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Guilderland Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, July 14, 2011

Great Spirit: Dorothy Taber honored for her decades of work at Wiawaka

By Jo E. Prout

ALTAMONT — The Lake George not-for-profit resort Wiawaka honored Altamont’s Dorothy Taber last month for her decades of service to the organization. Taber was instrumental in helping the resort receive its place on the National Register of Historic Places.

“I was really amazed, to tell you the truth. I was overwhelmed,” Taber told The Enterprise.  “I was so pleased and excited.”

Taber served on the resort’s board for 17 years, leaving her position in 1996. The primarily women-only resort — men accompanied by women are allowed in July — was founded more than a hundred years ago to provide a retreat for women working in Troy factories. Now, women of all socio-economic classes attend Wiawaka for rest, relaxation, and classes like art or quilting.

For the past three years, groups of military women returned from Iraq have gone to the retreat, many of them free of charge. The not-for-profit camp has a subsidy program to help fund stays for women who need respite but cannot afford the full $110 per day.

Taber, 81, camped near the resort with her family when she was young. Later, after having six children with her husband, Neil, she went to Wiawaka on her own.

“I needed a vacation, for me,” she said. “I still go every year.”

The camp is on Lake George and features a large holiday house and several cottages near the water. There are no televisions or air-conditioners, Taber said.

“We share bathrooms,” she said. “It’s really rustic.”

Wiawaka contacted her in April to be sure she was available for the Third Annual Ladies of the Lake Luncheon held June 27 at the Lake George Club. Taber received a citation from the New York State Assembly and the Spirit of Wiawaka award for her three decades of work at Wiawaka. Taber said that her award is called the Great Spirit of Woman, which is the definition of the Abenaki word “wiawaka.”

Taber spent more than six years working to have the camp established as a historic place.

“I did all the research,” she said. Taber was assisted by a local author, who helped Taber find pictures and copies of newspaper articles one afternoon.

Mary Sayers, an architectural historian, wrote the application after Taber’s years of research.

“She was just like a godsend to come along and do this,” Taber said of Sayers. The project received state approval and, two years later in 1998, federal approval.

“It’s a long process,” Taber said. “I really enjoyed doing it.”

Her sister and two friends from Wiawaka attended the awards luncheon, she said. Her acquaintances from Wiawaka came, too, including the camp caretaker and one of the women who works in the kitchen, she said.

“We’ve been friends through the years,” Taber said. “It was all quite a big deal.”

Assemblywoman Teresa Sayward read a citation from the New York State Assembly, commending Taber as “an outstanding citizen, worthy of public recognition and commendation, fully confident that such praise mirrors her spirit of giving and dedicated years of service to maintain Wiawaka’s history of enrichment and revitalization.”

Taber, who said she is slowing down some, walks every day and bowls once a week.

“I never have a chance to be bored,” she said, noting that she reads five or six books each week. Taber, a painter, has done a hundred paintings in oils, mostly landscapes and snowscapes.

She remembers attending Wiawaka when the cost of a week’s stay was $50 and included three meals per day.

Meals are still included in overnight stays. They are now primarily vegetarian, and can be purchased individually by those attending on a $15 day pass.

Wiawaka “still has a philanthropic fund, for those who can’t afford it,” Taber said. “The purpose is still there.”

Retreats for those recovering from breast cancer and for women veterans are planned for the summer, and, according to the website, donors can cover the costs for attendees at www.wiawaka.org.

“It’s a different place now,” Taber said of the changes in the camp since she first attended. “It’s been a big part of my life."

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