For many, the word “camp” brings back childhood memories of swimming, outdoor adventures and late-night fireside chats. For Jodi Tully and Jeff Sheedy, it was where a two-week summer romance turned into a life’s love.
It was the summer of 2006, and both were counselors at Camp Chingachgook, a 100-year-old YMCA summer camp in upstate New York.
From the moment Jeff saw Jodi sitting in her lifeguard chair, wearing a bright red one-piece swimsuit, he was smitten. The first time he had the nerve to approach Jodi was at a night cabin challenge — one in which campers were told to dress their cabin leaders as creatively as possible. Jodi was covered in newspaper and her front teeth were masked with tinfoil. Jeff teased that she looked like a rapper.
She liked his charm and immediately felt at ease with him. “He has this way of making everyone feel comfortable around him,” Jodi says now. She tried to flirt back, but the tinfoil made her mumble.
After tucking in their campers at 10 p.m., the two retreated to the counselor lounge, chatting until lights out at midnight. This became their routine: Between 10 p.m. and midnight, they relaxed and visited.
Because counselor romances were discouraged, they met surreptitiously.
“We pretended we didn’t exist. Nobody else knew,” Jodi says. It was on a moonlit walk that Jeff stole a goodnight kiss on the back steps of Jodi’s cabin.
A week before he left the camp, he took her sailing. Usually surrounded by a large cabin full of tween girls, Jodi appreciated the rare alone time. Jeff knew she loved the water. “He seemed in his element,” she remembers thinking. “I was surprised how easy it was to talk with him.” The small Sunfish sailboat didn’t leave much room between the two of them.
“We definitely knew we connected, but it was the summer so we thought we can’t take this too seriously — I mean, we really only hung out for two weeks,” Jodi remembers.
At the end of Jeff’s stay, Jodi drove him to the Albany airport to catch his flight home. Both hesitated to attribute too much importance to their time together but were overcome with emotion and shared a final, tearful goodbye at the airport.
“I think we were both caught off guard by how sad we were,” Jodi says. “There was a lot of denial.”
Jeff felt similarly: “It was, like, this is a great slice of what could be something nice. . . . We tried not to get too emotional, but we did.”
Jodi returned to the University of Delaware in Newark, and Jeff went back to Bucknell University in Lewisburg, Pa. Both fell back into their school routines and stayed in touch only sporadically by texting.
When Jeff discussed an upcoming holiday break, Jodi realized that her school’s homecoming fell on the same week and mentioned it would be fun if he could come up for a reunion — not really thinking he’d say yes. She didn’t want to get her hopes up. But Jeff said he would come.
“I was really nervous,” Jodi remembers. “I didn’t know what I was going to say to him.”
“I even brought a sleeping bag just in case things went bad,” Jeff recalls.
Whether it was walking hand-in-hand to the football game or a romantic trip to an apple orchard, everything seemed to fall into place. It was clearly not just a summer romance. “We were walking around like we had been together for a while,” Jeff notes.
That weekend visit was the start of a long-distance romance that would last more than two years. Every two weeks they would travel back and forth, planning jam-packed weekends in both cities. For Jeff, who was without a car, the journey could take nine hours. “He never once complained,” Jodi says.
“For a long time, we tried not to take things seriously. We’d try to downplay it. Then every time we’d see each other, we’d realize how strongly we felt for each other,” Jodi says. By the end of December, they were an official couple; Jeff introduced Jodi to his parents after his Christmas break.
Summer soon came, and Jeff returned to his home town, Los Angeles. The three-hour time difference proved an obstacle to their relationship, and the strain of the distance became too much. Just before Jeff left to study abroad for a semester in Granada, Spain, he broke things off.
“I wasn’t ready enough, in the beginning,” Jeff says. “I was the fool who wanted to be single . . . and that was stupid.” If only I had met her five years from now, he thought.
But their communication never stopped. They maintained weekly Skype sessions and traded e-mails. He couldn’t stop thinking about her and became jealous when he heard she was seeing other people.
He recognized their connection “wasn’t comparable to anything else.” “I realized the best probability for me to be happy was for me to be around her,” he says.
Jodi came to the same conclusion: “Regardless of the trials or distance, we just couldn’t say goodbye.”
After a month and a half, they were back together. Days later, Jodi booked a trip to Rome during her Thanksgiving break and planned to meet Jeff there.
“We spent so much time talking to each other and never got to see each other, so all we wanted to do was look out over the city and hold each other and look at the sunset,” Jeff recalls. “That was all we needed.”
After Jeff graduated from Bucknell in 2009, he moved to Washington to be with Jodi. She works as a senior communications associate for the American Red Cross. In December, Jeff accepted a managerial position with United Way Worldwide. The couple now live in Woodley Park with two cats, Penny Lane and King Louie.
“He’s just my rock,” says Jodi, 28, describing what she loves most about Jeff. “He understands and calms me down. . . . He has this way of soothing me that no one else ever has.”
“She is one of the most selfless people I’ve ever met in my life. I have learned to be a better person, a better son to my mother and a better partner,” says Jeff, 27.
In the summer of 2012, they began discussing the possibility of marriage. Jodi hinted that she wanted her proposal to be special. Jeff took note and decided there would be a story associated with his proposal.
And a story it was. He re-
created their intimate moment sailing on Lake George by renting a boat in Annapolis on the Chesapeake Bay. But the sailboat was much larger than he was used to, and the bay much shallower than Lake George. While turning into a romantic, secluded cove to pop the question, Jeff got the boat stuck on a sandbar.
There, while awaiting rescue, he got down on one knee and asked Jodi to marry him.
On Aug. 16, in front of family and friends at the Sagamore Resort on Lake George, overlooking the camp where they met, the pair promised to spend their lives together.
Both acknowledged in their wedding vows how they had come full circle.
“It is rare to have a dream realized,” Jeff says. “Because of one lucky moment in time . . . I got to fall madly in love with the most beautiful girl I ever saw.”