Profile 2021: The Y’s Warner-Tully has shaped lives for more than six decades
Published 8:00 am Sunday, April 25, 2021
The summer of 2020 was supposed to be a “spectacular celebration” at Warner-Tully YMCA Camp, according to director Mille Wolfe.
It was the 60th summer of Warner-Tully, but like everything else lately, things were different.
Spirits were high for the first two sessions despite the delayed start and decrease in campers, until Claiborne County was deemed a “hot spot” for COVID-19. The camp then had to shut down for the summer.
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Wolfe does not let one short summer affect her love and enthusiasm for the camp. The property where Warner-Tully is located has been a part of her and her family’s life for more than 170 years. Her mother, Mary Sessions Morehead, was born on the property.
Long before it was Warner-Tully, the land was the site of the Ingleside Plantation where a family of three lived until 1927. They sold the land and moved to the big city of Port Gibson when it became too difficult for their young daughter, Mary Sessions, to get to school.
Morehead left the property at a young age, but later as she raised her daughter, Mille, in Port Gibson, she kept the memory of her former home alive.
“My whole life on Sunday afternoon she wanted to ride out to Warner-Tully to say, ‘this is where my house was!’” Wolfe said.
In 1960 a new camp, Warner-Tully, was formed when Bart Tully of Anderson-Tully Lumber Company donated the land to the Vicksburg YMCA. C.L. Warner also left a monetary gift for the camp to be established on the property.
Wolfe decided to give camp a try in 1967, but to her family’s disbelief, she went home halfway through the week. “I was a homesick camper,” Wolfe said.
Later, her own children became involved at Warner-Tully as campers and as counselors.
Wolfe worked as a school teacher in the Vicksburg-Warren School District until 2013. She became involved with the YMCA in 2007 and was named camp director at Warner-Tully in the fall of 2016.
“I feel like I’ve come full circle. Camp directors usually go straight from college, and I had my other career first,” she said. “I knew that’s where I was supposed to be.”
Wolfe begins every session by explaining her family’s connection to Warner-Tully.
“But it’s not the place that makes Warner-Tully special,” she said. “It’s the people.”
In its 60 years, Mille is not the only one of Warner-Tully’s original campers still involved.
Opening summer of 1960, nine-year-old Ronnie Andrews spent his first week at summer camp. He was too young to be a camper, but with an older brother already signed up, they made an exception.
He remembers great food, enormous horseflies, and a friend who had a pet snake.
“I had a friend from Louisiana, and he caught a green snake that was living in his pillowcase named Gus,” Andrews said.
Since his time as a camper, Andrews has served as the Vicksburg YMCA Board president and continues to serve on the board. He has always been involved with Warner-Tully.
“It’s changed for the better. It’s gotten more modernized than it was before,” he said. “But it still gives you the feeling of being at camp.
Many milestones are met for a child at camp. They learn responsibility, independence, and how to get along with others.
Vicksburg native Mark Doiron remembers competing for “cleanest cabin” every day before activities began. He also remembers the friendships he formed within his cabin.
“But it was the relationships between boys in the cabin themselves,” Doiron said. “Some of us are still friends today.”
The world hit a giant milestone one summer when Doiron was at Warner-Tully; man walked on the moon.
“I was there in 1969 when man landed on the moon. We were all in the dining hall, and we were all watching the small 13-inch black and white TV,” Doiron said. “I never will forget, that was at Warner-Tully Camp.”
Former Vicksburg YMCA Director Herb Wilkinson experienced the Y’s impact firsthand as a child and spent 45 years of his life doing the same for others.
From the start of his career at the Vicksburg Y to his retirement, he spent many Sundays at check-ins for camp.
He speaks of how the “core values” of the Y make up the “core programs” such as Warner-Tully. Through it all, the Vicksburg community supported them and made this camp possible.
“Vicksburg is a great YMCA town,” Wilkinson said. “It ranks among the best Y communities. The YMCA is an asset.”
Summer 2021 is currently being planned, and the 60th-anniversary celebration will be bigger and better than ever.
The YMCA, officials said, is taking every precaution to prevent the spread of COVID-19 at Warner-Tully, while providing a fun summer for all campers and counselors.
“We’re all a year older and a bit wiser,” Wolfe said.