Uncle Al


Born: February 9, 1940
Died: April 24, 2013

Al Ordway was born in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, son of Newell Corliss Ordway and Helen Merrill Hardy Ordway. He spent his early years in Eliot, Maine and after 1947 in Bridgton, Maine where he acquired his love of boating, skiing and the Maine outdoors on the waters of Moose Pond and the slopes of Pleasant Mountain. He was also active in scouting, representing the United States at the 8th World Scout Jamboree in Ontario in 1955. Al prepared for Yale at Berwick Academy and at Gould Academy, both in Maine.

At Yale Al was a member of Davenport where he was athletic aide, chairman of Armour Council and football captain. He was a three year leader of the Yale ski team, earning his major “Y” as co-captain our senior year. He was also a member of Fence Club and of Torch and an Alumni Fund Agent. Al majored in History, was awarded the Bellamy Prize and the Gosselin and Cullinan scholarships, and was on Dean’s List and a ranking scholar.

After graduation Al attended Naval Officer Candidate School and served in the Navy for 3 years, including tours of the Far East and Gulf of Tonkin as Weapons Officer on the destroyer USS Sproston (DD-577).

In 1965, Al married the love of his life, Michelle S. Ordway (nee Sroka). They settled in Bridgton, initially operating rental cottages (Stack ‘Em Inn), but Al’s heart remained with summer camping, so in 1968 Al and Michelle became the owners and directors of Winona Camps for Boys, located on Moose Pond, where Al had spent his youth.

Known for his gentle demeanor, Al spent his professional life as a respected leader of organizations where the growth and mentoring of young people was paramount. For 45 years ‘Uncle Al,’ as he was known, was director and ‘a second father’ to thousands of boys and young men at Winona. Always insightful and a leader by example, Uncle Al helped staff members find their own paths toward meaningful lives. Patient beyond compare, he had time for any boy who needed him to listen to a story about a recent trip the camper had taken.

Al also enjoyed dedicating years of service to his alma mater, Gould Academy. He was a trustee for 29 years (including 24 years as President of the board). In 1998 the new dining hall and meeting center on campus was named Ordway Hall in recognition of Al’s vision and generous leadership to Gould. Al was elected a Selectman of the town of Bridgton from 1970-1977 and served as Chairman in 1977. He served on many other local boards, including the Bridgton Chamber of Commerce (Chairman of Bridgton’s Bicentennial 1968), the Northern Cumberland Memorial Hospital (Bridgton) Board of Trustees (President 1972-1977) and the Ham Charitable Foundation (1997-2013). He served on regional and national boards for youth camping, including Maine Youth Camping Association (1969-1999, President 1984-1987) and the American Camping Association – New England section (1977-1986).

His enjoyment of the outdoors extended beyond camp and recreational activities, as he worked to preserve the uniqueness of Maine as the Chairman of the Maine Safe Water Drinking Committee (1988-1989) and as a board member for the Lakes Environmental Association (1994-1995). In 2004 he and Michelle gifted 160 acres of land on the east side of Pleasant Mountain to the Loon Echo Land Trust, helping to protect the mountain, which was so important in his own life, for future generations.

Al traveled throughout the United States and Canada with numerous friends and family members as a young ski racer and later as a recreational skier. Many people half his age would comment on how hard they had to work to keep up with his graceful, classic ski style. But even beyond skiing, Al’s true joy was the time he spent on the Winona Farm with Michelle, raising their two children, caring for the barn animals, reading history books and Navy fiction thrillers, meticulously stacking his wood pile, working on crossword puzzles, watching Red Sox baseball, listening to marching band music or going on walks around camp with one of his dogs, or sometimes with a goat, or a llama.

Al continued his love of skiing in Colorado, Utah and Montana with occasional heli-skiing in Canada as well as “vertical assaults on my home mountains, Shawnee Peak and Sunday River. I schedule my medical adventures so as not to interfere with camp or skiing,” he wrote in 2012.

Al was predeceased by his father, Newell Ordway. He is survived by his wife of 48 years, Michelle Ordway; son Spencer Ordway and Jennifer Landry of Gorham, daughter Laura Ordway and Stefan Jackson of Bridgton; mother Helen Hardy Ordway of Carmel, Calif.; sister Ann Mahoney and her husband John of Carmel, Calif.; five grandchildren, Stefanie, Alexis, Julia, Jacqueline and Corliss; and many cousins, nephews and nieces.

A Memorial Service and celebration of Al’s life was held at the Gould Academy. Classmate Jack McCredie spoke at the service, which was attended by Chris Cory, Mike Kane, Roger Clapp, Willy Toal, Bob Spitz, Marsh Hamilton, Jack McCredie, David Willis and several other classmates. In Jack’s words, “This special reunion in Maine was both uplifting and bitter sweet. The service was broadcast on the Internet through the Gould Academy AV channel and it is archived at the school’s site.”

“Al and I met,” Jack has written in a moving tribute to Al, “through the random distribution of freshman in 1958, became friends, roommates, brothers-in-law (he married my wife’s sister whom he met while ushering at our wedding), business partners, and family. Without a doubt, Al’s most important legacy is the positive effects his leadership and character have had on literally thousands of young boys and the men and women who have had the honor of working with him. The Winona Camps provide summer experiences where boys can grow in many dimensions, gain respect and love for nature and one another, and have fun. Al was the consummate Eagle Scout throughout his life. Perhaps the phrase that best predicted Al’s legacy and summarized his life was written in his senior class Gould yearbook: ‘all men are dust, but some are gold dust.'”

His widow Michelle’s heartfelt message to your scribe provides a fitting epitaph: “He was truly one of a kind and so special to everyone he knew. It is rare to know a person who makes others better just by being around him. This was Al. We had a 50 year love affair. He was a gift to all of us and we will happily remember him for all of our lives.”