue was resolved

through a combination of short term loans,

targeted fund-raising by Hawkins and God’s

amazing mercy.

The Bokenkamp Pastoral Retreat, where the

crisis meeting was held, had become a part of

LOMT in 1989. It was a gift from Don and Pat

Bokenkamp, and was a part of a ranch they

owned near Burton, Texas, about 25 miles from

Camp Lone Star.

The Bokenkamps had a distinct vision for the

property and attached a requirement when it

was donated to LOMT that it be used only as a

retreat for Lutheran clergy and their families.

The facility included a house, a multi-purpose

meeting room with kitchen facilities, sleeping

facilities an outdoor chapel and a small lake.

In trying to honor the wishes of the

Bokenkamps, Daryl Obermiller, former Camp

Lone Star staffer, was assigned as a resident manager

for the property. A goal for the retreat was to


invite pastors and families to use the facility.

Despite the best efforts of LOMT, usage of the

facility in the way envisioned by Don and Pat

Bokenkamp, was not successful. In 1992the property

was given to Lutheran Social Services of the

South to continue to be used as a pastoral retreat.

Hawkins’ introduction to fund raising for

Camp Lone Star was truly a “baptism of fire” for

the veteran development professional, who had

previously worked in fund raising for a hospital

in Waco.

Hawkins recalled, “I’ll never forget Glenn

Hurta telling me, when I got the job, ‘You’re not

going to be under the stresses like you were at

the hospital.’ That was one time Glenn got it

wrong. It was kind of a surprise to all of us to

see how dire the situation really was. My

mission became ‘get operational cash.’”

During his first year as Development Director,

Hawkins also boosted contributions by re-tooling

the structure of the Development Council.

Hawkins said that before he came to work at

camp, in 1989, records show there were 56

members of the Development Council. Only 32

of those were making financial contributions to

LOMT, and many of the contributors were

giving less than $100 annually.

“So, in January, 1992, we changed the rules

for membership in the Development Council,”

Hawkins said. “After that a member had to give

at least $500 annually for three years. Not

everybody liked the change, because some

members just wanted to participate in work

days. But the result was that Development

Council giving went from $24,000 to $49,000.

“There was also some confusion about the

authority of the Development Council. At some

Development Council meetings, members passed

motions to spend camp funds. Of course, that

should have only been done by the LOMT Board.

So we came up with six rules for membership.”

The rules adopted were:

1. Pray regularly for the LOMT ministry.

2. Give a minimum of $500 annually.

3. Commit to at least three years of service.

4. Be an advocate for LOMT in your local


5. As opportunities arise, help raise money for

the ministry through events like the

Phonathon, the auction and by inviting

friends to Barbecue Weekend.

6. Attend Development Council meetings,

when possible.

Development Council meetings were

changed from quarterly to twice a year and

eventually once a year on Barbecue Weekend.

The content of the meeting was changed to be

primarily informational. A great tradition was

Development Council members

provided labor for numerous camp

improvement projects, including the

setting of the bridge over the lake


Chapter 4 ✦ 65

A scene from the first Development

Council Banquet, in 1991. Former

Texas House Speaker Gus F.

Mutscher (second from right) was

keynote speaker.

instituted, thanks to Hawkins, as counselors

were invited to tell the story of their summer

experience. These often-dramatic testimonies

helped Development Council members, and

potential members, understand the true impact

of the Camp ministry.

Hawkins also played a role in the start of the

Development Council banquet. The first

banquet was held in July 1991 in the Retreat

Center. The speaker for the first banquet was

former Speaker of the Texas House of

Representatives, and Washington County Judge,

Gus F. Mutscher. A member of Grace Lutheran

Church in Brenham, Mutscher held the highest

political office, as House Speaker, ever occupied

by a member of the LCMS.

Through the years the Development Council

banquet grew in size and appeal. It was moved

from the Retreat Center to the Knights of

Columbus Hall in La Grange. Hawkins helped

focus the banquet to be a recognition and thank

you banquet for Development Council members.

Eventually summer staff members were invited

to attend, as well as the Development Council.

A number of prominent individuals accepted

the invitation to be the keynote speaker for the

event. Some of those best known include: Dr.

Joe Frost, former LOMT board chair and UT

professor; Dr. Oswald Hoffman, former

Lutheran Hour speaker; Dan Brandenstein,

astronaut and member of Gloria Dei Lutheran

Church in Houston; Roger Heminghaus, CEO of

Valero Corporation; Jean Garton, founder of

Lutherans for Life; Rev. Ron Burk, Lutheran

humorist; and Rev. Ken Hennings, president of

the LCMS Texas District.

Hawkins was also involved with approaching

the Johnson Foundation for funding for the

Koop Center, which was named for a former

chairman of the foundation, and also funding for

the Selah House. The Koop Center was

dedicated in 1992 and the Selah House in 1999.

Both added important meeting space to the

camp property. John Hawkins does give credit to

Rev. Leo Symmank, a personal friend of

foundation members, for generating foundation

interest in Camp Lone Star.

Perhaps Hawkins is best remembered

by camp supporters for the LOMT Phonathons,

which were held through much of the 1990s.

Phonathons were done in numerous cities

around Texas, with volunteers recruited and

organized by Hawkins. Volunteers made calls to

parents of campers and former donors,

requesting pledges for the fund-raising event.

“We needed operating cash quickly,” said

Hawkins, “and this was the quickest way I knew.

We started out the first year with Phonathons in

Austin, San Antonio and Dallas. Eventually we

were holding them in 11 different cities. It sort


of took on a life of its own. Matching funds from

Lutheran Brotherhood made it even more

important to the budget of LOMT.”

Eventually Hawkins was devoting 40 nights a

year to the high-pressure event. That, plus the

introduction of caller ID into most homes, brought

about the end of the phone call fundraising.

(Author’s Note: The first time I was invited to

participate in the LOMT Phonathon, I accepted

as a board member, but I had a pretty bad

attitude about doing the calling. But once I

started talking to parents of campers, it was just

amazing. Many of them wanted to talk on and

on about the great experience their child had at

camp the previous year. And many of them

talked about their own experience at camp

many years earlier. Just about all pledged

something and it was so easy to make the next

call. I think most participants in the Phonathon

had this same uplifting experience.)

Hawkins also introduced LOMT to the idea

of a legacy fund raising program. The Behnken

Society was started in 1995 with 54 initial

charter members. Members of the Behnken

Society committed to either include LOMT in

their will, or as a beneficiary of a life insurance

policy. The Society was named after Texan Rev.

John W. Behnken, former president of the Texas

District and president of the Lutheran Church

Missouri Synod from 1935 to 1962.

John Hawkins resigned from his position at

LOMT in 1999, to take a position with

Brackenridge Hospital in Austin and then the

Lutheran Foundation of Texas. He later worked

again for LOMT for a time, and is now the

National Development Director for Lutherans

for Life.

Through the 1980s and 1990s summer camp

continued to be the heart of Camp Lone Star.

The requirements for a successful summer of

camp sessions were many. But certainly

qualified staff was essential.

During this time, Camp Lone Star had a

number of Program Directors. Although the stay

for each may not have been long, many went on

to other ministry opportunities, utilizing the

skills, experience and training afforded them by

Camp Lone Star.

After the first full time Program Director,

James Preece, these Program Directors served:

Above: The Koop Center, opened in

1992, brought a whole new dimension

of large, air conditioned meeting space

to Camp Lone Star. The Koop Center

serves as the site of the closing

program for each week of summer

camp, and it has hosted worship

services, weddings and the annual

barbecue auction.

Below: The Selah House was

completed in 1999. It provided camp

with additional mid-size meeting

space, along with upscale sleeping

quarters. The House is often used

as a self-contained small retreat

group setting.

Chapter 4 ✦ 67

Day Camp has been a great outreach

to the La Grange/Fayette County

community, offering summer day

camp and after school programs to

local children.

• Michael Phillips, 1985-87

• Craig Oldenburg, 1987-89

• Daryl Obermiller, 1991

• Todd Roeske, 1992

• Cheryl Wilke (now Bailes), 1993-94

• Jim Holmlund, 1995-99

• Mark Thompson, 2000-03

In 1995 a new staff position was created, an

assistant to Garland Midgett. Rev. Henry Biar Jr.

was hired as Assistant Director of Camp Lone

Star. Rev. Biar became the first worker stationed

at Camp Lone Star to receive a formal call, again

through the Texas District.

In that same year Keith Lund, Camp Director

of Texoma Lutheran Camp, was given the added

responsibility as Executive Director of LOMT.

