How do you honor a Scout leader who has died?

Tuesday-TalkbackHow can we best remember a Scout leader who has died?

That’s what a California Scoutmaster writing me last week wanted to know. For today’s Tuesday Talkback, please tell me what, if any, role Scouts and Scouters should play in a funeral or memorial service.

Here’s the questioner’s email: 

Please don’t think that I’m being morose or anything, but I have to ask: Is there any suggested or official way to honor Scouters who have passed away, either at a funeral or whenever?

I ask because two gentlemen from my troop passed away just a week apart from each other. Both men were in their 90s. Both were World War II veterans. Both were Scouters for more than 50 years. One of them had served as Scoutmaster well into his 70s. I just want to honor their service to Scouting in an appropriate fashion.

The ‘official’ recommendations

I put the word “official” in quotes because these recommendations from the BSA’s Manual for Chaplain Aides and Chaplains are a guide. You should modify these to respect the needs of your faith, the departed person’s family and your religious leader.

Funeral for Scout or Scouter

On occasion, a troop may experience the loss of a Scout or leader. It is a difficult time for everyone. At the request of the family or with the permission of the family and religious leader, Scouts may participate in the funeral and memorial service to celebrate the life of the Scout or leader. Some things that may be appropriate include:

  • Attending in uniform
  • Sitting together as a unit
  • Serving as honorary pallbearers or ushers.
  • Serving during the service by doing such things as reciting the Scout Oath or Scout Law.

The primary concern is for the family and its preferences. The involvement of the troop or Scouts in the troop is at the discretion of the family and its religious leaders.

Outline for the service

This outline is merely a guide. The wishes of the family and spiritual advisor take precedent.

  1. Processional
    • Color Guard brings in U.S. flag and troop flag
    • Pallbearers follow
    • Scouts and Scouters in uniform follow
  2. Opening Prayer: “Almighty Father, as we grieve the loss of (name of deceased), help us to remember his involvement with Scouting. Show us how he lived the Scout Oath and Scout Law. We ask that you comfort us as we will miss his friendship and fellowship.”
  3. Pastoral Comments (Highlights of the deceased’s life and Scouting accomplishments)
  4. Song: “On My Honor
  5. Readings: (Listed below are some suggestions.)
    • Psalms 23:1-6
    • Psalms 37:5
    • Jeremiah 29:11
    • I Corinthians 15:54-57
  6. Comments from friends.
  7. Song: “Scout Vespers
  8. Closing Benediction: “May the great Scoutmaster of all Scouts be with us until we meet again, and may our footsteps lead unto Him.”
  9. Song: “Taps”
  10. Recessional

Photo from Flickr: Some rights reserved by Peter E. Lee

56 Comments

  1. When my husband passed away, he was an assistant scout master and had been involved in scouting for several years. I asked the boys to start the funeral just like a meeting. The color guard brought in the flags followed by the boys and leaders and they started the funeral just like a meeting, pledge, oath etc.

  2. We put my husband’s name on the veteran’s memorial that my scouts have been doing a wreath laying ceremony for the previous three years. My husband was an Eagle Scout, OA Vigil, ASM, Scoutmaster, unit commissioner and finally district commissioner. His urn is a rectangular Boy Scout canteen. Then this pas Feb. my scouts helped to do the wreath clean up at Ft. Snelling national cemetery and afterwards visited the columbarium where my husband’s canteen is. I think it tied things together for them

  3. Our Tiger Den leader (and the father of a 7 year-old boy) passed away unexpectedly in January. He was an Eagle Scout who was thrilled to begin sharing scouting with his son. As Cubmaster, I choose to honor him at the close of our Blue & Gold the following month. The pack presented his son a small statuette from scoutstuff.org (item 620567) as a reminder that staying close to Scouting will help him remain close to his father. I further challenged the pack members to perform an act of service in honor of the absent leader.

