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All in the Family - the Newburys
By Molly Loomis

Reprinted from The Leader, Spring 2003, Vol. 18, No. 2

 

 
 
George Newbury 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

 
Today, NOLS Pacific Northwest is one of the school's best facilities for outfitting students and staff.
 
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.”

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

 
 
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 grads.
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.

“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 down under.

“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.

 
 
Mary Jo and George Newbury in the '70s.

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