We get a lot of heartfelt letters at Scouting magazine, but a recent one has really stuck out in my mind.
A few weeks ago I received a large manilla envelope from Arthur Warrick of the Baden-Powell Council.
Inside were photos, newspaper clippings, and a two-page, handwritten letter. The letter started on a sad note: Arthur’s Scouting hero, Ira Reynolds, had died in November. Mr. Reynolds, seen at left, was 108 years old.
But the mood quickly turned around as Arthur told me about Mr. Reynolds’ incredible life.
Many considered Mr. Reynolds to be the oldest living Scout. And considering he was born eight years before the BSA began, that designation is hard to argue against.
Arthur included in his packet to me a 2010 article in The Scranton Times Tribune that talked about Mr. Reynolds’ life and his nine decades in Scouting:
As the Boy Scouts of America prepare to celebrate their 100th birthday on Monday, Feb. 8, not very many people can speak to what Scouting was like in its earliest years.
Ira Reynolds can.
The 108-year-old resident of Susquehanna [Pa.] joined Scouting in 1914 at the age of 12, and recalls a life devoted not only to his own character development but to that of three more generations of youths.
His first Scoutmaster of Troop 1 Black Bear Patrol in Dorranceton was Laurance Thompson, who authored the first aid section of the original Boy Scouts Handbook.
Mr. Reynolds’ obituary, also included in the manilla envelope, talks of a man who loved his wife, Beatrice, whom he was married to for 62 years before she died in 1990.
His other love was the Boy Scouts of America.
Mr. Reynolds started his own troop in 1934 and served several roles in the program, eventually earning the prestigious Silver Beaver Award. Once he reached 90 years of service to Scouting, the BSA had to create a special 90-year pin just for Mr. Reynolds.
Along the way, he shared many great moments with generations of Scouts and Scouters. I’ll quote one of Arthur’s favorite memories from that handwritten letter:
My experiences with Ira at summer camp were great. The Scouts would sit near the dining hall overlooking the camp lake, and he would have the Scouts look into the sky.
After about 10 minutes, everyone’s eyes had adjusted to the dark, and it seemed like you could almost touch the stars. He would explain the Little Dipper, the Big Dipper, and the universe. It was unforgettable.
That’s one of what I’m sure were countless stories told at Mr. Reynolds’ memorial service late last year.
Though few Scouters spend nine decades in the program (we should be so lucky!), anecdotes like this one show you how important those little moments are when working with Scouts.
I’ll leave you with the words of Roger Hoyt, Baden-Powell Council scout executive:
Ira was an incredibly dedicated leader and mentor. His dedication to the Scouting program for so many years changed the lives of hundreds of young men who looked to him as a positive example of leadership and integrity.
Ira is the perfect example of the kind of leaders we need today more than ever. He was only interested in affecting positive change and influence in his community, one Scout at a time.
A truly inspiration role model who was a living example of the Scout Oath and Law.