in the Family - the Newburys
By Molly Loomis
Reprinted from The Leader, Spring 2003, Vol. 18,
and son Eric in the early days with NOLS.
For most of us, taking a NOLS course is viewed by our families
and friends as something out of the norm. But imagine growing
up in a family where NOLS is not only the norm, but a way of life.
Such is the case with the Newbury family.
The Newburys were introduced to NOLS in the mid-’60s,
and now almost forty years later the Newburys and their extended
family boast over 20 NOLS grads, spanning three generations. Several
of the Newbury clan have turned NOLS into a full time job: George
Newbury, who has been with the school for over thirty years, is
currently the director of NOLS Pacific Northwest in Conway, Wash.
His wife, Mary Jo Newbury, is the branch’s general manager;
George’s cousin Diane Newbury Shoutis is the school’s
alumni relations coordinator; and her daughter, Emily Shoutis,
is now the first second-generation NOLS instructor.
A Tradition Begins
In 1966 Martha Newbury Hellyer, George Newbury’s cousin,
was the first Newbury and one of the first women to ever take
a NOLS course. After learning about NOLS at a presentation she
wrote a letter to Paul Petzoldt explaining that she wanted very
much to take a course but why didn’t NOLS accept women?
In response to her inquiry Paul created the first women’s
patrol the following summer. The rest of the Newbury family would
quickly follow suit.
Soon after Martha’s NOLS experience, “30 Days to
Survival,” a documentary featuring the progression of a
NOLS course, aired on television. George saw the program and was
sold. After watching the show, he cancelled his summer plans to
travel in Europe and enrolled on a course; this was the beginning
of a life-long connection to NOLS.
A NOLS Partnership Forms
Later that summer George returned to Lander to instruct a wilderness
course in Wyoming’s Wind River Range. There he met a young
woman, Mary Jo Hudson, who caught his eye.
“Mary Jo and I didn’t get to talk much during the
summer,” George relates. “But in the fall, when I
heard she was coming back to Lander to drop off some receipts,
I said, ‘I get to pick her up at the airport!’”
In 1975 the two were married and today are one of the most well-known
couples at NOLS.
For several years George and Mary Jo instructed courses for
half the year and spent the winter on a sailboat in the West Indies.
“Paul actually gave us the OK to start up a sailing school
in the West Indies,” says George. “We thought seriously
about it but we were too footloose at that time in our lives.
We didn’t want to get too tied down.”
Instead the couple traveled to NOLS Kenya where they stayed
until 1979, George taking on the position of branch director in
1977. While in Kenya, George’s father, Allan Newbury, visited
and joined two semester courses, often heading out into the field
with George and Mary Jo as his instructors.
George and Mary Jo left Kenya and returned to Lander just in
time for the birth of their first son, Eric, in 1981. Then in
1983 George was appointed director of NOLS Pacific Northwest.
Pacific Northwest Becomes NOLS Hub
The effort George and Mary Jo have put into NOLS Pacific Northwest
over the years is impressive. Using the branch as a springboard,
they now support NOLS programs in India, Australia, Canada, and
most recently, New Zealand. Initially, NOLS Pacific Northwest
only ran wilderness and mountaineering courses, but over the years
George and Mary Jo have helped add sailing, rock climbing, sea
kayaking, and outdoor educator courses to the branch’s offerings.
He was also the driving force behind the construction of the branch’s
buildings, some of the best facilities at the school for outfitting
students. George reflects on their enviable location in Washington:
“I’d always been attracted to the Pacific Northwest
from my years in the Coast Guard; the proximity of ocean and mountains
to each other, the presence of so many glaciers, huge old-growth
trees, and the uniqueness of the Olympic Peninsula — one
of the only roadless coast lines left in the United States.”
Pacific Northwest is one of the school's best facilities
for outfitting students and staff.
The Newbury’s son Eric, 21, agrees with his dad on beauty
of the Northwest. “It’s a completely different place
than the rest of the United States. The semester coastal sections
visit some of the most amazing areas I’ve ever been to;
coast next to snowy capped mountains.”
Born and Raised with NOLS
Eric and his younger brother, Craig, have lived their entire
lives at the NOLS branch. During their lifetimes, George and Mary
Jo have taken them on adventures far beyond the Pacific Northwest,
including a bike ride through Europe, and a family sail from Alaska
down the coast to Washington.
A Family Thing:
The Newbury children, Eric and Craig, have grown up at the
NOLS school in Conway, Wash. Both, of course, are also NOLS
“Being outside was a time when we could be with the kids
without the distractions of everyday life; it’s easy to
communicate better,” says Mary Jo.
In 1994 when NOLS ran its first course in India, Eric traveled
with his dad for three weeks through the Indian countryside and
later worked in town at NOLS Patagonia. When NOLS Australia was
getting off the ground, Craig accompanied George on the long journey
“The Newburys are notorious for taking trips,” says
Mary Jo. “In fact, we started the whole idea of doing sabbaticals.
Our family rode bikes through Europe one summer and then others
started following suit. That’s what NOLS is all about; it
is that sort of lifestyle.”
George speaks with similar sentiment. “The most fun Mary
Jo and I have had over the years is applying NOLS to all sorts
of things in life.”
Molly Loomis, a NOLS instructor since 2001, is an avid mountaineer
and backcountry skier. Last March, she joined four other NOLS
women into the little-explored valleys, peaks and hidden hot springs
of Nalychevo Nature Park outside of Kamchatka, Russia.