Editor’s note: The following story first appeared in the Campbellsport News and is reprinted with permission.
Camp Vista hosted its 50th anniversary celebration on Sept. 17 and 18.
Camp Vista was founded in 1961 by Fr. Joseph A. Fischer who purchased 123 acres of farmland on Crooked Lake for $17,500 from William Koch.
Fr. Fischer named the camp Vista Wee Yon Wa Untka, which means Our Lady of Hope in Sioux. The camp was incorporated on July 24, 1961.
The camp did not stay at the Crooked Lake location for long, because the Wisconsin State Conservation Commission condemned the land in 1962 with the intention of incorporating it into a state park.
Fr. Fischer tried to fight for the land, but fighting against the state was not easy. After a short battle, the state offered Fr. Fischer 98.5 acres on Cedar Lake, near Dundee, the current site of the camp.
Camp Vista was also given $31,000 by the state. Landscaping and construction began on the new location.
“This property was his second choice,” said Loretta Gergen. “It was a desolate piece of property with a lake. He personally planted all the trees on this property.”
It took a few summers to finish everything at the camp. Six dormitory cabins, one main lodge, including kitchen and dining facilities, and one “rectory” cabin were constructed in 1963-’64 by J.P. Jansen Co. of Milwaukee.
Vista Wee Yon Wa Untka was blessed and dedicated to Our Lady of Hope by Archbishop William E. Cousins on July 17, 1964.
To help keep Camp Vista thriving, a major financial campaign, backed by Gov. Warren P. Knowles and Green Bay Packers Coach Vince Lombardi, was organized.
In 1967, an adjoining 122-acre farm was purchased for Camp Vista at a cost of $21,500. During this same year, Fr. Fischer was transferred from Our Lady of Good Hope Parish in Milwaukee to Our Lady of Angels Parish in Armstrong, bringing him within three miles of the camp.
On the afternoon of Aug. 16, 1970, Fr. Fischer received a phone call telling him there was a forest fire at the camp.
According to the archives, fire departments from four different communities responded along with people from the neighboring countryside. Everyone worked hard to help put the fire out.
Water was pumped from the lake for almost a week until the fire was finally extinguished. The peat bog under the athletic field did not catch fire. It probably would have smoldered indefinitely and would have made this area of the camp unsafe.
One of the most exciting parts of the 50-year-history of Camp Vista occurred when Our Lady of the Vista Chapel was constructed in 1972 and 1973.
The chapel was built on a hill and is considered a constant reminder to the campers that the Lord is present in all they do. On Aug. 15, 1973, Our Lady of the Vista Chapel was blessed by Archbishop Cousins.
The base of the main altar in the chapel was provided by Our Lady of Angels Parish member John Schwind Sr. He also provided the altar in the Blessed Sacrament Chapel, both constructed of materials from his woods.
In 1977, an addition to the dining room was built, including showers, a meeting room and a small apartment in the lower level.
Fr. Fischer, who was transferred to St. Andrew in LeRoy in 1980, suffered a stroke in 1984 and retired from archdiocesan work in 1988.
In 1984, 80 acres of land across Cedar Lake were purchased for $120,000 from two Milwaukee doctors and an additional six acres were purchased from the Dundee Gun Club for $5,000.
Camp Vista was slowly growing, but was always large in its mission. The camp has been a hub of activity since its inception.
“The Vista is thriving,” said School Sister of St. Francis Dorothy Mc-Keague at the 45th anniversary of the camp. “There is someone at the camp every weekend. This place is active. During the summer it is just like a village.”
In retirement, Fr. Fischer lived at St. John Vianney Home which was built on the Camp Vista grounds. He died on May 4, 1997.
In 2002-2003, extensive repairs to the dormitory buildings was done, including new roofs on all buildings and interior and exterior painting. A new roof was put on the main lodge and the trading post in 2004 and two of the cottages were “rebuilt” will new windows and fixtures.
|For more information about the
camp, visit www.campvista.org.
Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan visited Camp Vista in 2004 to bless the new carillon system. The crown from Our Lady of Angels Church in Armstrong was hung above the Vista Chapel altar in 2005.
On Oct. 8, 2006, Camp Vista celebrated its 45th anniversary with Mass celebrated by Bishop Richard J. Sklba.
A new chapter in Camp Vista history began on May 13, 2008 when Andrew and Anna Fidziukiewicz of Chicago signed a three-year lease to direct and maintain the Vista.