Betty Hess might just be the most dedicated volunteer the Five Rivers Council has ever seen.
The 91-year-old has been actively serving Scouting in the Horseheads, N.Y.-based council for more than 60 years. She has received the Silver Beaver Award, which is the highest council-level honor a volunteer can receive. Before that she received the Silver Fawn Award, which was introduced in 1971 as the female version of the Silver Beaver Award.
The Silver Fawn Award was discontinued in 1974, at which point both men and women could earn the Silver Beaver. In the Silver Fawn’s three years of existence, 2,455 outstanding women received the honor.
Though it’s impossible to know for sure, Five Rivers Council officials say Hess might be the only still-active volunteer to have received both the Silver Beaver and the Silver Fawn Awards.
Given that the Silver Fawn Award was last presented four decades ago, they might be right.
“Betty is an inspiration to us all and an amazing reminder of the importance of being a volunteer,” says Five Rivers Council Scout Executive Gary Decker. “Betty has touched the lives of generations of Scouts and Scouters in the Five Rivers Council.”
Below I’ve included a touching tribute to Hess written by one of her fellow Five Rivers Council volunteers.
A Life Well Lived
By Brett Powell, Five Rivers Council vice president of marketing
It is a chilly and dark Thursday evening during January in upstate New York, and most people are at home, huddled around dinner plates or settling in under a blanket. But not lifelong volunteer Betty Hess.
Betty is buckled in for a two-hour car ride along what was once State Route 17 in the southern Finger Lakes region of New York.
At 91, Betty is headed to another Five Rivers Council annual meeting, where she’ll be recognized for 60 years of service to the organization. She won’t be home until well past 9:30, and anyone who knows her will tell you, she’ll do it all again tomorrow.
Betty exists as a pillar of the Scouting community and the greater Hornell, N.Y., community at large.
On any given weekend you’ll find her painting buildings or washing windows at Camp Gorton. Or at an Eagle Scout court of honor. Or at the church food pantry during Scouting for Food. Or watching Scouts place flags on veterans’ headstones. Or cheering on Scouts in the holiday parade.
At merit badge sessions, Pinewood Derby races and all sorts of other events, Betty will be there.
Ever the positive role model, Betty serves as a reminder that the BSA is a great place to make a positive, lifelong impact on the world around you.
But Betty’s service extends beyond Scouting. She’s a volunteer with her church, Catholic Charities and has been a Salvation Army bell-ringer for 22 years. She serves the YMCA, Relay for Life and co-developed an after-school program called Kids Café.
Born and raised in the town of Grove, N.Y. Betty has led a humble, exemplary life. By her side for much of the journey was her late husband, Walter, a veteran of World War II where he served in the 88th Infantry Division. Two of Betty and Walter’s three sons were active in Scouting, and one earned the rank of Eagle.
The Five Rivers Council absolutely adores Betty and wishes to sincerely thank her for years of dedication. It is our hope that she serves to motivate others in our community, state, country and world to step up as volunteers — with Scouting or another goodwill organization.