Uncle Max (Richie Max Bockol)
Iconic SGF counselor Uncle Richie Max Bockol (now Richard Max Bockol, Esq.) is, perhaps, most famous for his premature death and subsequent funeral that scared the wits out of hundreds of SGF campers, many of whom still sleep with the light on. Before you read an eyewitness account of that carnage, check out what Uncle Max says today.
Oh, and click his thumbnail picture to get an enlargement of Dolly Parton standing next to a life-size cardboard image of Uncle Max.
I'd been an Assistant District Attorney under Arlen Specter from 1968 through 1972 where I was in the Major Trial Frauds Division. Then I had joined Goodis, Greenfield, Shaiman and Levin for 4 years; then a partner at Meltzer & Schiffrin until I started my own firm Rotko & Bockol, with Michael Rotko, who later became U.S. Attorney in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.
Since 1986, I've practiced law as a solo practitioner in Montgomery County, and now live in Gladwyne with my wife of 44 years, Anne. My URL is www.Bockol.com and relates to my 35 years as the restaurant reviewer for the Philadelphia Bar Association's Bar Reporter.
Anne is a "special interest" group tour consultant, usually involving theatre tours and opera adventures. She can be found on the legal pad at "TravelBockol" on the website. She has taken me around the world with groups of delightful traveling companions.
I founded Serendipity Day Camp at Haverford College in 1963, where former SGF counselors Mike Epstein, Boozie Klein, Len Soznoff, Moishe Slotkin and Peter Hoffman helped me begin the first integrated Camp (and the first using a College campus) on the Main Line, and/or anywhere else, I think. The camp is still thriving today and is a huge loving link between the Ardmore Community and Haverford College. I also worked one summer for the City Rec Dept with a troupe of counselors putting on "Truth or Consequences" or "Indian Ceremonials" in the streets of Germantown and North Philly.
But never a funeral...
In case you missed this elsewhere on the SGFVC website, we repeat Uncle Mike Wolf's (then a little camper, now SGFVC Director) account of one of SGF's finest moments:
While standing at the flag raising on the Ridge one morning, Big Max Bockol (Director) was hit by the maintenance truck in full view of all the kids. He was transported from the site on the back of the maintenance truck with his chest covered in blood. Later in the day, we were informed that Big Max had passed on from injuries he had sustained.
A funeral at the camp that night with family and rabbi made for a novel experience for most of us in attendance.
During the lowering of the wooden casket, a loud groan followed by a popping arm from the box triggered a panicked flight by all campers into the dark woods. That was likely the first time in my young life that I connected with God. Counselors gathered all the campers and later that night Big Max came to visit each cabin with a huge grin on his face. I was in Featherhead that year and my camper mates and I went into shock. Thirty some years later, as I was sharing this hard-to-believe event with Steve Israel whom I had met through mutual friends, indicated that he was at SGF during this very episode.
My wife was floored by his validation of my account. Clearly most folks would have viewed this story as outrageously exaggerated but it took thirty some years to give it authenticity. Looking back, what a camp experience that was!
Uncle Shorty continues the story...
I was terribly complicit in the "funeral." I think I wrote a little about it in the guest book. Underlying the jokes and memories remains an amazement that - at the lapse of sane judgment - we had let our imaginations run away so much in wanting to create what undoubtedly became the most unforgettable Mystery Night ever.
Our ghoulish enthusiasm -- how the details came together, from the staged "accident" at assembly on Indian Ridge, the loading of the "unconscious" Max on the back of the stake body truck to whisk him off "to the hospital"; the construction, with the help of Uncle Mark Davis, of the casket in the Arts and Crafts barn; somber whispered announcements at dinner that Uncle Max had "died"; and the twilight service in the middle of a fallow cornfield near Cassett Hill.
I was the "rabbi" who uttered Kaddish, the cue for the climactic moment -- Max, having reversed his jacket, popping open the casket lid and doing a credible Frankenstein's Monster impression as dozens of campers scattered every which way, astonished counselors trying to gather them and and get them back to their cabins in the growing darkness.
At bedtime, Max went from bunk to bunk and did his best to reassure wide-eyed campers all was well. ÊI know that the towels tied at the ends of beds weren't much help that night.
In our haste to pull off Mystery Night, we often forgot to clue the rest of the counselors in on the details, supposing they'd read "Mystery Night" on the camp calendar and would somehow fill in the blanks.
The Many Faces of Uncle Richie Max Bockol - Hall of Fame Counselor