  4. The most important thing is to approach the family and ask what they would like to include, and then stick to what they say. I have been to funeral’s where the family suggested only uniforms to one where it started as a meeting would with the addition of a role call. When the diseased member did not answer “here” the funeral then proceeded with part 2 of the recommended service above. The important thing is to find out what the family’s wishes are and honor them.

  5. It’s up to the family to decide how they want to involve them. When my wife passed away this past year, the scouts came in uniform and sat together and expressed there feelings as a group. One of our dearest friends is also a Scout Leader and wore his uniform as well as said a few words. I was extremely moved by this gesture. My wife and I had been deeply involved in scouting for over 7 years and had been in various leadership positions. Beyond the we looked at our scouting world as an extension of our family and treated it as such.

    Participating in the process can sometimes be hard as most duties are taken up by family and friends. However showing up and being there is just as important to know that she touched so many lives just in the realm of Scouting. Her work at the district and council level moved our council to include a moment at our annual council dinner to acknowledge those individuals who gave so much to scouting and had passed that year. It was done in the style like the Academy Awards do in a video montage. Family members and friends were encouraged to attend. I hope they continue this tradition as it allows us to keep them in our hearts and minds for a little while longer.

  6. When my father passed away this past November the Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts of the units that he was associated with came in uniform to his wake and did a Scout Service before the Masons did their Evergreen Service. It was very nice and impressed many of the non-Scout people present to watch the boys pay their respects. Later they also donated money to purchase a memorial tree that was planted in his memory. As a family we put the Scout symbol on his tombstone. There was a write up in the council newsletter and memorial contributions given to the Council in his honor.

  7. Rememberhing Scouters should begin before they die. Back in 2000 our District lost a very well respected Scouter, but had never been recognized for his contributions. We started a new award parly in his honor called the Scouter of The Month (http://bsaroundtable.org/awards.php?award=1&sort=2). Through this monthly award we pay special attention to all those un-sung Scouters who might otherwise never receive the recognition they deserve. Over 160 have been honored this way over the past 15 years, unfortunatly many have passed away in that time. But they and there family knew how important they were in the life of a Scout. It is very common to see the certificate we award each of them at their funeral. And they always live in our hearts.
    Visit http://bsaroundtable.org and see our current Scouter of The Month.

  8. I’ve been to several scout leader funerals. All scouters were asked to wear full uniform. Each scout in uniform wore a black epaulet on their left shoulder .

  9. I seem to remember when an Assistant Scoutmaster died when I was a Scout. Not only was there a big Scout presence at the funeral, there was also an award at graduation for all the Scouts that made Eagle (each got about $150, I believe) and on our camping bead holder, each scout that attended the funeral got a black bead (normally reserved for bad-weather campouts) in honor of him.

  10. What is the “official” stance of BSA if they would like to bury the Scout or Scouter in their uniform? I know a family who wanted to bury their father in his Scouter’s uniform-he was very involved, and that was his wish. But the funeral home said they needed permission of Council to do so. I hadn’t heard that as a Commissioner, and having had another family woes Tiger Cub passes from Cancer. They wanted to bury him in his uniform as Tiger Cubs was so important in the young man’s life, and it was the one thing he did besides medical stuff. When I was asked for the 7 year old, I asked the District Commissioner who said it was fine and set up older boys to be there for honor guard.

    • I know of no such policy requiring approval to be buried in BSA uniform. That decision should rest solely with the family.

      • If the Council said anything but yes to a decedent’s request to take Scouting with him to the grave, they should be severely criticized.

      • When my son was in Cubs we had a scout who passed in his pack. His family chose to bury him in his Webelos uniform. I don’t recall having to get approval from the council for this. The entire pack and troop he would have bridged to participated in the memorial service. In addition his casket was draped with the pack flag and folded at the cemetery and presented to the family. All of this was coordinated at the request of the family.

    • My father was buried in his Scout uniform and we had no problems with the funeral home nor did we have to get permission from Council.