It is certainly worth noting that, in 1989,

Mary Oldenburg, wife of Program Director

Craig Oldenburg, began Day Camp for children

who live in the La Grange area. Although the

program has undergone changes, and is now a

part of Club Connect, consisting of Day Camp,

After School Care and Movie Nights, it has been

a highly successful part of the Camp Lone Star

ministry, and a great outreach to the community.

One of the legacies that Garland Midgett left

with Camp Lone Star was the professional

training required of summer staff. Always a

meticulous organizer, Garland made certain that

summer counselors, especially novices, were

prepared for the challenges ahead.

“I started right off requiring summer staff

counselors to be ‘adults’ who had completed

one year or more of college,” Garland relates.

“And they needed to commit to an entire

summer and participate in staff training.”

“Staff training was for one week immediately

prior to the beginning of summer camp. This

later expanded to include additional days for

leaders and program specialists. I did all the

training except for lifeguards and medical

professionals. I brought in specialists for the

training and certification for these areas.

“Originally all summer staff were certified as

lifeguards and Red Cross first aid medics. It was

intense training and I often felt a need to expand to

a longer time. But for years that was impractical.”

One person who has played a role in training

of staff and junior staff over the years has been

the longest serving summer staffer, Matt

Chambers. Matt first came to Camp Lone Star as

an eight-year-old camper in 1980. After that

summer, Matt says he was “absolutely

committed” to coming back to camp every year.

Upon graduation from high school he began

working at camp. During 26 years of summer

staff service, Matt has experienced just about

every leadership role at camp, and is also

involved in music selection and performance.

Matt, a teacher at Redeemer Lutheran School

in Austin, is a big advocate of Garland’s

approach to intense staff training. “Staff training

is a big, big deal,” he said. “In staff training

we create a sense of urgency. Staff members have

to be prepared to meet the culture. They have to

be prepared to explain to kids, who are

confused, about how they can have healthy

relationships, with their family and with their

friends, of either sex.


“Training today is more in-depth than in the

early ’90s. Training is both psychological and

theological. We push the staff to the brink of

what they can take in their lives. Because they

need that to get through to kids.

“We can’t afford to have a bad day at camp

because we are talking about souls. So we want

the Word to be the beginning point of

everything we do. Kids are desperate to hear

what truth is. So we have to be prepared to

speak truth.”

Matt took over as coordinator of the Junior

Staff program in 1992, and served several

summers in that role. His direction, he said,

was to take the program and “grow it”. Junior

Staff had been around for years, since its initial

title of “Helping Hands”. The high school

students who serve as Junior Staff spend two

weeks at camp working in a variety of roles,

with no pay.

“Our approach was for them to understand

service and to serve hard,” Matt said. “The

Junior Staff experience has the same

foundations as the summer counselors. So

training is important. Spiritual maturity is

also important to this age group. We have

Bible study every night and that time has

allowed us to break through many barriers with

these kids.”

In 1996, under the leadership of Program

Director Jim Holmlund, the Junior Staff program

was changed to be led by dual coordinators.

“Jill Williams (now Neuhaus) and I were the

first dual coordinators,” Matt recalled. “By having

both a male and a female leader, we became, in a

sense, like parents to the Junior Staffers. We were

able to model healthy relationships between

members of opposite sexes.

“Another important role for the Junior

Staff coordinators is to evaluate people coming

up, so we always have new summer staff

members with experience and the right attitude

about serving.”

Matt also worked with Jim Holmlund in

adding important features to one of Camp Lone

Star’s most successful camp programs,

Discovery Camp. Discovery is a week-long

Left: Matt Chambers, on the right of

this photograph, is the longest serving

summer staff member. Matt has

brought leadership to summer staff

training, junior staff management and

Discovery Camp. He has also been

active in selecting and producing

music for summer camp.

Below: Junior Staff members help in a

wide variety of camp tasks, many of

which involve handling dirty dishes,

or require skill with a rake or shovel.

But most JC’s fully enjoy Sunday

afternoons when they can assist new

campers at check in.

Chapter 4 ✦ 69

camp for high school age kids. Although it

existed throughout Garland Midgett’s service as

Camp Director, Discovery Camp changed

dramatically during the mid and late 1990s.

According to Matt, 1995 and 1996 were the

years when changes had to be made. Prior to

that time, he said, “there were issues, but

something happened in those years. There was a

cultural shift. Kids were coming to Camp who

did not understand relationships. How can you

understand your relationship with the God of

the Universe if you have no relationship with

your earthly father? There had been an increase

in the divorce rate. Issues, like homosexuality

and substance abuse were brought to camp by

these kids.



I will sing to the Lord a new song from my heart

I will sing of His wonder and His might

The mountains and the sea proclaim His truth in

all the earth

For He is good, and He is just, and He is right.


You said you'd come and share all my sorrows

You said you'd be there for all my tomorrows

I came so close to sending you away

But just as you promised

You came there to stay

I just had to pray

And Jesus said, "Come to the water,

Stand by my side.

I know you are thirsty,

You won't be denied.

I felt every teardrop

when in darkness you cried.

And I strove to remind you

for those tears I died".


Friends are friends forever

If the Lord's the Lord of them

And a friend will not say never

Cause the welcome will not end

Though it's hard to let you go

In the Father's hands we know

That a lifetimes's not too long

To live as friends

No a lifetime's not too long

To live as friends.


Lord prepare me, to be a sanctuary

Pure and holy, tried and true

With thanksgiving, I’ll be a living

Sanctuary, for you.


By Craig Oldenberg

Jesus, you are the heart of me

You bled and suffered for my sin

You died so I can live

You rose so I can rise

You are the heart of me

My heart is in your hands.


By Mike Tauser & Matt Chambers


Watercolors wash away in the storm

But the colors Jesus gives us, remain strong

Don’t let those colors fade away

Let them shine bright and strong everyday

Verse 1

Keep those reds running through your veins

Yours and Jesus’ blood are one and the same

Purple you are royalty

Enthroned by Christ for eternity.

Verse 2

The water and His word are sparkling blue

A river of life that flows through you

Nourishing a garden green

With more abundant fruit than has been seen

Verse 3

My friends don’t get smothered by the gray

Follow Him while it’s still day

He has given you new life

And a brand new soul that’s glistening white.


Race for the Kingdom is the highlight

of Discovery Week, with campers

divided into two teams, the Bolts and

the Gladiators. The Race is an

opportunity for campers to work

together and experience a unique style

of competition, with a foundation of

Christian principles.

“We began a change in how we approached

details at Discovery. We gave the kids structure

they needed, rather than the freedom they

wanted. We decided to make Discovery super

intense and serious. The intensity of Discovery

made kids want to be a part of it.

“By 1999 Discovery once again started to

be completely full, and has been since. In 2000

we added Race for the Kingdom, an intense

spiritual and fun event. Race for the Kingdom

makes Discovery different from any other

competitive environment you are ever going to

be in.

“A lot of Christian camps struggle to get

teenagers to come to camp. At Camp Lone Star,

we have found a formula that succeeds in

bringing them to camp and sending them home

stronger spiritually.”

Throughout the history of Camp Lone Star,

one huge factor has helped the camp grow and

prosper. God has blessed Camp Lone Star with

amazingly generous supporters who are willing

Chapter 4 ✦ 71

The dedication ceremony for the

Pavilion “Hangar” in 1999. The

facility opened up Camp Lone Star to

be able to offer a variety of sports,

including basketball and floor hockey.

to share in the vision of why camp is important,

and to help extend that vision by providing

financial resources. One family that has

made a huge difference in the appearance

and assets of camp is that of Lawrence

Lieder and his late wife, Mildred Lieder.

Among their gifts are these. In 1992 property

adjacent to Camp Lone Star, that had been

a part of the original Wilkens farm, became

available for sale. The Lieder family provided

the funds to purchase the 133.28 acre “new

property,” more than doubling the size of

Camp Lone Star. The New Property is now

called the Riverfront Property because of the

one mile of Colorado River frontage it affords.

The Lieders also constructed the Pavilion

“Hangar” in 1999, which has opened up new

activities for campers. And more recently they

built and installed new water tanks for the camp

water system.

In 1999 another management change for

Camp Lone Star was implemented. Garland

Midgett assumed the title of Chief Financial

Officer of LOMT, relinquishing the title of Camp

Director to Jim Holmlund. Jim Holmlund, from

Minnesota, began as a summer counselor,

worked on the maintenance staff and eventually

became Program Director. As Camp Director,

Jim had full control of all program activities at

Camp Lone Star, including summer camp and

retreat business. But Garland Midget remained

on the scene and available to consult with Jim

on any major decisions, particularly those

affecting the camp budget.

