I found out about his passing almost 4-years too late to say thank you for all the things he taught me. I was reminded of him when I found his name on a piece of paper stowed away in an old cigar box I had in the top of my closet. The box was filled with various mementos from my adolescence. There were old photos from Jr. High, old concert ticket stubs, and a piece of paper at the bottom with the name Kim Bodell.
The summer of 1980 had yet to go on record as the hottest on record in Arkansas. It was June and a bunch of teen aged boys who had been hired as camp counselors, instructors, kitchen help, and lifeguards had assembled just outside of Damascus, Arkansas at Cove Creek Scout Reservation in preparation for the 1980 Summer Camp. The staff arrived a week before the start of camp to get everything set-up and ready for the Boy Scout troops that would soon be arriving for a week of fun, merit badges, campfires and mosquito swatting. But before the troops arrived, there were tents to pitch at the camp sites, canoes and rowboats that had to be brought out of storage and tested for leaks, a kitchen that had to be stocked and cleaned, and thousands of other little details to be sorted through before camp started.
I have wonderful memories of that summer sitting on the waterfront at a picnic table under a tarp listening to the radio. I remember it was during the Iran Hostage crisis and we we would see C-130 planes painted in desert colors doing training flights over the camp everyday. And I remember it was hot. Bad hot. And I remember our boss that summer. On the first day, we were introduced to our 26-year-old waterfront director. The man who had one week to take a bunch of teen-aged boys and turn them into lifeguards and swimming instructors. In one week, we learned how use a reach pole, throw a ring-buoy into an area of three-feet from 40-feet away and look for the adverse signs of heat on a person.
The first thing that struck me about Bernard Kim Bodell was his name. I had yet to ever meet a man with the name Kim. The second thing that struck me was his sheer force of personality. Always on the edge of busting into laughter, Kim was always jovial with us boys and always had a story to tell. Man, did he have stories. His stories were life lessons and cautionary tales from his own life. He held nothing back as he told us of things he had done in his past and the consequences those choices had brought – good or bad. He was honest and talked to us like adults. I appreciated and admired him for that.
Kim had brought along his new wife for the summer. The way he spoke to her and about her showed how much he loved Patricia Bodell. Another lesson he taught, probably without even realizing it, was you can be a manly kind of guy and still know how to treat a lady with respect and to speak about her respectfully to others. Kim taught us well how to see when a person was in distress. More than a couple of times we had to pull campers out of the water, and we had one case of heat stroke that almost took a young boy. Because of his instruction and direction, I am convinced that Kim saved that boy’s life and probably others that summer by teaching us how to react in a crisis situation.
Kim took the role of big brother to the four teens that made up his waterfront staff. He invited us to the cabin he and Patricia shared for a meal of venison and rice one evening. He always listened to the woes of teenaged angst and managed to keep a straight face. He would joke with us all throughout the long, hot days. He would make sure we drank lots of water and took our salt pills to deal with the oppresive heat. We would talk of manly things like hunting and motorcyles and good ol’ rock ‘n roll music. He was the first man who had a major influence on my life besides my own father. The first time an adult was more friend than authority figure. In no time it seemed the summer was over and we all left to our own lives outside of Cove Creek and I lost track of Kim and Patricia.
So years pass and I find his name written on a piece of paper in my closet. I run it through Google and found this news from 2004:
Fredricksburg, VA – Bernard Kim Bodell, 49, of Stafford County, passed away Wednesday, March 31, 2004, at his residence.
Mr. Bodell was a member of the Third Tradition Motorcycle Club and the Final Option Motorcycle Club. He had retired from the United States Marine Corps.
Mr. Bodell was preceded in death by his mother, Betty Jo Bodell, and is survived by his wife of 23 years, Patricia Bodell; his father, Herbert K. Bodell of Heber Springs, Ark.; a brother and his wife, Scott and Sylvia Bodell of Dallas, Texas; two nephews, Cameron and Carter; his two dogs, Samson and Delilah; and his three cats, Buckwheat, Bart and Baby Zorro.
A celebration of his life will be held from 12:30 to 4 p.m. at the Stafford Rescue Squad, located behind Stafford Courthouse on U.S. 1, on Saturday, April 3. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that contributions be made to the Cancer Center of Virginia, 5040 Plank Road, Fredericksburg, Va. 22407; or to the Hospice of Northern Virginia, 6565 Arlington Blvd., Suite 501, Falls Church, Va. 22042.
I am now mourning the passing of a man I have not seen in 27 years, but who taught me a good many things. I did notice that he was still married to Patricia when he passed. That made me very happy. I hope their years together were good beyond measure.
Patricia, I will keep you in my prayers and just wanted you to know the impact Kim had on a bunch of rowdy teen-aged boys during one hot summer.
Bernard Kim Bodell, I thank you and salute you for more than you probably realized. Butch Renfroe, Waterfront – Cove Creek Scout Reservation 1980