    • My husband died October 2015. He was a Den Leader, Scoutmaster, Roundtable Commisioner and Arrowman. The lodge honored him with the Broken Arrow Ceremony at the close of his funeral. It was the most beautiful and moving moment for everyone at his service.

  11. My son was only 16, and a Life Scout, with all the Merit Badges he needed to earn his Eagle, when he died. (This conversation is about deceased leaders, I know, but I would like to share how the Troop assisted in his funeral). At his services, the Troop, in full uniform, sat together as an Honor Guard, and lined the sidewalk as we left the church, saluting as the casket passed by. At graveside, one of the youth played “Taps”. That was 1990, and thinking about it still brings tears.

  12. I went to the funeral of a fellow Scoutmaster earlier this year. He was hammock camping at a non-Scouting training event, a huge storm line came through and dropped a tree on him. He was very active in District and was the District Training Chair. He was also popular as was evident by the fact the around 400 people attended the service.

    At the funeral, he was dressed in his uniform and looked like he was napping (a common sight to those who knew him). There were several speakers at the service, including a close friend who is an ASM from another Troop in the District, He spoke of everything Chuck had given to Scouting and the District. He then asked everyone who had ever been trained by Chuck to please stand.About 60% of us stood. He then said, “If you are seated and have ever been trained by someone standing, please rise.” I would say that over 90% of the room was on its feet. He then concluded by pointing out how many lives Chuck had touched and reminding us how much we could accomplish if we all impacted that many people.

  13. Just this past month a high school classmate passed away from stage four lung cancer. Her battle was short. But she left behind a legacy of Fire Explorers in Houston County TN. At her funeral a full for fighters funeral with a pumper truck as her transportation, her Explorers honored her by being the team to fold the American Flag that dressed her casket. I felt this was a great way to honor her work with the future fire fighters she trained. God bless you Michelle and rest in peace we have your watch!

  14. We have a “Gone Home” table at our district dinner if we have seen one or more of our ranks pass during the calendar year.

  15. Our scoutmaster passed away suddenly after returning from national jamboree. He was an Eagle Scout. I had as many of our troop Ragje scouts present the colors then we all sat together. We donated two rocking chairs in his name at our local camp.

  16. In 1996, when Uncle Max Bamberger (our troop’s commissioner since its founding in 1980; he accompanied many of us to Philmont Training Center one year) passed away, several leaders and many of the troop’s older boys were on the last day of a Philmont trek. The family delayed the funeral a day so we could attend, and these boys formed a color guard.

    Our troop’s tradition is to share our last night at Philmont after campfire at chapel, where we give out the Philmont Arrowhead patches. I had waited until then to tell the boys that Uncle Max had died. I said he would have loved that they learned of his death there. Lots of sad hearts in camp.

  17. I am one of the two keepers of our district’s list of those scout leaders (and scouts) who are no longer with us (died). We list their names on the back page of district’s annual dinner program. The page is titled “Gone but Not Forgotten” and ends with the words “May the Great Scoutmaster of all Scouts be with thee until we meet again”. Just before the dinner starts, a candle is lit for each person. At the appropriate time at the dinner, a candle is extinguished as a name is read. Some of the families will take the candle home that was extinguished when their scouter’s or scout’s name was read. Fortunately the scouts are very very few. How do we find the names – Some names we know, others scouters tell us. and still other names we get from our online newspaper’s obits – which is tied into http://www.legacy.com and will email obituaries with terms such as scoutmaster, scout, cubmaster in them. There are happier parts of being our district “historians” but we receive the most thanks for this one.

  18. That’s a good idea.
    Our Troop is in the midst of going thru that issue in the next few weeks; a great man who has given years to Scouting, has been a very good influence to the youth. Unfortunately, he recently retired from the State of Ohio /department of natural resources so you can see how his career has influenced so much of what Scouting is all about. We are all heartbroken.