A tragedy struck the Midgett family in 2000,

when their married daughter, Sheila Kappler

was killed in a tragic car accident in Giddings.

Sheila and her brother Clint, had grown up at

Camp Lone Star. She had served on the camp

staff in a variety of roles, from horse wrangler to

kitchen helper. As a tribute to Sheila’s service to

camp, her family created an endowment in

Sheila’s name, to provide funding for summer

staff. Hundreds of donors have provided capital

for the endowment, and many continue to

contribute to the Sheila Midgett Kappler

Memorial Endowment. Today, and in the future,

the endowment provides funds each summer to

help pay staff counselors.

In 2002 another major addition to Camp

Lone Star became a reality, as the 1952

swimming pool was replaced by a modern and


The addition of the new riverfront

property brought with it the original

Fred Wilkens log cabin. The cabin

is now used as the Nature Center

for camp.

much larger pool, including racing lanes and a

wading pool for children. The new pool was

funded by generous camp donors.

Jim Holmlund resigned as Camp Director in

2002. This required Garland to become involved

in daily camp management again. To assist in

this, an experienced camp staffer, Mark

Thompson, became the camp’s Program Director.

Then in 2003 Matt Behrens, former camp

director at Mount Cross Lutheran Camp in

California, became Camp Director, reporting

directly to Keith Lund. Like Jim Holmlund, Matt

Behrens had control of most Camp Lone Star

decisions, although Garland Midgett was always

nearby for consultation.

In 2005, Garland Midgett announced his

pending retirement. For the next four years

Garland and Stell continued to work part-time for

LOMT, providing camp and retreat registration, as

well as computer and database consulting.

Chapter 4 ✦ 73

Above: The new swimming pool went

into use in 2002, replacing the

original Camp Lone Star pool. The

new pool is approximately twice as

large as the 1952 swimming pool. It

is used extensively throughout

summer camp, but it is also used for

swimming competition and practice

by the La Grange Independent School

District and the Fayette Area Swim

Team (FAST).

Right: Garland Midgett, “Mr. Camp

Lone Star.”

Garland Midgett, like the preceding three Camp

Lone Star CEO’s, was brought to camp by Almighty

God as just the right man, at just the right time.

During his years of service to Camp Lone Star,

through his gifts of invention, organization and

leadership, Garland presided over a camp that grew

from a part-time facility with aging facilities to a

modern, multi-faceted camp, complete with

camper cabins, a retreat center, meeting facilities

and a 21st century pool, supported by a

professional staff, and hundreds of enthusiastic

donors and supporters. And Garland’s wife, Stell,

was a major part of this transformative era.

Garland and Stell are officially retired today. But

if you happen to stop by Camp Lone Star, you just

might find them there, still helping and dreaming

of how to make Camp Lone Star even better.




When Keith Lund, his wife, Jill, and their two children, Amy and Bryan, moved to Texas in July,

1983, in order for Keith to take the position of Texoma Lutheran Camp Director, he quickly became

a partner and a protégé of Garland Midgett, Camp Lone Star Director.

Initially Keith and Garland reported to Karl Petzke, Executive Director of TOM, subsequently

renamed LOMT. But with Karl’s resignation in 1990, the two camp directors became a vital part of

the new LOMT management committee. In addition to the camp managers, the management

committee included the LOMT Board President, and the Development Council Chairman. Although

Keith was elected as chairman of the management committee, the real work of managing the LOMT

ministry was performed by the duo of Keith and Garland.

As the paid staff members on the management committee, all immediate decisions affecting either

of the camps were joint decisions of Keith and Garland. The creation of the management committee

by the LOMT Board put both men into the position of having to think globally about the ministry

and its financial, promotional and program needs. No longer could either be just a camp director.

The result of this close relationship between Keith and Garland resulted in a unique partnership

between the two that helped LOMT grow and prosper through the early 2000’s. Keith was appointed

Executive Director of LOMT in 1995, but continued as Texoma Camp Director. Other than Keith’s

change in title, the two men continued their collaborative management style, with input from John

Hawkins, on board as Development Director through the 1990’s.

If Garland was the inventor, statistical analyst, mechanic and planner for LOMT, then Keith was

the professor with the booming voice who could articulate, at length, the principles of the ministry,

from “pattern interrupt” to “intentional Christian ministry” to “vulnerability” and explain how they

applied to each camp session and retreat opportunity. Both men were highly competent leaders for

each camp, but each with his own unique style.

If ever there was a conflict between the two, it was quickly resolved and never became an issue

for the LOMT Board.

The camp’s Tree Chapel lets God’s

nature be the glorious setting for

worshipping Him.

Chapter 5 ✦ 75

Above: Keith and Jill Lund came to

Texas in 1983 to manage Texoma

Lutheran Camp. Today Keith serves

as Executive Director of LOMT, and

Director of Camp Lone Star. Jill is

an invaluable addition to the camp

office staff.

Right: Keith Lund and Garland

Midgett, working as a collaborative

team, built Camp Lone Star into the

facility and ministry it is today.

The management change that placed Keith

and Garland into the unique collaborative

partnership was one of the great blessings of

God in the history of Camp Lone Star.

Keith was born and reared in Merced,

California, in the San Joaquin Valley, famous for

its agricultural productivity. He was baptized and

confirmed at St. Paul Lutheran Church in Merced.

He attended elementary and secondary

school in the public school system in Merced.

When Keith was in the 8th grade, he already

knew that his future was in camping. He wrote

to an official with the Lutheran Church Missouri

Synod in St. Louis and said he wanted to work

in ministry in the “out of doors”. The reply from

St. Louis was that he should continue his

education and then get involved at one of the

church’s Walther League or Lutheran Laymen’s

League camps.

As a young student in Merced, Keith spent

countless hours hiking in the Sierra Nevada

mountains. Here he learned to appreciate the

majesty of God’s creation, and became further

inspired to a career in the outdoors.

“My dream then,” recalls Keith,“ was to be a

pastor somewhere in the mountains, where I

could share God’s Word with hikers in the

summer and skiers in the winter.”

After graduation from high school, Keith

began his studies at St. Paul’s College in

Concordia, Missouri, where he met his future

wife, Jill. After his junior college years, Keith

transferred to Concordia Teachers College,

Seward, now Concordia-Nebraska. There he and

Jill both studied education, and, upon

graduation, the two received their first calls as

teachers at Immanuel Lutheran School in

Lakefield, Minnesota. The married couple served

there from 1976 to 1983. Keith eventually

attained the position of principal at Immanuel.

During his time at Immanuel, Keith

participated in camp activities at Camp Omega,

the camp for the Minnesota South District. He

was invited to join the board of directors of

Camp Omega by Karl Petzke, Camp Director,

and accepted.

Karl Petzke subsequently accepted the call to

TOM and Camp Lone Star, as its executive

director. The Camp Omega Board offered Keith

a call to Camp Omega as Petzke’s replacement,

but Keith declined.

In May, of 1983, at the urging of Petzke, the

LOMT Board called Keith to be the Camp

Director of Texoma Lutheran Camp, his first

ever job at a camp.

Keith said his immediate response to being

part of TOM was “total awe.”

“I was so blessed to be part of this

organization with a great national reputation,

and great leadership in Garland and others.”

In fact, Keith said that when he and Garland

began attending NLOMA events, “I really got a

pass because everyone just assumed I knew as

much about camp management as Garland.”

Keith and Jill dove into the challenge of

making the sprawling Texoma Camp a success


on the order of Camp Lone Star. Keith became a

fund raiser and a PR man for the camp, in

addition to his duties of initiating summer camp

programs and offering retreat opportunities.

Keith traveled extensively throughout the

Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex, and across other

areas of north Texas calling on Lutheran pastors

and camp supporters. Jill handled registration

and office administration for Texoma.

In 1988 and 1989 Keith worked closely with

Karl Petzke and Garland Midgett in planning for

the ill-fated Equipping for Excellence fund

raising campaign. Since part of the potential

income from the project was to be spent at

Texoma, Keith offered his input on needed

facilities. He also worked with the professional

fund raising group to identify potential donors

throughout north Texas.

Keith recalls that during the time that Karl

Petzke served as LOMT Executive Director,

neither he nor Garland were invited to attend

LOMT board meetings. Karl handled all liaison

between the camps and the board.

“When Karl resigned in 1990,” Keith said. “We

really sought out the opportunity to meet

regularly with the board, and it was granted. I

think that helped give board members a better

perspective of what was happening at each camp.”

With the creation of the Management

Committee, on Karl’s departure, there was even

more reason for the camp managers to make

regular reports to the board.

The LOMT board named Keith as Executive

Director of the ministry, in 1995, and it was an

exciting time for Lutheran Camping in Texas.

