I am very thankful to all of you who have extended congratulations to me on receiving the Silver Beaver Award from the Buffalo Trace Council, Boy Scouts of America down here in the southwest corner of Indiana. I am deeply thankful to David Groff who nominated me and my beautiful and supportive wife who assisted him. For those who may not be familiar with the particulars of Scouting, the Silver Beaver is the highest honor a local Boy Scout Council can award to a volunteer and in some ways is akin to a lifetime achievement award. Scouting has been a significant part of my life and it still is, but my deepest thanks are due someone who is not present to receive them.
I came upon Dad’s old Boy Scout Handbook on the bookshelves in his office in the parsonage in tiny Warren, Indiana. I believe I was in the second grade. I don’t believe I had known he had been a Boy Scout prior to that, but I was an avid reader and the book looked much more interesting that all of the preacher books on Dad’s shelves.
It was the stuff of this boy’s dreams – hiking, camping, building fires, using knives and axes, canoeing, tying different knots and making towers and bridges by lashing pieces of wood together. Even the uniforms looked good to me. I was hooked. I wanted to be a Boy Scout, but I was too young. At the time the minimum age for Boy Scouts was 11.
There was a program for younger boys called Cub Scouts. I could become a Cub Scout at 8. I was 8 at the time, but there was no Cub Scout Pack in town at the time. I was sorely disappointed. Some months later I learned that Pack 3122 had been organized and would be forming dens and holding pack meetings. So at 9 years of age I became a Cub Scout. I later learned that Dad had been instrumental in getting other pastors and community leaders behind the effort and agreed to serve as a member of the Pack Committee and its Advancement Chairman.
All went according to plan. I earned the Arrow of Light and moved up to Troop 122 which was chartered by the local American Legion Post after I turned 11. Before my first hike or campout, the troop folded when the Scoutmaster resigned. Dad rolled up his sleeves, recruited Jim Bollinger, a young man in his church, as Scoutmaster and reorganized an effective Troop Committee. During the succeeding months I went on my first hike, first campout and learned to trust my swimming ability is deep water. I earned the Tenderfoot rank and was hooked.
Mid-way through my 6th grade, Dad was appointed to Wallen Methodist Church in the greater Fort Wayne, Indiana area. The church chartered Troop 58 and I experienced Camporees, Klondike Derbies, Scout-O-Ramas in the War Memorial Colosseum in Fort Wayne and best of all summer camp at Camp Big Island. When we arrived at the main parking lot we unloaded our gear and waited until the whole troop was assembled. Then we boarded pontoon boats that ferried us across a stretch of Sylvan Lake. You knew you were leaving your parents behind for a defining adventure. Camp Big Island lived up to its name in that respect. I had my first experience firing a rifle at camp, earned several merit badges including Pioneering Merit Badge when my buddy Larry Fogle talked me into building an inverted tripod signal tower with him. Larry and I were both “tapped out” and became Ordeal members of the Order of the Arrow at camp and I earned the Mile Swim badge there.
Dad had to roll up his sleeves a couple of times when the troop needed new leadership and he had to minister to the church and Scouts when the Explorer Post the church chartered lost an adult leader to drowning on a canoe trip. It certainly made me and him more safety conscious, particularly on the water. Dad couldn’t swim. As a result, despite staying active in Boy Scouts through high school, he never advanced beyond Second Class since the requirements for First Class for him (and later for me) had a swimming standard. Dad tried to learn to swim or at least stop sinking in the water to no avail. Dad saved our summer camp week one year when no other adult was able or willing to go with us. Part of the week involved an overnight canoe trip and campout on another part of the camp. Dad did not show any hesitation about going. I made sure I kept an eye on him and that he was wearing a life jacket. Looking back on this and other times Dad willingly travelled in canoes propelled and steered by Boy Scouts, I think Dad was a very brave man.
The summer before my freshman year in high school, we moved to Mishawaka, Indiana. The church Dad was appointed to chartered Troop 120. It was led by two great men, Herb Holland and Arnold Thompson. They would alternate years registering as Scoutmaster and Assistant Scoutmaster and were exemplars of what a Scoutmaster should be, The troop had a large and very active Troop Committee. It seemed like every father of a scout was on the committee and many, many times we had several fathers with us on campouts and other outings. My brother and I earned Eagle Scout as members of this troop.
Dad enjoyed just being one of the fathers, including spending weeks at Camp Tamarack in that capacity, and being very active in the Dragoon Trail District of the Tri-Valley, later Northern Indiana, now LaSalle Council. He was awarded the District Award of Merit during this period. After I earned Eagle Scout, I served on the staff at Camp Tamarack and Dad helped by personally providing chapel services or coordinating with other clergy for those services. During this period Dad completed Wood Badge Training. The staff of that intensive training experience named him the First Class Scout of Troop 1, so my non-swimmer father finally made First Class. His peers also elected him their permanent Patrol Leader of the Owl Patrol.
Dad was then a leader in the movement in the area to provide similar high value leadership training to youth. They created Brownsea Adventure to meet that need and both Dad and my brother were part of the staff for this. This was long before the national Scout powers that be came up with National Youth Leadership Training.
My brother and I were active in the White Beaver Lodge of the Order of the Arrow, so Dad was too. Dad was not eligible when he was a Scout since a threshold requirement was being a First Class Scout, but he was elected as an adult and in 1971 he was recognized as a Vigil Honor Member. I still have the poem he wrote while he was keeping his vigil.
Dad’s next appointment was to the church in Alexandria, Indiana, where the church chartered Troop 381. This was in the newly created Crossroads of America Council which consolidated several smaller Scout Councils in central Indiana. I was in college during those years, but did work summers at Camp Kikthawenund nearby. Once again, Dad either personally led chapel services or coordinated clergy colleagues who did so.
After a few years, Dad was appointed to Auburn First United Methodist Church in Auburn, Indiana. That church chartered Troop 165 in the Anthony Wayne Area Council. I do not know the specifics of what Dad’s Scouting service was, but two significant things happened. First, Troop 165 and Troop 381 and Troop 120 held a joint camporee in 1977 and named it in Dad’s honor. Second, Dad was awarded the Silver Beaver, the highest award a Boy Scout Council can bestow on adult volunteers. Dad certainly deserved such recognition, but for various good and understandable reasons it tends to be given to people who have served many years in the same council and Dad had, thanks to the itinerant nature of United Methodist ministry, served in several councils, but not for years and years in any one.
After Auburn, Dad served six years as Superintendent of the Kokomo District and then finished his active ministry back in Fort Wayne at Waynedale United Methodist Church. He remained an active and enthusiastic supporter of Scouting to the end.
Dad left a great legacy of Scouting. My brother and I are both Eagle Scouts. Our sister earned the Silver Award in Girl Scouts. Three of his grandsons are Eagle Scouts. He left all of us, especially me, quite a legacy to live up to.