Today Cheley Colorado Camps got a visit from one of its most memorable alumni, Robert Dern. Dern is known better as Cowboy Bob while at camp. He has been part of the Cheley family for 75 eventful years. He says his life was changed in 1937 the second he stepped foot on Cheley soil as a camper. His mother asked their family doctor in Colorado Springs, Leo Bayfore, if he knew of any camps to send her two sons. Bayfore, being married to Chief Cheley’s sister, told Derns mother there was only one camp she needed to send her sons, Cheley Colorado Camps. So that is exactly what she did. Dern was a camper for nine years and at the age of 15 became a counselor’s aid and an assistant wrangler during the Second World War for the first term of the summer because they were desperate for staff. Dern was so good at what he did that the Cheley’s promoted him to head wrangler for Ski Hi by the second term. The next year he came back as the head wrangler for Haiyaha.
Ten years later Robert Dern’s first child attended Cheley and eventually all five children followed in his footsteps. Keeping the tradition alive, eight out of nine of his grandchildren have attended Cheley as well. In 1993, Dern came back to Cheley to work for Cheley/Children’s Hospital Burn Camp for 13 years. From 2001-2004, he decided to come back as full time staff as the Fishing Manager. “I was here when Don Cheley was born, all of my kids and eight out of nine of my grandkids have attended Cheley. This camp has been very influential in my life” Dern said.
Dern currently comes to Cheley once a week with his son Bill to fish with the campers. He is also an active member with the John Austin Cheley Foundation. Cowboy Bob is a legacy at camp and both the campers and staff look forward to his weekly visits for a little piece of Cheley history.