According to Keith, “The late 90’s were good

years…growth years…for both camps. And we

had recovered significantly from the financial

crisis of 1991. A part of this had to do with the

effective development program instituted by

John Hawkins.”

But the second half of the decade of the ’90s

was also a time when LOMT carried its greatest

debt. The original bank loans for the Retreat

Center and other capital items, made in 1979,

were eventually rolled into one note with the

Texas District Church Extension Fund.

Although the interest rate was initially zero

percent, the total debt, in 1995, was more than

$640 thousand. It later increased to nearly $800

thousand. The amount of debt carried by LOMT

became an item of discussion by critics of the

ministry, particularly at District Conventions.

However, through the good graces of the

District, led by Rev. Jerry Kieschnick, District

President from 1991 to 2001, the District

contributed $75,000 annually to LOMT, all of

which went toward paying down the Church

Extension debt. The debt continued to decrease

each year, but was not cleared until 2003, when

Texoma Camp was closed and assets purchased

by the Episcopal Diocese of Dallas.

The first decade of the new millennium was

a time of great change in LOMT, under the

leadership of Executive Director Keith Lund.

Camp Lone Star continued to have successful

summer camp programs under the direction of

Jim Holmlund, serving as Camp Director, and

working in association with Garland Midgett, in

his new position as Chief Financial Officer for

LOMT. The new swimming pool was used in the

summer of 2002. Matt Behrens became Camp

Director in 2003, after Jim Holmlund resigned

Above: Crafting has been a tradition

at Camp Lone Star since the first

summer sessions.

Below: Jim Holmlund served as

Director of Camp Lone Star from

1999 to 2003.

Chapter 5 ✦ 77

Above: The camp office moved from a

deteriorating mobile home to this new

building in 2005.

Below: Matt Behrens was camp

director from 2003 to 2007, resigning

to attend Concordia Seminary-St.

Louis. He was ordained in 2012 and

today serves as pastor of The Well

Lutheran Mission in Buda.

and returned, with his family, to Minnesota. The

Retreat Center underwent its first interior

remodeling since construction. The new office,

in use today, was completed in 2005. Former

counselor Karl ‘Tiny’ Streit, a Director of

Christian Education (DCE), came on board the

maintenance staff in 2005.

Despite Camp Lone Star’s success, Texoma

Lutheran Camp could never reach the necessary

critical mass of campers, retreatants and

financial support from north Texans, to reach the

break-even point. The LOMT board debated the

fate of Texoma for several years before entering

into an agreement, in 2003, to sell the assets of

the camp to the Episcopal Diocese of Dallas.

It was an emotional and difficult period for the

Lund family, who had planted roots at Texoma in

1983 and later in nearby Pottsboro. Since Keith’s

responsibility as Executive Director of LOMT

now meant more time on-site at Camp Lone Star,

the Lunds purchased a home in Hillsboro.

Keith made frequent trips to Camp Lone Star

to oversee the work of staff members. But he

also put thousands of miles on his car making

development calls on supporters and recruiting

new Development Council members. During

this time Jill ran the office for LOMT out of the

Lund home in Hillsboro.

In 2007 Matt Behrens resigned as Camp

Director to pursue a seminary education, and

eventual ordination. Fortunately, Garland

Midgett, working part time for LOMT, was close

at hand to fill in some of the critical duties when

Matt left. But Keith and the LOMT board were

faced with searching for a new Camp Director.

After a nationwide search, Keith recommended to

the LOMT board the hiring of Dr. Phil Frusti. Dr.

Frusti, from Wisconsin, had a long resume of

teaching and administration in Lutheran schools,

and also in the Concordia University system. His

doctorate in educational leadership was awarded

by Concordia, Chicago. Dr. Frusti was hired by

LOMT in time for the 2008 camp session.

During 2008 another crisis faced the camp. The

water tower for the Camp’s potable water system

failed. It had to be replaced during summer camp.

Camp Lone Star’s benefactor and friend, Lawrence

Lieder, again came through, funding and building

new water storage tanks for the system.

Dr. Phil, as he was known at Camp Lone Star,

remained as Camp Director for only a year. His

resignation, in 2009, brought LOMT leadership

back to the position of finding someone to lead the

camp. Some members of the LOMT board were

outspoken in urging Keith Lund to move to Camp

Lone Star to take on the role of Camp Director.

“It was the obvious decision,” said Keith. “We

put our house on the market and moved into

on-site staff housing at Camp Lone Star.”

To help spread management duties, the

LOMT Board also approved the promotion of

Tiny Streit to the position of Operations

Director. This relieved Keith of the

responsibilities of keeping up camp buildings,

facilities and systems. And John Hawkins was

re-hired as Development Director.




I am covered over with the Robe of Righteousness

That Jesus gives to me (gives to me)

I am covered over with the precious blood of Jesus

And He lives in me (lives in me)

Oh what a joy it is to know

My Heavenly Father loves me so

He gives to me, my Jesus

And when He looks at me

He sees not what I used to be

But He sees, Jesus.


By Mike Tauser & Matt Chambers

Verse 1

The women woke this morning, made their way to the tomb

With spices they’d prepared to place upon His mortal wounds

The stone was rolled away, He was not there to their surprise

And lightening clothed men revealed to them the miracle…He

is alive


Just as he said the Third Day came and He was back amongst


Friday’s death had done its best but it could not contain Him

Just as He said the Third Day came and the darkness washed


Just as He said the Third Day comes for all of us today.

Verse 2

Seven miles from Jerusalem, two of them were walking

With downcast hearts they made their way of Jesus they were


Then He was there beside them, the evening drawing near

He broke the bread, they saw Him then, the miracle was clear.

Their troubled hearts were gladdened when he said look at me

And they saw He had overcome His battle…with the tree.

With downcast hearts they made their way of Jesus they were


Then He was there beside them, the evening drawing near

He broke the bread, they saw Him then, the miracle was clear.

Verse 3

All of them were gathered in a locked room they did hide

Then to their amazement Jesus found a way inside

Their troubled hearts were gladdened when he said look at me

And they saw He had overcome His battle…with the tree.


Verse 1

Lord of all creation

Of water, earth and sky

The heavens are your tabernacle

Glory to the Lord on high


God of Wonders beyond our galaxy

You are holy, holy

The universe declares Your majesty

You are holy, holy

Lord of Heaven and Earth

Lord of Heaven and Earth

Verse 2

Early in the morning

I will celebrate the light

When I stumble in the darkness

I will call your name by night

Verse 3

All of them were gathered in a locked room they did hide

Then to their amazement Jesus found a way inside


Hallelujah to the Lord of Heaven and Earth! (x3)

“You know, God blesses us in spite of ourselves,”

Keith said in reflecting on his transition to living at

camp. “It was really timely for me to take on the

duties of Camp Director. From my standpoint the

ministry was just too important to put in the hands

of people who don’t understand camp.”

“By being on-site I became very aware of an

attitude that had been growing since the late

1990s. The staff, both summer and full-time,

had started to follow the idea that they were

going to be a youth camp and a youth camp

only. Part of this idea came from the original

Chapter 5 ✦ 79

Top, left: Tiny Streit joined the camp

staff in 2005 as director of

maintenance. Today he is Operations

Director, in charge of all facilities and

infrastructure of the camp.

Top, right: Patrick Nazaroff served as

a program staffer from 2009 to 2013,

helping to renew the staff connection

between summer camp and adult


Below: The “shark prayer” is one of

the most popular of the many unique

table prayers offered by campers

before meals.

camp master plan developed by Paul Fjare, in

the late ’80s. That plan called for an adult area

that would include an adult retreat center, RV

pads and hookups, and cabins for adults to live

in while volunteering at camp. The base camp

was to be devoted to youth. This was an

ambitious plan that never reached fruition,

especially after the addition of the new property

and the Koop Center. It turned out the planned

adult area was just not necessary. But the

tension over youth ministry versus adult

ministry was real.

The action taken by Keith was to essentially

separate summer camp from adult programs.

Keith worked extensively on developing and

staffing retreat business. And he allowed the

program staff to run summer camp.

“The outcome,” said Keith, “was a stronger

summer program, and at the same time we

recovered our adult programs. Since moving onsite,

I have had very little to do with summer

staff training and management. Matt Chambers

has taken the lead in this area, along with other

full time and program staff.”

He credits Patrick Nazaroff, who became

Program Associate in 2010 with “becoming

the connection between the summer staff and

the adult programs. That gave us a clearer

balance between the two areas and allowed us to

grow both.”

