JOHN "JOHNNY B!" BAKOWSKI


The Johnny B Memorial Rocket Launch
at the 2009 Chickawah Reunion



We have some very sad news to report about a true Camp Chickawah legend.  John "Johnny B" Bakowski passed away June 6, 2009 after a long illness.

Anyone who attended Chickawah from the 1940s through the mid 80's knew John, his talents and his wry sense of humor very well.  John was the Chickawah arts & crafts wizard, chief of Rocketry and Go-Carts, proponent of the Tiki God and our own local celeb ("Johnny-B! Johnny-B! Johnny-B!").

John had been living on Long Island, and he had remained close with Moe and Betty.  John would have been 86 in July.

"Johnny went back in Chickawah history to the early '40's. He had first come to Chickawah through my father (Johnny had been a student in his high school (Roosevelt HS in the Bronx)). He spent most of the war years in the navy and then returned to camp after the war.  During my camper years, Johnny was the perennial counselor in bunk 14 (before there was a senior house).  He was loved by all through the ages.MICKEY SALTMAN

 "He was a legend at the camp".  MOE STEINBERG

 Johnny taught me to love ceramics. I still have the turtle we made in his kiln which held my mothers sewing needles for many years. His spirit will remain alive through the kindness and pleasure he gave to all. I can still remember taking out a boat to row to Bendito to see if i could see the legendary Trudy who supposedly captured his heart. He will be missed by us all.”  HOWARD JACOBS

Terribly sorry to hear about Johnny B. He was a good guy -- I was never in his bunk but certainly spent time with him at camp & at the general store in Harrison (with Art Kruger) as a counsellor. His skills as a teacher came through with my campers, most of whom would have preferred to be outside playing sports. Every kid proudly went home with some arts & crafts project.”  JIM SAGNER

“I wasn't the World's Greatest Athlete @ Chickawah.  Always wanted to be, but guys like Cliff Tamis, Lee Hornstein, Howie Jacobs, Lloyd Werner, and The Titan of Tenafly--Tony Geisler--were better jocks & far cooler than I could ever imagine.  So for many summers, Johnny B's Arts & Crafts area became my sanctuary. I could go there & essentially hide from the world.  With each passing summer, John was nice enough to humor me along and encourage me to do more ambitious projects.  By my last year as a camper, John suggested that I make a large bowl that was cut & lined with shaped mosaic tiles.  I worked on it all summer, just a little bit at a time.  Finished it by the last week of camp.  It worked out well.  My mother kept it in the kitchen for many years to hold fresh fruit.  Although I did not know it at the time, the patience & persistence that John Bakowski taught me served me well in figuring out how to run a computer, which I now do for far too many hours every day.  What a great lesson in life.  Godspeed, John Bakowski.”  JIM SUGAR

I'm so sorry. I met John in 1974, when I went to Senior House. I was 15 years old. He was the only catholic in the whole camp, so he took me to mass every Sunday at 11 a.m. We had the opportunity to share a lot. Johnny B was a good man, always showed great care for me and my Sunday religious obligations. 35 years have passed, but I'll remember him forever.”  PEDRO RENGEL

"Lanyards, key holders in the shape of a giant lock, 1st year turtles and dogs in clay, all instructed with a quiet drole sense of humor.  And his friendship with Artie Kruger which at the age of 8 seemed to go back to the stone age for me.  These are a couple of memories i have of  "the late great Johnny B"."  JIM HAYMAN

 A sad day.  Johnny B was my favorite counselor, I used to drive him crazy with my requests to do arts and crafts projects far beyond my abilities.  I have had the pleasure of seeing him over the years at Uncle Moe’s house.  My fondest memory of Johnny B is from my first year at Chickawah in 1958.   I was a pudgy 6 year old who had taken a shine to arts and crafts and the crazy counselor who ran it and immediately began driving Johnny B crazy.  It was the first “free play” day of my first summer and I made a bee line to arts and crafts.  Johnny who was already involved with other campers said to me he would help me later if I would do him a favor and go to the water front and ask Artie for the 6 yards of shore line he had lent him.  I dutifully went and asked Artie for Johnny’s shore line, Artie informed me that he had in turn lent it to Cal out at the rifle range and asked me to get his left handed monkey wrench back from Cal along with the missing shore line.  So off I went to the rifle range to collect both the left handed monkey wrench and the shore line.  Cal told me he wasn’t going to return the items until Johnny returned his rifle sight bender.  As I am schlepping back to arts and crafts from the rifle range in the hot sun it finally dawned on me that I had been had.  I had my revenge by pestering the daylights out of Johnny and spending many delightful and educational hours doing projects.”  MICHAEL LICHT

"God bless Johnny B, the first man to put me behind the wheel anything motorized. He let me wreak havoc from the shop to the far soccer field and back with him standing on the back off the go-cart." ERIC KRONTHAL

 

"Johnny "B" was a legend. He epitomized the Chickawah experience. His demeanor commanded both respect and Love from the young campers, and as we grew we understood the "wry sense of humor" was coupled with a great gentleness.  I am saddened to hear of his passing. He was such a great part of our Chickawah years."  JAMES ZIRKMAN

 

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