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 (firstname.lastname@example.org, 972-580-7846) at the national office to make sure the OA has your updated information.