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Appreciation – Alden Tyrol
I was 8 years old when I first met Alden Tyrol. It was 1988, the summer before my fourth-grade year, my first summer conference at Silver Lake Conference Center in Sharon. He was an imposing figure in his plaid shirt, thick blue pants and big work boots. He was like my grandfather, but scarier.
I returned to Silver Lake every summer and while I kept my distance from Alden — kids who misbehaved were sent to him, so I was good — I heard story after story of his wisdom, his strict, guiding hand and his mischievous sense of humor. I remember the mix of pride and fear I felt when I was 14 and Alden said to me, “Be sure to get an application for staff before you go home.”
Alden hired me for Camp Family the following summer, but then retired — what a gyp! I worked for five summers at Silver Lake, learning from those who learned from him. We struggled to carry on his ministry without him. The Lake felt his absence, but was never without his guidance. He taught us well, and we carried his message of God’s love and acceptance to everyone who came to Silver Lake.
I didn’t fully realize his influence on my life until I was an adult, interviewing Alden for a story for this paper. Silver Lake was launching a capital campaign to replace some of its aging buildings, and I spoke with Alden to get an idea of the history of the property. He explained to me that the first winterized building at camp was isolating in its design. He felt it wouldn’t work with the kind of community programming he envisioned.
So he designed his own retreat center.
This was the moment the light bulb went on in my head. My experience at Silver Lake, which guided me through some difficult teenage years and shaped the woman I am today, was carefully orchestrated by Alden. It is no accident that thousands of children over 31 years remember Silver Lake as a watershed moment in their lives.
Alden was a quiet, humble man. He didn’t need to preach to make his message heard. He led by example, and a simple sentence at just the right moment had life-changing implications.
Alden dedicated his life to Silver Lake, but his legacy is the community he created. When you’re stuck in traffic in the center of Salisbury this weekend, it is because hundreds of those Alden touched have gathered to mourn his passing. And I’m sure that he will be smiling down on us, proud that we have come together in his name.