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50-year friendship started in Pilgrim Firs

As part of a reunion of old friends who met at an early Pilgrim Firs family camp 50 years ago when they were 15 years old, Doris Waggoner and Cathie (Corlett) Berg spent three hours at the 2009 family camp, shared lunch with campers and explored the familiar grounds.

doris and cathie
Doris Waggoner and Cathie Corlett

The 2009 campers prepared a brightly colored “Welcome Back!” poster for the women, who came to celebrate Doris’ 65th birthday there, as she had celebrated her 15th birthday earlier.

Doris’ 94-year-old mother, Rae Waggoner, who attends University Congregational UCC, had co-chaired with John Gibson the conference committee that founded Pilgrim Firs.

“As a family, we went there on many work parties.  I remember shellacking around the windows when I was 11 years old and helping my six-year-old sister carry lemonade to the workers,” said Doris, who is active at Plymouth UCC.  “I have a real sense of ownership about the camp.”

The camp opened in 1956 with two senior high camps and a senior high leadership camp.  My family was involved in helping create Pilgrim Firs as a place for people to go away into nature and have experiences with different groups of people each year.

doris and cathie 1959
Doris and Cathie in 1959

In 1959, her mother and father, Bob, were deans of a family camp that drew about 80 participants.  Her father, she noted, chaired the conference board of directors when it began talking about building Horizon House, where she and her mother now live.

At the family camp, she met Cathie, who attended the Vancouver, Wash., UCC church.  Cathie’s father, a physician, was on many conference committees, active at the conference level as Doris’ parents were.

Their friendship bonds have lasted through the years, even though their camp experiences did not overlap again.  Doris attended junior high, senior high and college camps, while Cathie usually went to youth leadership camps, but Cathie would stay at Doris’ when she came to Seattle for meetings and Doris would go to Vancouver to visit Cathie.  Doris introduced Cathie to her husband on a blind date. 

Both taught high school English.  Doris taught five years in Kent, then married and moved to South Dakota and taught a year before going on to graduate school and earning a master’s degree in sociology in Ohio.  Her one class in computer programming led to a 15-year career in computer programming, moving to Wisconsin.  After her marriage ended, she was working at the University of Wisconsin in Madison, involved with a UCC church. 

Eventually realizing that her job was inhibiting her church work, she went to seminary at Eden in St. Louis. A residency in clinical pastoral education led her into hospice chaplaincy and a move to Florida about an hour from Cathie, who taught English 20 years.

Over the years, Doris and Cathie saw each other several times a year, phoned and talked for hours and wrote emails.  Cathie is active in a UCC church in Gainesville.

Cathie still has family in the Northwest, so she called this spring, reminding Doris that it would be 50 years since them met at camp.  She proposed coming and spending four of her 10-day visit with Doris and her mother, and including a lunch-time visit to Pilgrim Firs.

Doris said that she attended University Congregational with her parents and then switched with them to Fauntleroy when the family moved to that neighborhood.  Since she moved back to Seattle in 1997 on disability, she joined Richmond Beach UCC until she moved into Horizon House and began attending Plymouth.

“My mother still attends University Congregational, sometimes going by bus,” she said.

“Cathie’s and my friendship is just one of many friendships that have started at Pilgrim Firs or N-Sid-Sen,” said Doris, who now serves on the PNC’s Christian Life Service and Action Committee. 

For information, call 206-748-7288 or email doriswaggoner[at]

Copyright © September 2009 - Pacific Northwest United Church of Christ Conference News

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