Alumni Spotlight: Carlene "Chiquita" Schellinger
Chiquita (aka Carlene Schellinger Myers) first came to Mohawk in the mid-1960s at 10 years old and hated it. Her mother had enjoyed camp as a child and of course wanted to send her kids. Her older brother Ricky had already attended the boy’s camp in August and loved it (in great part due to his counselor Wilbur Pike) and her younger sister Giselle joined her at Mohawk as well. (Ricky also worked in the kitchen at both Mohawk and Camp Hi-Rock, and Giselle went on to manage the stables for a number of years).
When the next year rolled around, Chiquita didn’t want to return, but her Mom made her go, saying there’s nothing for her to do at home. She liked it a little more, and eventually stayed on through two CIT years, several years as counselor and at one point, even worked in the office. Like many others, Chiquita’s favorite staff member was her Senior Unit Leader Mary Humestan Coutant. One of her favorite memories was the rain “activity” that Hope Hutchinson used to lead. As Chiquita remembers, the whole camp would be at the waterfront, and Hope would ask everyone to rub their hands together quietly and slowly, gradually increasing the tempo. It would sound like a light rain at first, and then a major storm, before slowing down again to a gentle rain. Chiquita also fondly remembers Mr. Moore (as she still calls former Director Tom Q. Moore today) and his eerie ghost stories that always had a funny ending.
After a few years away in the mid-1970s, Chiquita returned at the request of camp’s triumvirate of leaders (Hope, Cindy Morse, and Jack Trumbull) to lead the new Mugwump unit for two summers. She was a bit nervous about rejoining the staff of younger people, but her kindness, cheerfulness, and great humor immediately helped her become a camp favorite. At the time, Chiquita was well known for her amazing skill at starting campfires in all kinds of weather. Back then, the kitchen crew had Wednesday evenings off, and each unit cooked over the campfire in their unit. If it had been wet at all, we could count on Chiquita to make the rounds of every unit to start the fires for us. It was a skill she had also used as a Wilderness staffer with Eric Bailey and Don Pratt.
Chiquita was well loved around camp for her bright personality and open, friendly and free spirit. She was given her name by a fellow CIT (Karen Michaels?) who spied her dancing while she was mopping a floor. Karen laughingly told her she was “such a Chiquita Banana” (after a popular banana TV ad of the time) and decades later, that is how she is still known to Mohawkers (except for Jack, who always called her Carlene). In fact, whenever her name is spoken, it is always said with a big smile, because she is so fondly remembered. She was also known for bringing her duck Jedidiah to live in the staff cabin one summer with me and Alicia Sillars Comesana-Vila. Jedidiah was very protective of Chiquita and went with her everywhere. Many will also remember her dog Dingo, a regular visitor.
Chiquita graduated from Concordia College in 1977 with a degree in education and taught in nursery and elementary schools. She married her husband, Glen (a lumberjack), in 1983, and they settled in Durham, CT to raise their two children, Robert and Carissa. She now has three grandchildren, one dog, Ella (a chiweenie-chihuahua-dachshund mix) and a tuxedo cat named Mr. Keats, after the Romantic poet because he is such a love!
Chiquita’s recent years have been marred by serious health issues. She was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2005, undergoing a mastectomy and chemo. Several years later, the chemo had damaged her heart to the point that she went on the donor list. She credits her prayers and God, for the fact that she was only on the list for one day, before she was matched with a heart, and had the transplant in 2010. Unfortunately, the anti-rejection drugs caused her kidneys to fail and she has been on dialysis for several years, though now at least, she can do it at home. And if that wasn’t enough, she battled COVID this past January.
Those who knew her will be happy to know that Chiquita’s cheerfulness and openness have survived these trials. She came to the last reunion and plans to come again this Labor Day weekend. She feels blessed and she still brings smiles to those around her.
And as a last note, Chiquita reports that Ricky has retired from working at the VA in New Haven, CT, and is enjoying his relaxation time. Giselle is married with three children and still works at the VA in Maine, helping organize transportation for Veterans to health care appointments. For anyone who knows Chiquita and would like to say hi, please text her at (860) 685-0433.