  19. One of our scouts lost their battle to cancer two years ago. He was a webelo. We talked to his parents and they had the scouts bring in the flags and start the ceremony and close the ceremony but also included his classmates who sung songs “we are family”. Then they walked down to release balloons in his honor. Later they planted a tree at the school in his honor so his classmates/teachers/friends/scouts and family could enjoy.

  20. Definitely ask what are the family’s desires. Otherwise, the unit and/or district collects donations for a James West award. In our council, a James West awardee is honored with an engraved brick in a walkway at our council office. The family is invited to participate as they desire.

  21. Several years ago we were asked by the family of a man who had been scoutmaster of our troop back in the 70’s and 80’s to participate in his funeral service. We provided a simple color guard and handed out memorial programs. Non of the current leaders had known the man but it was amazing how many grown men came up to us and said what an impact on their lives he had been. It was very inspiring, as a tribute to his wive we gave them a shirt with the scoutmaster patch, an embroidered neckerchief and his years of service pins in a frame to place with the pictures they had displayed.

  22. Our Troop lost our original Scoutmaster of over 50 years. He was never one for ceremonies about himself, always for the boys, so we made a simple plaque in tribute and mounted it on the last project he did with the Troop, fitting that the project was relocating his grandson’s eagle project (a flag pole). We also attended the funeral in full uniform with the church sitting us in the front with family. I also posted pictures of him from scouting events on our Facebook page which helped notify alumni of his passing. It really helps when you have known the individual who passes to understand how he/she would want to be remembered. If you do not have that history, then I agree you should consult the family.

  23. In my scouting career I have had two scouts who passed away in which I participated in their funerals. The first was Cpl Paul “Rocky” Zanowick II, who died during a tour in Afghanistan. He and his family are very active in the local district. The request went out that they would like the scouts to line the funeral procession from I-675 in Dayton Ohio to the funeral home on Far Hills Ave. We lined almost the entire 2 mile route with scouts in uniform and flags. The visitation is the only portion of the funeral that I attended.
    We lost an Adult member of our troop whose was active in our EMANON yearly family camp out. We had a scout based ceremony at the visitation. The funeral was a Catholic funeral

  24. In our old troop when a leader passed, we always had 2 scouts or leaders stand honor guard on each side of the casket, taking half hour shifts,in addition to scout vespers. This was always a great honor to be involved in this. Our Explorer Post and Fire Dept have adopted this, and use this for all funeral details when appropiate.

  25. With the permission of the family it would be a sign of appreciation and rememberence of the fallen colleague to burry him/her in a full Scout uniform and, in a circle with hands joined together sing the Kumbaya song whike raising up and down hands.

  26. Brian, the link to the Manual for Chaplain’s Aides and Chaplains, is that page the entire manual or is there a larger publication? I’ve honestly never heard of that publication before but it sounds like a good resource for those positions of responsibility.

  27. I haven’t been involved directly, but when Committee Chair of my Wood Badge Troop passed, there was an effort by his Troop to obtain the James West award for his family.

  28. Here is a Scout Memorial Service my Troop has used in the past.

    SCOUT MEMORIAL SERVICE
    A TRIBUTE FROM THE SCOUTS OF THE MIAMI VALLEY COUNCIL TO ¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬______________________________

    We are assembled here this evening to give indication of the honor and respect we hold in our hearts for the life that was lead by ______________________________.

    During his time with the Miami Valley Council, Mr. Moore touched the lives of all of us. He became the cherished friend of countless young men whom he led in scouting and whose affection and appreciation he merited and earned.

    He was a man of gentle disposition, tireless effort, helpfulness, and one whose knowledge of many subjects was shared by hundreds of scouts and scouters with whom he came in contact.

    It is a rare privilege in life to walk shoulder to shoulder with a man who has achieved greatness – a greatness in spirit that comes from giving full measure of one’s self in the minutest and greatest of the daily challenges of living. We here assembled have walked shoulder to shoulder with ___________________ in the warmth of his friendship and taller grew ourselves because of our association with him.

