By Deborah Notis
Anyone who ever visited Breezemont’s 15-acre campground in the heart of Armonk knew John Richard Tesone, affectionately known as JR. He was legendary. He was the strong, dedicated figurehead who ran Breezemont for 47 years. In February, the Breezemont family was shocked and saddened by the sudden, unexpected passing of JR.
Last September, JR sold Breezemont with the promise to mentor the new owners. “JR’s death was not part of our deal,” laments owner Gordon Josey, who also owns Camp Twin Creeks, a sleepaway camp in West Virginia. Josey’s partners, Tony Stein and Mark Newfield, run sleepaway camps Echo Lake and Iroquois Springs, both in upstate New York. “We all know camping, but JR was the day camp guru. We hoped to have him around for a long time,” says Josey.
JR’s Breezemont was considered a premier day camp in Westchester. Josey, Stein, and Newfield will preserve Breezemont’s traditions while revitalizing and modernizing the day camp program to give it longer lasting appeal for children. Josey wants Breezemont to engage campers at a young age, and keep them past the traditional day camp expiration date. As children grow, they will have greater options for a range of activities run by activity specialists at challenging but appropriate skill levels. Breezemont will offer off-campground trips to baseball games and fun parks for older campers, diversifying their program even further. Plus, Thursday nights will be family night, with barbeques and campfires, uniting the Breezemont community.
The new owners are renovating Breezemont’s facilities while intending JR’s spirit to live on in the beautiful lakefront setting. “We really want to honor JR in a meaningful way,” notes Josey. He, his partners and JR’s sister Priscilla Tortorella and daughter Jenny Tesone (both of whom will be on staff) plan to keep JR’s memory by promoting his values and providing unforgettable summers for Breezemont campers.
“JR had a heart of gold. He was in the business of camping because he loved children and loved mentoring staff. He was here for all the right reasons,” commends Josey.
Deborah Notis is a writer and a co-founder of gamechanger, LLC. She lives in Westchester with her husband and four sons.