The attention to the adult programming,

Keith said, helped LOMT approach the

Texas District for a major grant to help upgrade

the Retreat Center and the youth dining

hall. The District provided $79,000 for the

project in 2012. That, along with private

contributions, allowed LOMT to remodel the

old facility, including replacing the walls and

flooring. The youth dining room was also

remodeled and made more efficient for dining

by campers.

“It was another example of the amazing

support Camp Lone Star has received from the

Texas District throughout our history,” said Keith.

In 2013 the LOMT Board took on another

project that was described by Keith as

“desperately needed.” That need was housing for

the Camp Director and Operations Director.

Having quality housing for the Camp’s permanent

leadership had been discussed and debated for

years, but funding had never materialized. Keith

and Tiny approached the Board with a novel idea.


LOMT would build modest residences for the two

families, and the two directors would pay rent

while they were living in the homes. The board

bought into the idea and the two houses became

an attractive addition to the camp property.

As the 75th anniversary of Camp Lone Star

came into view in 2013 and 2014, the LOMT

Board, along with Keith Lund, began planning

for a Capital Campaign that would address two

needed major projects.

The first was replacement of the old

wastewater plant, which had been in operation

since 1979. The old plant was in such bad

condition that camp leaders had feared for years

that it would fail in the middle of summer camp

and require temporary closing of camp. The

possibility was so potentially eminent that an

informal agreement had been in place for several

years with the Texas District Church Extension

Fund to provide emergency funding for a

replacement for the plant, in the event of its

failure. Total cost for the new plant is $350,000.

The second project is a combination

meeting/sleeping facility, the Christ Cabin,

designed for youth and other retreats. It will

feature six sleeping rooms, each with six to eight

bunk beds. A central media-equipped room, the

Resurrection Room, will accommodate the need

for multi-media presentations. Total cost of the

Christ Cabin is $750,000.

Top: The summer staff opens each

session of camp with an opening skit.

Middle: Staffers surround campers for

each session and offer prayers for a

successful week of fun, spiritual

growth and learning.

Middle: Paul Terral became a

program staffer in 2010 and served

through 2015.

Chapter 5 ✦ 81

Right: The remodeling of the Retreat

Center included a complete renewal of

the Youth Dining Hall.

Below: The Camp Director’s House.

A second residence was also built in

2013 for the Operations Director.

To help raise funds for the two projects,

totaling $1.1 million, the LOMT Board gave the

campaign the title “Forever Thankful”. The

Forever Thankful campaign takes its title from

1Thessalonians 3:9, “For what thanksgiving can

we return to God for you, for all the joy that we

feel for your sake before our God”.

The campaign began during the 2015

Barbecue Weekend, and both projects are under

way. The massive concrete wastewater plant was

constructed off-site and delivered to Camp Lone

Star to facilitate wastewater processing for

generations to come.


Top and middle: A recent popular

addition to fun activities for campers

is the Slip and Slide.

Bottom: Keith Lund was the primary

planner and fundraiser for the

Capital Campaign begun in 2015.

Here he is shown at the

groundbreaking for the Christ Cabin.

The construction of the Christ Cabin is being

completed, as this is written. Groundbreaking

for the building took place during the 2015

Barbecue Weekend, as major donors, David

Howard and Kathy Howard, former LOMT

Board President, turned over a spade of soil.

David was called to his heavenly home on

September 15, 2015, less than two months after

the groundbreaking ceremony.

The two projects will be a legacy of thanks

from generations of campers, retreatants, staff

members and visitors, who have been richly

blessed by God through Camp Lone Star over

the past 75 years.

In early 2016 Keith Lund announced to

the LOMT Board of Directors that he will

be retiring as Executive Director in August,

2018. The Board has begun planning for the

transition and hopes to have someone on staff a

year in advance of the retirement, to take over

the position.

Keith Lund has served LOMT faithfully

since arriving in Texas in 1983. His leadership

Chapter 5 ✦ 83

Top: Kathy and David Howard are

shown turning a spade of soil at the

Christ Cabin groundbreaking on

Barbecue Weekend, 2015. The Christ

Cabin is dedicated to the glory of God

in honor of Kathy and David

Howard. The Christ Cabin

Resurrection Room is dedicated to the

glory of God and in loving memory of

Sheila Midgett Kappler and Rachel

Brown Midgett.

Middle, left: Camp Lone Star was

featured in a segment of the popular

PBS program, The Daytripper, in

2012. Here staffer Patrick Nazaroff is

interviewed by Daytripper host, Chet

Garner, prior to a canoe excursion on

the Colorado. The episode on La

Grange can be viewed at


became evident to Board members, who

elected him as Executive Director in 1995.

Since then he has been the face of a dynamic

ministry, dedicated to sharing the Gospel of

Jesus Christ through the unique intentional

Christian community of Lutheran Outdoors

Ministry of Texas.

Who will replace Keith as the Executive

Director? At this point, that question has yet to

be answered by the Board leadership of LOMT.

But, by the grace of Almighty God, like all of the

former CEO’s of Camp Lone Star, it will be

exactly the right person called to the position at

exactly the right time.

Middle, right: Sojourn camp is a camp

session specially designed for North

Texas campers. During Sojourn week,

a group of summer staffers journey to

Camp Shiloh on Lake Bob Sandlin

near Pittsburg, TX. Here they lead

campers in an off-site version of

Camp Lone Star activities.

Bottom: Luis Sanchez and Clayton

Wagner repair a leaky water line.

Often the most unsung, but most

talented, camp staffers are members of

the maintenance crew. Without them,

campers might not be able to turn the

lights on or flush the toilet.




Over Camp Lone Star’s 75 years, tens of thousands of lives have been touched by the camp’s ministry.

During research for this book, the author has had the pleasure of speaking with dozens of people

about the story of camp, and also the importance of camp. Over my years of involvement with Camp

Lone Star, I’ve also heard many others speak of their love for camp, how camp has impacted their

lives and why camp matters.

Why does Camp Lone Star matter?

For some, it is a very personal, experiential answer that cannot be easily or adequately expressed

in words. For others, it is a topic worthy of hours of conversation, going in many different directions.

Keith Lund is of the second category. For Keith, explaining the importance of Camp Lone Star

starts with the LOMT mission statement: “A Mission of renewal and outreach in the midst of God’s

creation and among His people.”

“The statement was first adopted by the LOMT Board in 1984 and no effort has ever been made

to change a single word,” notes Keith.

From the mission statement, several things become apparent. LOMT and its physical location,

Camp Lone Star, are involved in a Christian mission, not just a social activity. The mission involves

renewal of faith for the faithful, and outreach to those who have not yet met the Savior. And the

mission mainly takes place at a location, Camp Lone Star, where God is present, and his creative

work is visible for all to see.

By Matt Chambers’ unbiased evaluation, “Camp is the greatest ministry on earth. It is definitely

the most powerful ministry I’ve ever been a part of. Every moment at camp is the opportunity to

reveal Jesus.”

Matt says his standard for every aspect of summer camp is: “If it’s not about you, Lord, it’s garbage.”

Although Camp Lone Star is not a church, in that there is no ordained pastor providing word and

sacrament ministry to a congregation on a regular basis, it is definitely a part of the church founded

by Jesus Christ. God is present and the Word is taught.

Barbecue weekend is an exciting time

for anyone who has ever been a part

of Camp Lone Star. The weekend

includes not only a great barbecue

meal, but also an outdoor worship

service and the annual auction.

Chapter 6 ✦ 85

God’s Word is the foundation of

everything that happens in the

“intentional Christian community” of

Camp Lone Star.

It is difficult to spend time at Camp Lone

Star without recognizing the presence of

Almighty God.

The work of the CREATOR is evident in the

sky, the stars, the trees, the water, the grass and

flowers, the birds, the wildlife and, especially,

the people. Prayers addressed to the Father are

offered at almost every activity conducted at

camp, and songs raise praises to the everpresent


Through teaching and dialogue, the presence

of the REDEEMER is clearly shown.

Vulnerability opens campers and retreatants to

recognize their sin. The message of the Gospel

assures them of God’s incredible grace, in

sending Jesus, the Son of God, to accomplish

His redemptive work on Calvary. Crosses

around Camp Lone Star, like the one on the

cover of this book, are present to remind all, of

Jesus and his loving atonement on a cross.

The SANCTIFIER is present to bring the gift

of faith to camp participants, and a new, renewed

life in Christ, through that faith. The Holy Spirit

is also called the Counselor. His counseling is

not so far removed from how staff counselors

encourage and uplift their charges at camp

through prayer, praise and worship. And God’s

Word, the Bible, written through the inspiration

of the Holy Spirit, remains the foundation for

everything that takes place at camp.

Keith Lund also points to Core Values,

defined by the LOMT Board, as a key to

understanding why camp matters.

