Superintendent Dale Ditmanson Retires. What a party!

When a superintendent as popular as Dale Ditmanson of Great Smoky Mountains National Park retires, you give him a party. And what a party we had Saturday evening. Lenny and I was privileged to be invited to the bash held at a Gatlinburg hotel.

Dale worked in eight other parks, starting at Fort Sumter after college and ending with almost ten years in the Smokies.  His 36-year career with the National Park Service attracted a lot of well-wishers from friends and colleagues in other parks to employees, local community leaders and park partners Friends of the Smokies and the Great Smoky Mountains Association.

I’ve used this term before but I’ll use it again. The gathering included the glitterati of the National Park world. Kevin Fitzgerald, retired deputy superintendent in a tux, was the MC. From left to right, there’s me, Dale, Kevin and Suzanne, Dale’s wife.

Dale was showered with serious and humorous accolades. Morgan Sommerville, head of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy in the Southern Region, joked about the backpacking permit.

Dale’s older brother started with “I first met Dale in 1953.” His two sons had wonderful stories about their lifestyle. I tried to capture some of that in my interview with Dale’s wife, Suzanne.

The Great Smoky Mountains Association gave Dale several gifts, including the picture above of the two most famous mustaches in the Smokies: Dale and Horace Kephart. The organizers had created baseball cards with Dale’s picture at various stages of his career. I snatched one of him as a revolutionary war reenactor at Fort Multrie in the late 1970s and one of him and Dolly Parton at the 75th anniversary of the park in 2009.

We stayed overnight in Gatlinburg. Sunday turned out to the be beautiful January day. We hiked on the Albright Grove Trail, admiring the large old-growth trees.

All together, a good weekend.

Good luck, Dale and Suzanne, in your retirement. Hope to see you both again on the trail.

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