    It is right and proper in this hour that some of those things which symbolized his life should be gathered near to him, so to indicate that which Tom was, that which he has done – and that which shall live after him. We, therefore, will place by Mr. _________________
    The flag of his country
    A rose
    A Bible
    The badge of better boyhood.

    Each has a particular symbolism in Mr. ____________________’s life. We gather to pay our tribute to him through some who knew him well and some who loved him fondly and can never forget him and all he has done for so many.

    The Flag

    His flag that he served so well symbolizes a country, which he loved so well. His life was indeed one of service to God, to others and to country.

    Place a Flag

    Rose

    We, his friends and loved ones, gained much in our lives from his inner spirit, from his love of God, from his belief in the worth of each individual. He grasped fully the responsibility and purpose of life which he lived so courageously as to be a tribute to his beloved family. He taught us many things about scouting, camping, and life in general. He was brave enough to make friends with all who crossed his path. He willingly sacrificed his personal comforts and shared his life and love fully with his life’s partner and family, strengthened by the warmth of his inner spirit and affections, we

    Place a Rose

    Bible

    ________________________ was reverent toward God. He respected the conviction of others in matters of customs and religion. He gave testimony of his belief in God. It is right that we pause now, and life our hearts in prayer – to give thanks for this life which we have shared.

    Place a Bible

    Badge

    Once an Eagle always and Eagle, and Mr. ____________________ was a true Scout and wore a uniform with pride. To us it now symbolizes the leadership this man gave throughout his life. He, by his nature, was meant to lead. He had a true gift of working with children. He stood firmly in his beliefs. He fulfilled his responsibilities. He traveled the trail of life, and he led many young men on life’s trail to scouting. Following his leadership, many young men took and lived up to an oath that begins “On my Honor, I will do my best.” They, too, donned a uniform that symbolized that for which he stood – leadership, friendship and service. And together he and they and we walked shoulder to shoulder down the scouting trail in quest of that which is so clearly represented by the badge of challenge, discipline and adventure which we here place and which is so well defined in the following verse:
    This is the trail the scout shall know
    Where knightly qualities thrive and grow;
    The trail of honor and truth and worth
    And the strength that springs from the good brown earth.
    The trail that scouts, in their seeking, blaze
    Through the toughest tangle, the deepest maze,
    Till out of boyhood a scout comes straight
    To manhood’s splendid and high estate.

    Mr. ______________________, we salute you and all you have meant to so many of us through so many years.

    Scout Salute

    It is right that we, his friends in scouting, now close this tribute by raising the scout sign and promising to continue his work, his belief, and his spirit in the future by rededicating ourselves to the Scout Oath.
    Scout Oath

  29. You carry on his qualities and mission. I was fortunate to befriend a 10th Mountain Division Veteran of World War II in the last two years of his life. He was looking through his wallet to show me something and I caught a glimpse of his Eagle Scout card. To honor him I am planning to engage Scouts in creating a wildflower meadow at a 10th Mountain Memorial here in Oregon. My only regret is Frank Chuk did not know of this plan before he passed away last fall. 

  30. We just recently lost our Charter Organization Representative and former scoutmaster at age 71. It was his and his family’s wishes to have a Scouting themed memorial service and I found the outline from the Chaplain’s guide to use. The pastor and family adjusted it as they wanted. The service went well with about 1/3 of the standing room only crowd being in full Class A uniforms, with many scouters from other units and from the council in attendance.

  31. My brother has an Eagle project dedicated to him. All three of his sons went on to be Eagles. He inspired many. That is the best way to show the family of a scout who has passed your love & respect. Live and act as a scout. Pick up the work the scout has left .

  32. Our Assistant Cubmaster Benjamin J. Hummel passed away in December 2014 in a plane crash. We had a memorial service for him that was held in his church. It started with a proper flag ceremony done by leaders and scouts in uniform and most of the speeches and kind words were presented by our Cubmaster and Committee Chairman. Ben had been active in scouting all of his life. We then dedicated our Pinewood Derby to him the following month. We had a banner made for the derby in his honor and had every scout present sign it and presented it to his wife and Bear scout. Amazingly by “heavenly coincidence” his son won the entire overall derby! We miss him every day and our Pack feels the loss as he was a very active member of our Pack.

