When it is completed in a few weeks, the amphitheater now under construction at Camp Cowles in Pend Oreille County will be more than a monument to a Boy Scout whose life was cut short.
The Andrew S. Rosell Memorial Fire Bowl will be a testament to the courage and determination of the boy’s father, Ed Rosell, who has survived the death of his son three years ago by devoting himself to Scouting.
“If ever I found a calling, this is it,” Rosell said. “If I don’t have my own son to do that for, I’d like to do it for other people’s kids.”
Mt. Spokane student Andrew Rosell, 16, was killed in May 2007 after being struck by a Spokane recycling truck in a crosswalk at Nevada Street and Magnesium Avenue.
At the time of his death, Andrew was working to become an Eagle Scout by completing an ambitious project to re-roof a chairlift at Mt. Spokane Ski and Snowboard Park.
Nearly 750 people attended his funeral. Later, family and friends donated more than 900 hours of work time to complete the chairlift project.
But it takes more than man-hours to rebuild the lives of a family devastated by the loss of a child. Rosell’s marriage didn’t survive it, and he nearly didn’t either.
“When he was killed my whole world stopped,” Rosell said.
Twice, when “suicide started to look good,” friends talked him out of it. One in particular, Camp Cowles ranger Jack Graham, “pushed me back into Scouting,” Rosell said.
“Because of Jack and the people who cared, I’m here today,” he said. “It was time for me to give back, and that’s what I am doing.”
When Andrew wanted to become a Tiger Scout in first grade, Rosell became a Scoutmaster. Scouting became a big part of his and his son’s life together, so after Andrew’s death it was natural for Rosell to return to Camp Cowles, which he considers a place of healing.
The camp was built on Diamond Lake on 400 acres of land donated in 1920 to the Inland Northwest Council, Boy Scouts of America, by William H. Cowles, publisher of The Spokesman-Review.
This year marks the 100th anniversary of the Boy Scouts and the 90th anniversary of Camp Cowles, now also called Cowles Scout Reservation.
Last year after lengthy legal arbitration, Rosell and his ex-wife, Brenda Prentice, received a $2.5 million settlement from the city of Spokane for its culpability in Andrew’s death.
Rosell is using part of that settlement, about $80,000, to renovate the fire bowl at Camp Cowles. A place where Scouts come together to share their experience and partake in communal entertainment, the fire bowl was built out of rough logs in the 1920s or ’30s.
The new outdoor amphitheater is being built in the same location as the old fire bowl by Wilbert Precast Inc. out of 1,700 bound concrete Redi-Rock blocks and 4-foot by 6-foot paving stones. It will seat more than 300 people.
“And even more Cub Scouts,” said Rick Lindberg of Wilbert Precast, who designed the project with Rosell.
The fire bowl, which overlooks the lake, will be the venue for countless skits, songs, jokes and pratfalls for years to come. The stage is being moved closer to the seating area to allow the audience to hear the young boys better as they overcome their shyness to perform.
“It’s the magic of what we do, helping a kid come out of his shell,” Rosell said.
Traditionally the summer refuge of Boy Scouts in their adolescent years, Camp Cowles now serves mostly Cub Scouts as the national organization emphasizes recruiting boys at a younger age. Nearly 4,000 boys a year pass through the camp on their way to manhood.
This week, Rosell stood in the center of the place he called the pit and looked back on the summer days he had with his son at Camp Cowles and events now frozen in time.
“When the bad days come, and they do come, I’ll go down to the pit and just sit,” Rosell said. “Andrew would be very proud. This place meant a lot to him.”