Trading in a coffee-stained uniform for an OA Vigil Honor sash

During the Great Depression, Laurence Seeger’s family couldn’t afford to buy an official Boy Scout uniform. As a substitute, Seeger’s mother doused his father’s old white dress shirts in coffee grounds, staining them khaki.

The Chicago native, who celebrated his 96th birthday last week, owns an official uniform today, which he adorns with an Order of the Arrow Vigil Honor sash.

He was bestowed with that honor a few years ago, making him one of the oldest Scouters in the nation to have ever received it.

Falling in love

Seeger’s love for Scouting began after watching his older brother go through the program. He couldn’t wait to join. He signed up with Troop 224 in Chicago in 1933.

“It was a good active troop,” Seeger said. “I loved it — the comradeship, the camping and the outdoors — everything about it.”

The boys would go on a day hike every other week and have monthly overnight campouts. The year he joined, his troop camped at the World’s Fair in Chicago, where Seeger saw Daniel Carter Beard, one of the founders of the BSA.

Seeger forged lifelong friendships with his fellow Scouts. He earned his Eagle Scout award in June 1937, when he was 15. He stayed active in Scouting and became a member of the Ordeal and Brotherhood levels of Scouting’s national honor society, the Order of the Arrow. He had been nominated for the Vigil Honor, but did not go through the initiation.

‘It was in my blood’

Seeger attended George Williams College, where he studied group work education with the ultimate goal of being a camp director.

“It was in my blood from the Boy Scouts,” Seeger said. “It became my lifetime profession.”

But before that profession took off, he enlisted in the Air Corps during World War II. He served as head of a personnel department in Florida, interviewing and assigning people for the right jobs in the war effort.

After the war, he got married, and he and his wife of 63 years, Phyllis, had two boys, Marc and Gerald, both of whom were involved in Scouting.

Seeger directed boys and girls camps in California, Illinois and Michigan before he retired. Following his wife’s death in 2009, Seeger renewed his involvement in the Boy Scouts at the suggestion of his son. He served the Northeast Illinois Council as an outdoor action committee member and volunteered with Eagle dinners and at a twilight camp in Chicago’s suburbs.

A 92-year-old Vigil Arrowman

Seeger was again nominated for the Vigil Honor, OA’s highest distinction. This time, he completed the task.

A few months before turning 93, Seeger attended Ma-Ka-Ja-Wan Scout Reservation in Wisconsin, where he spent the night surrounded by pine trees, silhouetted by a full moon.

“It was a close-to-God experience,” Seeger said.

Seeger plans to continue his involvement with Scouting, an organization he credits to shaping his career and character over the last eight decades. Here’s a few lessons he’s learned over the years:

  • Enjoy your life as much as possible, and appreciate what you have.
  • Don’t sweat the small stuff; don’t compare yourself to others.
  • Look forward, not backward, yet learn from the past.
  • Feel proud of what you’ve accomplished.
  • Keep in contact with your good friends.
  • Remember that life is not always fair.
  • Eat well and exercise often, including stretching.
  • Follow your heart and religion.
  • And Be Prepared.

The oldest ever?

We can’t confirm whether or not Seeger is the oldest Scouter to have received the Vigil Honor because we don’t have complete records for the more than 145,000 OA Vigil Honor Arrowmen currently on record.

If you’ve received the OA’s highest honor, please contact Stephanie Jordan (stephanie.jordan@scouting.org, 972-580-7846) at the national office to make sure the OA has your updated information.

11 Comments

  1. Please, please, please … can the scout shop market a version of the official uniform in white cloth sold with a pound of coffee?
    New scouts could make us our morning beverage … ahem … prepare their dye vat … every day at summer camp until their shirts were the appropriate shade of tan.
    😉

  2. His sash is Brotherhood, right?
    The coffee stain is great idea, I’ve seen class-B wash with bleach by accident, turn out beautiful like an unique art piece.

  3. Larry Seeger is an amazing man; a dedicated adult scout leader; extremely cordial at all times; has an incredible knowledge about Indian lore; and is the nicest man you could ever meet. No disrespect to the author, but this article doesn’t even come close to doing Larry justice.

    Learning of this man’s dedication and what it really means to be a brother for others is inspiring. In fact, the looks on the faces of new Eagle Scouts, when they are honored at the NEIC Eagle Award banquet, and they are introduced to Larry for the first time when he stands up and is recognized as the oldest Eagle Scout in Illinois is priceless.

  4. It’s worth noting that the NEIC has another Vigil & Eagle Scout who is equally timeless & incredible. Jack Fox, became an Eagle Scout prior to WW2. He then went on to fight in Europe for the US Army; was promoted and became an officer precisely because he showed leadership qualities as an Eagle Scout; was member of Wilmette Illinois’s historic BSA Troop 2; became an adult leader for its (then) Explorer Post 2; and continued to serve as an exceptional adult scouter for the NEIC in a wide variety of leadership roles up to this day. He has mentored countless adult and youth scouters, of which I am humbled to be one many. He is widely recognized as the second oldest Eagle Scout in Illinois, but is second to none. Both Larry & Jack are excellent examples of why scouting is even more relevant today than when they joined. Amazing leaders from the Greatest Generation.

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