Beigette Gill loves harvesting the garden that her father-in-law and her family grow each year at Fernwood Cove. Pamela Chodosh


Beigette Gill has owned and run Fernwood Cove in Harrison with her husband Jim since 2004. They live at the camp on the edge of Island Pond along with their son, who is 9, and their daughter, who is 11. Gill’s parents and her younger brother live in Australia. Jim’s parents have a home nearby.
I grew up in a small country town of about 800 people called Baradine. It is in New South Wales, Australia, five hours from Sidney, and at the edge of the Outback. My grandparents on both sides were farmers there. My mom’s family had 5000 acres for livestock and wheat. My dad’s had 1000 for sheep.
I swam a lot at the local pool. I was also into horseback riding. Though we lived in town, we’d ride into the creeks, mustering cattle and working with horses.
When I was in the 9th grade, I went to Loreto Normanhurst, an all-girls boarding school in Sydney. I swam on the swim team for a few years and also played field hockey. I enjoyed the camaraderie and the girls who are still my friends.
I went to the University of Sydney. I lived on campus for the first year and then moved out with friends. I worked as a barmaid and also volunteered at a summer camp program on the coast of Australia. That’s where I met Matt.
I’d been intrigued by the idea of working at a summer camp for a while. Matt had worked at Camp Fernwood In Poland, Maine. He made me remember what I really wanted to do.
I graduated with a BA in Nursing and then went back to Baradine for a year where I worked at four different hospitals.  When I was done, I called Matt. He connected me with Camp Fernwood which hired me as a swim instructor.
My first night at camp I met Jim. Though I was attracted to him, I told him I had a relationship in Australia. By the end of the summer, that relationship wasn’t going anywhere. If there was anyone at the camp who I wanted to kiss it was Jim. That’s how our relationship started.
After camp was over, Jim and I and some other camp friends traveled for a week. Then I went back to Australia. Jim and I kept in touch. In January of that next year, he came over. We traveled around for a month. It was a way to see if this was going to work. It worked well. Our relationship continued.
I came back to Camp Fernwood in 2003. Jim worked there as well. One day I told him, “If we are going to stay together, we need to get married.”
We decided to marry on July 18th. That morning Jim proposed to me at the assembly right in front of the campers. I said yes and he kissed me. The girls were ecstatic.
We went to the town office to get married, but the lady there said, “I don’t like to mix marriage and work. Is there anywhere else you can have your ceremony?”
Jim asked Fritz, the camp director, “Can we be married here today?” Fritz said, “We can do it at 4.”
When we came back, there was an altar, a bouquet, a pianist to play Pachelbel’s Canon, a violinist to accompany, a person to take photos and a four-tiered wedding cake. The chef had actually made it for someone else, but he gave to us instead.
A staff person lent me a dress she had brought for the camp banquet, which was always an all-white occasion. It was a beautiful simple strapless dress. It fit perfectly.
We had an instant wedding for 300 guests. It was magical. I could not have dreamt up a better one.
We finished the camp season. Then we moved to Dutch Harbor, Alaska where Jim was contracted for eight-months on the Aleutian Islands to be a supervisor for National Marine Fisheries.
Sometime that winter, Fritz called Jim to tell him that Fernwood Cove was for sale. Fritz said we should buy it. I said we should. Originally a boys camp called Camp Chickawah, it started in the early 1900s and went out of business in the 80s. The owners of Camp Fernwood bought Camp Chickawah in 1998 and renamed it Fernwood Cove. It became the first half-season girls camp in Maine.
We worked at Fernwood the summer of 2004 and then bought it that November. We have been here since then.
On Labor Day Weekend of 2011, Jim was getting ready to go for a mountain bike ride on a trail in New Hampshire. I was planning on making tomato soup. It was so gorgeous, I decided to come.
We got out of the truck, put the kids in a chariot behind Jim, and started down the trail which was a tote road. I rode behind them in one of the wheel tracks. When I decided to cross the median, which was all grass, my front tire went into a hole. I went over my handlebars and landed on my neck.
Jim called 911 on our old Verizon cell phone. Within 30 minutes, a response team was taking me out on a backboard and putting me into the back of a pickup. A half-hour later, I was at a small local hospital, where they did a cat scan. It confirmed that I had fractured my C6 and C7 vertebrae and done instant spinal cord damage. Because of my nurse training, I knew this already.
The incident happened at 11 in the morning. At 10 at night I had surgery at Maine Med in Portland. Though a spinal cord injury cannot be fixed, they put donor bone in my neck to stabilize my spine.
I spent the next seven months at Shepherd Center, which is a premium rehab center for brain and spinal injuries in Atlanta, Georgia. The people at Shepard helped me learn things, like how to sit up, shower myself and use a power chair. Because I have sensation and limited movement below my injury, they were able to help me regain any function I could.
I have tough moments, but it’s been amazing to be able to live here and raise my family. I’ve got the best job in the world.

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