The first of these Core Values is


Everything done at Camp Lone Star happens

as an intentional effort to glorify Christ. And

what is done occurs within an intentional

Christian community. In that community,

participants at camp can feel safe emotionally,

physically, and spiritually.

The intentional Christian community of

summer camp is obvious. There is daily Bible

study, public and private prayer, praise through

songs and hymns, encouragement by faithful

staff members and friends, nightly devotions,

and activities from challenge course to hikes,

used to teach Christian values.

But intentional Christian community is also

the framework for retreat groups and visitors to

Camp Lone Star. Table prayers are offered before

each meal. Christian symbols, crosses and

artwork, remind everyone that camp is a place

where Jesus comes first. Bibles and devotional

materials are in each sleeping room. Staff

members stand ready to pray with anyone, to

encourage them in their faith and to counsel

and share God’s Word.

The second Core Value is PATTERN

INTERRUPT. The term means that the life

you are used to at home, from your iPhone

and computer, to your daily routine of

activities, to your friends, to habits and your

darkest thoughts, is left behind, when you come

to camp.


“By interrupting the patterns that society is

throwing at you,” says Keith, “you become

vulnerable. A lot of things we do at camp make

people vulnerable. We seek to fill that

vulnerability with Christian love, Christian care

and God’s Word.

“A camp, by definition, is a temporary place

of residence. While you are spending your

temporary time at Camp Lone Star, you are

being asked to do things you don’t normally do,

but which are okay to do. In fact, some of what

you may be asked to do is powerful and can

have positive eternal blessings for you.”

The third Core Value, added only recently, is


“For years we just assumed that we were

always sharing the good news about the Savior,”

according to Keith. “But as more and more

campers and others come to Camp Lone Star

without a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ, it is

important that we remind ourselves to

intentionally share Jesus with everyone.”

“Opportunities abound for us to proclaim

Jesus Christ, through Bible study and devotions,

and discussions about the topics presented. We

often find ourselves introducing young and old

to the Bible and its timeless truth, for the very

first time.”

Keith calls the Core Values the “guiding

concepts” for the ministry.

“This year the LOMT Board really got into the

importance of our Core Values,” said Keith.

“They began asking, ‘What does this mean for us

as Board members?’ and ‘What effect do these

Values have on decisions we make for the camp?’

Camp is responding to the culture and

the culture is different from the 1940s or ’50s.

The Core Values may be the same, but the tools

are different.”

There is a recurring, mistaken belief among

some of the younger generation, that Camp

Lone Star did not really have a spiritual

component, until recent years.

According to Keith Lund, people who see

camp this way “have probably experienced a

renewal of their own Christian walk at camp,

and that’s a very good thing.”

“But the reality,” notes Keith, “is that principles

of the LOMT Mission Statement and Core Values

have been around since Camp Lone Star was

founded by the Walther League 75 years ago.”

The Walther League’s motto of Pro Aris Et

Focis, is translated from Latin as “For Church

and Home.”

And the opening lines of the Walther League

Song reflect the League’s commitment to an

Intentional Christian Community:

Walther Leaguers, Walther Leaguers,

one and all are we,

Serving Jesus Christ our Savior,

Who has made us free.

Bible study, mission work, and service were

values of the Walther League and these values

became a part of Walther League camping in

Texas, from its beginning in 1929.

“God’s Word has always been the foundation of

Camp Lone Star and its programs,” notes Keith.

“If there is a difference today, it is that in the

1940s most campers were regular church

attenders and participated in prayer, Bible study

and devotions, in their homes. Today many

campers and adults come to camp without a real

connection to Jesus and to the church. Now the

mission field comes to us. We don’t have to seek

it out.”

So what are the fruits of 75 years of Camp

Lone Star?

The simple answer is that the vast majority of

all that Camp Lone Star has accomplished is the

result of relationships; relationships with and

among people and relationships with God.

As individuals react with each other, and

with staff, within Camp Lone Star’s Intentional

Christian Community, friendships blossom.

This was true of the Walther League days and it

is true in 2016. Camp is fun, interesting and

inspiring, and sharing those experiences with

others often leads to connections that last a


It is significant that the Walther League called

its annual camp barbecue a “reunion”. It was a

time to renew acquaintances and friendships

made at Walther League events, and especially

at Walther League camp events. This, of course,

was in an era prior to social media, email and

inexpensive phone calls. Today campers have

many options to stay in touch with friends from

camp and for relationships to grow.

Barbecue Weekend is still a reunion, even if

that term is no longer used to describe the

Chapter 6 ✦ 87

Barbecue Weekend is a great time to

rekindle friendships made at Camp

Lone Star.

event. And for some, like Glenn and Janet

Hurta, the Barbecue was their path to becoming

connected to Camp Lone Star people.

“We saw a circular about Barbecue Weekend

at church. It sounded like fun, so we went,” said

Glenn. “That’s where we met Karl Petzke, the

LOMT Executive, and that is how we got

involved in camp.

Camp is family for us. We have no family

except our church family and our Camp Lone

Star family.”

Through her connection to Camp Lone Star,

Janet was invited to serve on the LOMT Long

Range Planning Committee. “One thing we

discovered that has made Camp Lone Star so

successful,” notes Janet, “is that camp is the

church in action, the way the church should

function, reaching out and connecting people

with Jesus and with each other. Only in the case

of camp, the church is without the walls, without

the lectern, without the liturgy…just Jesus.”

Texas District President Ken Hennings also

points to camp as a great way to connect with

friends and to meet people with similar values

and a love for the unique ministry of Camp

Lone Star.

While serving at his first parish out of

seminary, in Uvalde, Hennings says he

was invited by Rev. Norb Oesch to participate in

a youth gathering at Camp Lone Star. “There I

met Garland Midgett, who was “Mr. Camp

as far as I was concerned. That started a

lifelong friendship with Garland and Stell and

their family.”

Hennings later served at St. Paul Lutheran

Church in Fort Worth. While in Fort Worth,

Hennings received a call from his former

basketball coach at St. John’s-Winfield, Rev. Karl

Petzke. “He told me he needed a pastor to serve

on the LOMT Board, so I joined and served and

was eventually elected president. This opened

up a whole new set of relationships, and my

family became deeply involved in Texoma

Lutheran Camp.”

As a Board member, Rev. Hennings attended

the annual Camp Lone Star Barbecue for the

first time. “I was just amazed when I went to the

auction,” said Hennings. “They sold a box of

bubble gum and it went for 175 bucks. Then the

buyer turned around and gave it out to summer

staff members. It was just a wonderful,

wonderful time. And it was a great opportunity

to meet people from across Texas. I could not

believe people came all the way from west Texas

to attend the Barbecue.”

Hennings says he has always been “really,

really impressed” by the faithful members of the

Development Council, who “unselfishly provide

significant dollars to keep this ministry going.

God has been gracious in working through these

dedicated people.”


Camp Lone Star has been kind of a second

home for Val and me,” notes Hennings. “We

have lots of retreats at camp for District Staff

and agencies and committees connected to the

District. All that would not be possible without

the excellent retreat facilities we have today and

the accommodating staff.”

There is another level of personal

relationships connected to the story of camp

Lone Star that must be acknowledged.

When young men and women get together in

the intense atmosphere created by Pattern

Interrupt, the occasional romance is not a

surprising spin-off. Many summer staff members,

especially, find their lifetime companion at camp.

And since these connections occur within a

framework of faith and glorifying God, camp

marriages can be strong and lasting.

There was conjecture by some, that the

Walther League was created so young Lutheran

women could find young, eligible Lutheran

men. That same thought has been applied, in

the same jest, to Camp Lone Star. In fact, camp

Above: Children come forward to

hear a children’s sermon by Rev.

Jerry Kieschnick during the

lakeside worship service on

Barbecue Weekend.

Below: The annual fundraising

auction is a time for enthusiastic

bidders to pick up bargains and

treasurers while helping fund Camp

Lone Star.

Chapter 6 ✦ 89

Right: Glenn and Janet Hurta have

given countless hours of effort and

personal gifts to make Camp Lone

Star the ministry it is today. This

photo is from the early 90’s

Below: Wes and Puddin Krueger were

newlyweds in 1957. After a ride

home from Camp Lone Star, the pair

was soon engaged and married.

Today they serve on the Development

Council. Puddin has gone by her

camp nickname since being a camper

in 1951.

marriages have been a fact throughout the 75-

year history of Camp Lone Star.

