CROWN POINT — Thirty years ago, Cecil Clarke was an exuberant 7-year-old arriving from New York City as a Fresh Air child.
He came back every year until he was 16, staying with hosts Milt and Bonnie Tesar of Lake Road in Crown Point.
And he's been back every year since then, visiting this summer after working on assembly of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios in Orlando.
Sitting on the Tesar's patio overlooking Lake Champlain, he reminisced about the bond of friendship he developed with the family over the years.
"They're lovable people. They took me camping — we went to Darien Lake in Vermont one year. One year, we saw Willie Nelson."
This year, he went fishing with the Tesars.
"I caught a 17-inch bass. I had a bigger one, but when it came up, waves hit it, and it got loose."
He has been great to have around, Mrs. Tesar said.
"Cecil came from a very well-brought-up family. His family will be coming up in August for a visit."
He was always well behaved, Mr. Tesar said.
"We never had to holler at him."
Mrs. Tesar said that when Clarke arrived the first year, he had never been away from home before.
"He was only 7 years old. He had one tear going down his cheek. He's been a member of the family ever since."
Clarke, too, sees the Tesars as part of his family.
"I love visiting them. At a regular summer camp, there are kids running around, and it's structured. This was more like family."
He said he worked on Harry Potter construction for two and a half years, until the new attraction opened in June.
"When it was finished, I came up here."
As an adult, Clarke painted their house one year. And he and Mr. Tesar played basketball together.
"I used to beat him in basketball many moons ago," Mr. Tesar said.
Clarke got a degree in international business, then worked for Japan Airlines.
He said next year he may be on another construction job in the summer.
"Then we'll visit him," Mrs. Tesar said. "We enjoy his company. He's got our sense of humor."
Since 1877, the Fresh Air Fund has provided free summer experiences in the country to more than 1.7 million New York City children from disadvantaged communities.
Marion Sullivan, the Fresh Air chairperson for the Essex County area, said volunteer host families can call her at 597-9595.
"It's not too late to sign up this summer, even," she said.
Fresh Air Fund Public Relations Director Kate Brinkerhoff confirmed the Tesars have hosted Clarke since 1981.
"It's sweet to hear Bonnie describe her simple, easy relationship with Cecil. They truly are just like family."
Clarke said he can sum up his philosophy of life pretty simply.
"Have an open heart and an open mind, and you never know what will happen."
E-mail Lohr McKinstry at: firstname.lastname@example.org