Yates and his family have long been involved in camping in western North Carolina. His mother, Mary Boys Bertolini, grew up in Tuxedo on “Apple Hill” and went to both Camp Pinnacle and Camp Green Cove for many summers.
His father, Henry Pharr was a camper and counselor at Camp Mondamin. Great Uncle Keg Wheeler was Associate Director of Camp Arrowhead in the 50’s and 60’s.
Yates and his brothers followed by attending Falling Creek; younger brother Stephen was a camper and C.I.T. for 9 summers. Seeing and hearing their tales of camp life, along with Yates’ own experience for 12 summers, he knows what a positive influence camp can be for campers and counselors alike.
While on staff, Yates was the middler (Catawba) line head and the head of the paddling program. The leadership, outdoor and interpersonal skills he gained were tremendous. This, coupled with his love for camping, led him to obtain a degree in recreation at Appalachian State University in 1990.
Marisa was also a recreation program management major while at ASU, where she and Yates met. She completed her internship at FCC in 1989 as head of the waterfront. Upon graduation, she went to work for the YMCA, first as aquatic coordinator, and then as a staff trainer.
She believes in the YMCA mission and continues serving on several committees at the local branch. She was chairman of the Strong Kids Annual Support Campaign for three years and was chosen “Volunteer of the Year” in 2004.
She has held volunteer positions with the Big Brother/Big Sister Program, American Red Cross, Boy Scouts, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Council on Aging, the “Hospitality House” for homeless, her neighborhood, church, and children’s schools. Marisa has worked with all ages and populations, from teaching arthritis exercise classes, to facilitating high ropes activities with corporate executives, to coaching young Special Olympic competitors.
She enjoyed being a part of the participants’ development that occurred through these recreational activities—emotional, physical, behavioral, and social. Taking this further, she became a Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialist. She worked as a recreational therapist at a residential treatment center for children with emotional and behavioral disorders.
Yates took a different career path following college. He returned to his hometown of Charlotte, NC to work for a life-long mentor, H. C. “Smoky” Bissell in commercial real estate. He served as President of Bissell Development before accepting a role in 1999 with George and Jack Cecil at Biltmore Farms in Asheville, NC. He was Vice President of Commercial Development and welcomed the challenge of carrying out the company’s vision and commitment to economic and cultural prosperity in western North Carolina.
While maintaining a successful career and full life with three children, Yates still used his knowledge and recreation background to volunteer on various boards and committees in the community and his church. He especially enjoyed those that allowed him to be directly involved. He was an Assistant Scoutmaster for the same troop he had earned his Eagle in and for several years he mentored 12 fraternal groups across the state and was inducted in the Court of Honor as a result of his efforts. Both of these organizations help young men excel.
As good stewards, the McGrady’s have ensured that Falling Creek will be around for future generations. This succession plan at Falling Creek is wonderfully scripted.
Yates and Chuck have known each other since 1979 when Yates and fellow FCC campers participated in a 5-day backpacking trip in Linville Gorge led by Chuck. (They even have the “Mama letter” to prove it!)
At the same time, another group of FCC campers, led by Donnie and Steve Longnecker, were climbing Table Rock. The groups met half way.
"We are excited to be working with Donnie again, and value his 34 years of experience and leadership with FCC," Pharr stated.
Chris Stec will also continue as a full-time director. Chuck and Jean will remain as directors emeritus, as well as camp’s neighbors. Chuck will have ongoing involvement with camp, helping as a key resource and providing additional program support during the winter and summer. Claudia and Susan will staff the camp office with the familiarity and care they have provided for many years. Jerry and Simon also will continue to take care of camp property and the herd of horses. "This strong year-round team was one of the reasons we knew the time was right for this opportunity. We will remain committed to offering a quality summer camp experience for boys and to hold to the traditions that make Falling Creek Camp the wonderful place it is," said Pharr.
Joining the Pharrs as business partners are good friends and fellow camp enthusiasts, Drs. David and Cindy Brown and Frank and Elizabeth Tindall.
Both couples bring many years of camping experience to the team. Cindy practiced pediatrics in Asheville for many years and now works with the WNC Child Advocacy Center investigating cases of abuse. David, an allergist and national medical business leader, is also an FCC alumnus. He and his brother, Bucky, led the paddling program in the late seventies and eighties and were role models in many ways to Yates and his brother Stephen.
Frank and Elizabeth were the owners and directors of Camp Illahee from 1984-2002. They are leaders in summer camping and Falling Creek is fortunate to have their superior knowledge and experience. Frank will be working as an Associate Director.
Yates and Marisa realize that the influence a Camp experience can have on boys and young men is hard to duplicate elsewhere. It expands a camper’s concept of themselves and the world around them. They want to make a full-time commitment to this calling. Yates and Marisa are excited to start this new venture; the culmination of a dream they have shared. They will move to camp in the beginning of 2006 with their three children, Annie (9), Lucy (7) and Mary (5). Also along for the ride will be their dog Pounder, elderly cat, Ash and their daughter’s pet rat, Mickey. They are looking forward to seeing and meeting many of you in the coming year. Everyone is eager to get started on making next summer another great experience at Falling Creek Camp!
Yates, Marisa, Annie, Lucy & Mary