  33. My husband passed away four years ago! I buried him in his scouting uniform and had over 400 people at his service.I remember looking up during the calling hours and saying the Scouts are here. (over 50 in uniform.) Our scouting family uniting together and coming together to pay their respects and to help us in our time of need, touched my heart and had gave me a sense of peace. During his service, we asked all scouters to stand, over 3/4 of the church stood. We ended his service with all Eagle Scouts on the stage and started us singing The Trail of The Eagle (his favorite scout song! He was an Eagle, his 2 brothers and our 4 boys). We ended his service with Trail of the Eagle and a scout leader saying May the great scoutmaster..

  34. With the family’s permission, I/we conducted a Celebration of Life for Gerry. It was standing room only; there were that many people in attendance. The ceremony was held at a local Scout camp. Our troop presented the flags. It was very well received.

  35. If the family is willing, I would take his neckerchief and cut it into swaths for each of the Scouts that were guided under him.

  36. As the mother of a chapter and lodge ceremonialist, I have been to many OA Broke. Arrow ceremonies. It is a beautiful ceremony that can be done at a wake, at the time of internment, or at another time as deemed by the family. Last year, in one week he did a ceremony for a 19 year old and a 89 year old. Both were of great comfort to the families.

  37. I have attended funerals for both parents of scouts as well as a scout. Both were very hard. The parent was an unexpected death, but his son loved scouts and was very involved. We were asked by the family if the cub scout pack and leaders would attend the funeral together as a unit. We were seated just behind the family and asked to lead the flag ceremony. It took some prep work to have the cubs prepared for the situation, but they handled it well. We also lost two scouts (boy scouts) in a tragic car wreck. Our troop was again asked to attend the funeral in uniform as a group. This one was much harder. But it was great to see how the scouts pulled together to support the family that day as financial support and meal delivery in the days that followed.

  38. Has anyone else considered a Scout Memorial Trail. Such could be easily created around the perimeter of the local Scout Camp. This would NOT be a burial site; but individual trees for each deceased could be planted with contributions from the Scouting community. Even a small plaque identifying the Scouter. Scouts and adults on the trail would be able to recall the names of Scouts who have served our organization.

  39. My family just honored my Silver Beaver father with a BSA Grave Marker from legacymarkers.com. He has been gone 10 years today. He dedicated his life to Scouting and we couldn’t be happier. It was a beautiful ceremony. It’ a great way to pay tribute to a passed Scoutmaster, Cubmaster, Eagle Scout, Den Mother, or many other Scouting positions.

  40. In December 1953, our Committee Chairman, Eagle Scout, Silver Beaver, 1950 Jamboree SM, 1953 Jamboree staff, died of a heart attack while playing Santa Claus for a large Christmas party.
    Our troop and post attended his funeral in uniform. The council named the camp flag ceremony area in his memory…sadly the same council has sjnce removed the flag poles and memorial plaque and paved the area for parking.

  41. When our former Scout Master’s wife passed after a long battle with cancer my husband who is the Chaplain addressed the Troop and said “If you go into the woods and need to move a tree that has fallen it would be extremely hard, if we all banded together it would still be hard but we could do it. It is the same with the grief we all feel.” He said some other things but I was crying by then…

  42. My pack’s COR and Executive Officer (also the pastor of our chartered org) pass away earlier this year. He had been ill for some time and his health had kept him from showing up to many meetings. Most of the boys had never met him. His widow and myself decided that a scout presence at his funeral may be to hard. We decided it would be more appropriate to have a cook out in his honor. We invited the whole congregation. The boys cooked hot dogs for the older members. The pastor and I had always talked about having an event like this when he felt better. I’m happy we were able to do it in his honor after he passed.

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