Wes and Puddin Krueger, long-time supporters

of Camp Lone Star, made their lifetime

connection at camp in 1956. Both lived in

Houston, but attended different Lutheran

churches. Puddin started attending camp in 1951,

and loved everything about her experience. Wes

was never a camper, but as a Senior Walther

Leaguer, he came to the Annual Reunion and

Barbecue with his Walther League friends.

In 1956 I drove to the Barbecue in my car,

by myself,” recalls Wes. “Puddin also came to

the Barbecue with some friends.”

“I knew Puddin from Walther League

activities in our Zone,” said Wes. “But I didn’t

really know her that well. At the barbecue meal,

I sat down across from her and we started

talking. Since I didn’t have anyone to ride home

with, I asked her if she’d like to ride back to

Houston with me.”

“She had to call her mother to get

permission, and she did,” said Wes. “We really

got acquainted during that drive.”

Within a few months, the pair was engaged

and then married in 1957.

But camp romances occurred even earlier in

the history of the camp.

An early camp staff romance and marriage,

perhaps the first, occurred between

maintenance staffer Clinton Kramer, son of

camp benefactor, Mrs. A.T. Kramer of Wichita

Falls, and Ruth Buchschacher, daughter of a

Waco pastor, Rev. George Buchschacher.

And the story of Senior Counselor Peggy

Schneider, and the camp lifeguard, Gayle Berry,

is recounted in Chapter 3 of this book. The

marriage between Peggy and Gayle has lasted

over 50 years.

Unfortunately, no one kept an accurate

record of marriages that had their first sparks

ignited at Camp Lone Star. Had anyone kept

such a record, there would be a listing of dozens

and dozens of married couples who first met at

Camp Lone Star, including several who were

married at the camp. From all indicators, the

camp marriage phenomenon continues

unabated in 2016.

The results of relationships with God, that

began, or moved to a new level, at Camp Lone

Star, are just as dramatic, just as significant, and,

likely, eternal in scope.

The camp often receives letters of thanks

from parents for the impact the ministry has had

on their children. The following letter is one

that spans three generations of thanks.


Just under 50 years ago I went to Camp Lone

Star in its infancy and came away inspired, and

went on to work in the church to this day.

I sent my own children to Lone Star and now

have sent a grandson to Pioneer Camp.


This 10-year-old came back inspired and

with a whole new love for his Lord, able to really

verbalize his love for the Lord, and in his words

—“I feel like a different person than I was when

I went.” He lives in an area where there are no

Lutheran churches for many miles and no

Sunday School at all. What a thrill for him.

What higher praise and compliment for

Counselors, Jr. and Sr. Staffers, can you have

than to have made a young person understand

and feel God’s love and be able to really “praise

the Lord” for the first time.

There are no words adequate to say thank

you to a staff of people really serving and

praising the Lord. Thank you LOMT and All the

staff of Camp Lone Star.

(Author’s note: The letter writer requested

that his name not be used in this publication.)

Keith Lund says that his “passion” for the

ministry of Camp Lone Star “has been retained

by seeing people’s lives changed.”

“We cast the seed out, whether it is for 200

campers at Discovery, or a dozen at a retreat. By

God’s grace the seed gives root and grows. We

are blessed to get to see that happen.

“It is sitting with a retreat member, a man

who is dying of AIDS, being able to share the

Gospel, knowing he will not be back next year.

“And it is talking to elementary students who

are at camp for outdoor education, where we set

up a telescope to view the heavens. When these

young people see the rings of Saturn for the first

time, their reaction is priceless. It opens up a

Above: Peggy and Gayle Berry met at

Camp Lone Star while both served on

summer staff. They have been

together as husband and wife

since 1965.

Below: Matt and Megan Chambers

are another duo who met while

serving as summer staff members.

After being married, they continued

staff service as a married couple.

Chapter 6 ✦ 91

discussion about God’s creation that goes far

beyond science.”

District President Ken Hennings says he is

encouraged by how Camp Lone Star is

reaching more and more campers with the

Gospel message. “Because of our changing

culture,” Hennings says, “for many campers,

this may be the first time in their lives when

they can have a significant relationship with

God, with Jesus. They find great joy in that

relationship, something they have never

experienced before.”

An example of the LOMT Mission of Outreach

and Camp’s Intentional Christian Community is

reflected in this story from Garland Midgett

about a series of professional retreats.

A facilitator, an expert in the field of training

and motivation, contracted with us during

the ’90s to use the Retreat Center and our

challenge course for his training sessions for

business professionals.

He was always respectful of our position and

policies but he was up front about not coming for

a religious retreat, that his use of Camp Lone Star

was strictly business. He gave the impression

that he was a ’60s hippie who was maybe even

an agnostic.

He quickly became intrigued with how

we use the challenge course and its effect on

people. The challenge course became the major

part of his training program, working with me as

a co-facilitator.

His attitude about camp and what it

represents changed. He allowed more time for

my input. I was amazed that eventually he even

began to openly express in his sessions

statements like, ‘If you have felt different and

more at ease while you are here, it might be

because this is holy ground. The Lutherans have

been praying over this ground for 50 years.’

Out of these “business” retreats and the

camp staff's interaction with the participants,

many individuals sent their children to camp

and encouraged their organization or church to

come and experience what Camp Lone Star had

to offer.

Former summer staff member, Christy

O’Shoney says her years as a camper and staffer

changed her life.

“I can't imagine, and I honestly don't really

want to imagine, the kind of person I would be

without Camp Lone Star,” says Christy. “The

lessons I learned at camp are the most important

of my life. Camp taught me the value of working

hard, building deep friendships, serving my

neighbor, but more importantly, it instilled in

me the knowledge that I am loved far beyond

the things I can accomplish. This is the legacy of

camp: that each child or adult who passes

through those gates leaves knowing that they

are loved by God.”

The end result of the close encounter with

God that many have experienced at Camp Lone

Star, is always positive and most often has longterm

effects. Those effects may be personal and

help make the individual a better spouse and

parent, an active church member, or someone

committed to a life of discipleship. But for

others, the Camp Lone Star experience is tied to

their call to full-time church work.

Another long list that should have been

recorded is the list of former campers and former

staffers who became full time pastors, teachers,

youth workers, music leaders or missionaries.

If you want a healthy sampling of that

unrecorded list, just ask Keith Lund or Garland

Midgett about former campers and staffers now

in full time ministry. It is truly amazing how

many current church workers did their informal

internship at Camp Lone Star.

One of President Ken Hennings’

responsibilities is supporting young men from

Texas who are attending the Synod’s two

seminaries. “I am always amazed how many

people who have come through Camp Lone Star

have gone on to seminary,” notes Hennings.

Stories abound about how God used Camp

Lone Star, and experiences at camp, to call

young men and women into His service. These

stories could fill another volume. We will only

record three short and one slightly longer story

to make the point.

Suzanne and Vince Neuhaus are justifiably

proud of their son, Rev. Ryan Neuhaus, a pastor

and an educator. Ryan served as a summer

staffer while a student at Texas A&M.

Vince says that Ryan “always had a soft spot

for kids who needed help. He just always

wanted to help those less fortunate, less

popular. But something special happened while


he was at Camp Lone Star. The experience

at camp, working with campers, especially

those who did not quite fit in, just grabbed his

heart. It had everything to do with him going

into the ministry.”

Not all those who heard God’s call to ministry

while at Camp Lone Star, found their service in

the Lutheran church. Rev. Paul Schulz is a

pastor at Hill Country Bible Church in Austin.

In a letter to Keith Lund, Paul tells his story:

In 1982, a few days short of my 15th

birthday, I attended two weeks of camp at Lone

Star as a wayward, rebellious Catholic teenager

(my Lutheran friend invited me). While there I

had a dramatic experience with the Holy Spirit

where He convicted me of my sin and told

me “Jesus died so you can live!” it was the

most profound and direct experience I’ve had

with the Lord to this day and it changed my life

forever. From that day on I knew not only that I

was saved, but that the purpose of my life was to

tell others about Jesus. By God’s grace, 18 years

later I went into full time vocational Ministry

and over the last 14 years I have had the

privilege of serving in major leadership positions

in two of the largest and most influential

churches in Texas.

Although I am but one story of all the lives

that have been touched by the ministry of Camp

Lone Star, I think it is very important for you all

to know how big of an impact your efforts are

having for the Kingdom of God. This summer

many young people will attend your camp and

you never know which one (or many) of them

will be forever changed and used by God to lead

the next generation for the cause of Christ.

Please keep up the great work!

Mike Linebrink points to a week at Camp

Lone Star called Priest Corps that had a big

impact on his life. As a high school junior, in

1964, he was nominated for the camp by his

pastor at St. Paul, Austin, Rev. Albert Jesse. Mike

said there were about 30 other attendees, from

across Texas, all nominated by their pastors.

