Robert Charles Harris, 90, founder and former director of Blue Bell Camp, died last Sunday at Foulkeways, a retirement community in Gwynedd.
In the 1940s, Mr. Harris and his wife, Edna, bought a home and eight acres in a rural area of Montgomery County and established an institution.
For more than 60 years, youngsters have gone to Blue Bell Camp for summer fun, including sports, woodworking, crafts, and theater. Initially a day camp for boys, the facility, in Whitpain Township, has been open to boys and girls from 6 to 11 since 1990.
"Bob and Edna's vision of a productive day camp was unique: It had the picturesque atmosphere and setting of an overnight camp with the educational philosophy of a private school," their son Tom said. "They wanted to teach a multitude of sports and activities with a focus on instruction rather than competition."
Since its founding in 1946, the eight-week camp has been staffed by professional educators and coaches rather than teenage counselors, Tom Harris said. In the early years, the staff included high school basketball coach Jack Kraft, who would go on to coach at Villanova University from 1961 to 1973.
In 1958, the Harrises expanded the camp to nearly 40 acres.
The couple retired in 1978 when Tom Harris and his wife, Joyce, and another son, John, and his wife, Melanie, took over the camp's operations. Since 2006, Tom Harris has run the camp with his wife and their two daughters.
After turning the camp over, Mr. Harris pursued his passion for tennis. He was an active member of the Professional Tennis Registry and the U.S. Professional Tennis Association. He also enjoyed gardening and driving his convertible, his son Tom said.
Mr. Harris and his wife continued to live in the "cottage" at Blue Bell Camp and spent two months in Florida every year. She died in 2004, and the next year he moved to Foulkeways. He played tennis until January 2008, Tom Harris said.
Mr. Harris graduated from Olney High School and earned a bachelor's degree from Temple University, where he was president of the senior class and captain of the tennis team. During World War II, he served as a gunnery instructor in the Navy in the States.
In 1943, he married Edna Greenfield, whom he had met at a dance in Philadelphia. Before the camp became his full-time occupation, Mr. Harris worked for International Resistive Co. and Alan Wood Steel Co.
In addition to his sons, he is survived by four granddaughters.
Services are private.
Memorial donations may be made to the Arthur Ashe Youth Tennis and Education Center, 4842 Ridge Ave., Philadelphia 19129.