A new fund to benefit the Englishton Park Summer Camp program will carry on the legacy of “Chief John,” a former camp counselor who passed away this year after a short battle with cancer.
John Elliott Wittich worked his first summer at Englishton Park in Lexington in 1978. He had just finished his junior year at Hanover College. He was a psychology major, but wasn’t sure what he wanted to do following graduation. Dr. Rawson, psychology professor at Hanover College, knew John as a very energetic and dedicated student. As a founding member and director of the Englishton Park Children’s Program for many years, Dr. Rawson encouraged John to apply to work there.
“In John, Dr. Rawson saw a talent John didn’t see in himself yet,” said John’s wife, Tami.
John worked at Englishton Park during the summers of 1979, 1980 and 1982. While at Englishton, John found his life’s passion. He now knew he wanted to work professionally with children. John graduated from Hanover College in 1979 and he earned a master’s degree in school psychology at Miami of Ohio University in 1982. For the next 33 years he worked with children with various learning challenges. He became a trusted support for their parents as well.
“Working with children was not just his career, it was his life and passion,” said Tami. “Even when he was on vacation, he would carry his clipboard, creating new and meaningful ways to work with the students.
John was diagnosed in April 2015 with colon cancer. He had retired from Lakota Schools in West Chester, Ohio, but had been re-hired by Talawanda Schools in Oxford, Ohio. When word spread of his diagnosis, John received hundreds of cards and letters from colleagues, parents, friends and family sending him their hopeful words for a recovery. Words such as “thoughtful, kind, loving, funny, and inspirational” were used again and again to describe their recollection of John’s influence in their own life. Colleagues shared their memories of how his kindness had left such a positive mark.
John only lived three months following his diagnosis. He died July 9, 2015. He left behind his loving wife of 34 years, his children, Alexandrea, Kelsey and John Kenneth; two grandchildren, and many other loving family members, friends and colleagues.
Soon after, Tami decided to contribute the gifts made in memory of John to the Scott County Community Foundation, to establish the Chief John Memorial Campership Fund. Earnings from the fund will benefit Englishton Park, so that at-risk youth will continue to receive life-changing experiences that John himself was able to provide when he was a camp counselor there.
“John loved Englishton Park,” said Tami. “He would be so proud of the camper scholarship that his family set up to honor him. His memory will live on through this scholarship.”