“It was a week of Bible study and mentoring

by some really great folks, including Rev. Leo

Symmank and Rich Bimler, a DCE,” recalls Mike.

“It was a very intense, very spiritual week and it

was definitely a convincing week for me. I knew

then that my career would be in service to the

church. Others at that camp were Walt Waiser

and Marty Doering. Both went on to full time

pastoral ministry.”

Rev. Larry Krueger, Senior Pastor at St. Paul

Lutheran Church in Waco, tells about a lifechanging

experience he had at Camp Lone Star.

In 1980 some friends of mine, former

Bluebonnet Zone Walther Leaguers, were leading

a weekend retreat at Camp Lone Star. I wanted to

A reunion of 1964 Priest Corps camp

participants occurred a few years ago

when these four met at the Camp

Lone Star barbecue. From left to right

are Neal Krenzke, Rev. Walt Waiser,

Rev. Leo Symmank, and Mike


Chapter 6 ✦ 93

Rev. Larry Krueger is shown in a

photo from his days as a seminary

student. Rev. Krueger has served in

a number of pastoral roles, including

campus pastor at Texas A&M and

Assistant to LCMS Synodical

President Jerry Kieschnick, during

Kieschnick’s three terms of office.

Today he is Senior Pastor at St. Paul

Lutheran Church in Waco, and serves

as Secretary of the Texas District

Board of Directors.

see them and maybe help with the retreat. I rode

there on my motorcycle. I only knew a few of the

kids attending the retreat, but I noticed right away

they weren’t treating the leaders with much

respect. That really bothered me. It made me sad.

Part of the retreat, one afternoon, was a silent

hour, where you go outside and just sit by

yourself. That was when they were clearing land

for the Retreat Center. There was a bulldozer

there, so I went and sat on the bulldozer seat.

I guess you could call this time the

wilderness years of my spiritual journey. I was

not exactly a model Christian.

While sitting there I prayed hard about the

way kids were treating my friends, the retreat

leaders. I said, “Lord, this just isn’t right.”

It wasn’t a voice from heaven, but might as

well have been, of the Lord saying, “That’s the

way you’re treating me.” That hit me right

between the eyes.

If there was ever a moment of deep

repentance, that was the moment. I said: “You’re

right, Lord. I’m living on the fence. I’m living this

way in this world and another way in Your world.

I’m not living a consistent Christian life.” Well,

that was quite a silent hour for me. It was a time

of conviction, as well as a time of foregiveness.

When we got back together with the group,

we had a Love Circle. This was a time when you

would go around the circle and tell people why

you love them. It was probably the corniest hour

of the retreat. Kids were saying things like, “I

love you because you have pretty hair,” Or “I

love you because you have a nice smile.” This

was killing me. This wasn’t what love was about.

I knew because I had just had one of the greatest

love experiences of my life.

So it came my time and I just said what was

on my heart, “This is garbage. This is not what

love is about.”

And I shared about my last hour with the

Lord. “Love is about forgiveness. It is about what

the Lord just did for me.”

I went around and knelt in front of every kid

in that circle and talked to them about God’s

love. I told them, “The Lord loves you because

no matter what, you can receive the forgiveness

of God and have the love of the Lord in your


Everybody in the room was bawling by the

time I got through. It was a very spiritual

moment in the old Rec Hall.

That was a change point in my life. It

happened at that retreat. That was the day that

God put me on the path to do what I do today.

It was my burning bush. From that point

forward I had a burning desire to serve Him.

Camp Lone Star has a deep spot in my heart

because of that experience.”

So, why does Camp Lone Star matter?

The individuals quoted in this book certainly

know why. As do thousands of others who have

been touched by the powerful ministry that has

occurred over 75 years of camp.

How about you? Why does Camp Lone Star

matter to you? Can you share your answer with

someone today?

We’ll let our District President, Rev. Ken

Hennings, have the last word: “My prayer is that

this ministry will long be as dynamic as it has

been over the past 75 years, and that, by God’s

grace, it will continue to be a defining part of

who we are as Lutheran Christians in Texas.”

Soli Deo Gloria



Year Name Position Term

1979 Ron Mueller Vice President 1979-1980

1979 Harlan Teske 1979-1980

1979 Rev. Thomas Sorensen 1979-1982

1979 Betty Frost 1979-1984

1979 Rev. James Noffke President/Treasurer 1979-1984

1979 Chris Bentz President/Treasurer 1979-1986

1979 Wilbert Kalbas Vice President 1979-1987

1979 Jerry Saegert 1979-1985

1979 Betty Boecker Secretary 1979-1988

1980 Randy Kerkman 1980-1985 & 1991-1997

1981 Rick Allmon 1981-1982

1982 Rev. Lawrence Kelm 1982-1986

1982 Gary Frieling 1982-1988

1984 Rev. Ken Hennings President 1984-1991

1984 Jim Noack 1984-1991

1985 Bonnie Hahn Secretary 1985-1994

1984 Gary Bounds Treasurer 1984-1995

1985 Mike Linebrink 1985-1996 & 2004-2009

1986 Ron Bartels 1986

1986 Rev. Steve McClintic 1986-1991

1987 Phil Wade 1987

1987 Ron Lammert President/Vice President/DC Chairman 1987-1996 & 2001-2011

1988 Edith Jutzi 1988-1991

1988 Dr. Laurence Meissner 1988-1993

1988 Henry Janhsen 1988-1994

1988 Marvin Stelzer 1988-1994

1988 John Kueck 1988-1995

1991 Rev. Walt Waiser President/Vice President 1991-1999

1991 Catherine Burkhard Secretary 1991-2002

1992 Rev. Tim Dinger 1992-1997 & 2013-2019

1993 Dr. Joe Frost President/Vice President/DC Chairman 1993-1996 & 2001-2007

1993 Don Rawe 1993-1996

1993 Pat Klekamp 1993-1996

1993 Hubert Noack 1993-2002

1993 Glenn Hurta Treasurer/DC Chairman 1993-2003

1993 Lawrence Lieder 1993-2004

1993 Rebecca Kieschnick President 1993-2005

1994 Wes Krueger Vice President 1994-2000

1994 Curtis Doering Treasurer 1994-2005

1995 Joe Gorder 1995-2000

1995 Buddy Hingst 1995-2001

1995 David Howard DC Chairman 1995-2004 & 2013-2015

1996 Warren Ressel DC Chairman 1995-1999

1996 Dr. Merlin Kunkel 1996-1997

1997 Jack Catron 1997

1997 Mark McClain 1997-2000

TOM and LOMT Board Members ✦ 95

1998 Terry Rathert DC Chairman 1998-2000

1999 Rev. Michael Meissner 1999-2000 & 2007-2013

2000 Kathy Lentz 2000-2001

2000 Laura Jennett Treasurer 2000-2009

2000 Michael Cuda Treasurer/DC Vice Chairman 2000-2011

2001 David Goeke 2001-2002

2001 Rev. David Jung Vice President/Secretary 2001-2007

2001 Suzanne Neuhaus 2001-2009

2002 Marty Criswell 2002-2003

2002 Doug Dalrample Secretary 2002-2004

2002 Dee Terry 2002-2005

2003 Dennis Watson Vice President 2003-2012

2004 Dean Gaertner 2004-2013

2004 Kathy Howard President/Secretary 2004-2013

2006 Janet Hurta 2005-2008

2005 Greg Peterson Secretary 2005-2013

2006 Michael Skains 2006-2011

2006 Lloyd Koehnen Treasurer/DC Chairman 2006-2018

2007 Koy Domann Vice President 2007-2016

2008 Troy Johnson President 2008-2017

2009 Terry Rawe 2008-2012

2009 Claire Spivey 2009-2012

2009 Kathy Walther Treasurer 2009-2012

2009 Jill Neuhaus 2009-2018

2009 Karin Warren 2009-2018

2012 Vernon Kelinske DC Chairman 2012-2016

2012 Julie Dayton 2012- 2018

2012 Richard Lorenz 2012-2018

2013 Dean Lauppe 2013-2019

2013 Eric Schmidt Secretary 2013-2019

2013 Mark Stirl Treasurer 2013-2019

2015 Michael De Young 2015-2017

2015 Donna Pyle 2015-2017

2016 Rev. Nathaniel Hill 2016-2017

2016 Rev. Michael Mattil 2016-2019

Note 1: “Year” is first year of service, “Position” is any position served during their term.

Note 2: “DC” is an abbreviation for “Development Council.”



Views From the Midst of God’s Creation ✦ 97


Views From the Midst of God’s Creation ✦ 99


ISBN: 978-1-944891-15-2

Historical Publishing Network

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