While going through the site, I landed on the Camp Campion web. I too was a Camp Campion attendee. Although I don’t have any of my memorabilia…I do remember several of the attendees including Joe Williamson and Dan Bernardi as well a Pat Conaghan and Bernie Zayner. I also remember Tony Villareal…very well. He was a high spirited kid from Mexico who spoke little English and yet managed to be-friend almost everyone in the camp. I also remember him as a very talented and experienced boxer…who scared the hell out of anyone who fought him…which brings me to my story.
As a first time camp attendee between 7th and 8th grade (1966), I spent two (two week) sessions at Camp Campion. J. V. O’Connor SJ was there and he was teaching kids to box. What we didn’t know was that even then, he was building character in all of us. Boxing, at the time was not something that I was particularly enamored with to say the least. In fact, I was probably afraid of it. To make matters worse, I had to spar on many occasions against Tony Villareal…who use to pummel me in practice. But I learned how to box…maybe a little bit from Tony…but I dare say a great deal from JVOC…and it just wasn’t about boxing either…but about character. I never will forget the lessons learned and my time spent as a young man with James V. O’Connor both at Camp Campion and at Campion. Simply put…what a man of principal and integrity.
Not to ignore bragging rites. During the first (2 week) summer session, Tony and I met in the boxing finals for our weight division where I beat him in a split decision. I still have my doubts to this day if I really did…but that was the outcome. Two weeks later at the conclusion of my second summer session, Tony and I met again in the finals of our weight division. The outcome was the same.
This was a small and infinitesimal moment in my life, yet it is something that I will never forget, not that Tony and I fought and I won…but that I learned how to approach a challenging situation and excel in my own way with all of my own limitations. JVOC taught me how to do that. JVOC taught me to believe in myself. JVOC taught a lot of kids to believe in themselves. I think he took pride in helping kids excel.
When I think of the most influential people in my life today, James V. O’Connor SJ stands at the top of my list. I owe him a great deal in spirit, thought, action and deed. I believe a lot of Campion grads do.
Robert E. Mack, Jr.