Gardner F. Watts has seen Babe Ruth hit a home run. Twice.
He once met Calvin Coolidge, our 30th president, who died in 1933.
And in May 2010, at the age of 96, Watts climbed to the crown of the Statue of Liberty. Officials told him they were pretty sure he was the oldest person ever to make that climb.
But Watts, who turned 104 in April, once experienced something that impresses me more than any of those classic memories. It was the time he met Scouting co-founder Daniel Carter Beard.
Watts lives in the village of Suffern, N.Y., which is where Beard lived the final 13 years of his life before his death in 1941.
In 1927, Watts was at a father-son spaghetti dinner with his Scout troop. Beard was the guest of honor and gave a speech to the crowd of Scouts and their dads.
Much to the boy’s delight, Beard sat down right next to Watts for the dinner. About halfway through, “Uncle Dan” leaned over to Watts and said, “Once a Scout, always a Scout.”
Those six words had a profound impact. Nine decades later, Watts still remembers what “Uncle Dan had said him.”
A life well lived
Watts was born in 1914.
He joined Scouting in 1926 as a member of Suffern’s Troop 1, founded by his father. (The troop still exists today, though it’s now known as Troop 21.)
Watts reached the rank of Star, and his two younger brothers became Eagle Scouts.
Watts taught history at Suffern High School for 40 years and served the village as its official historian, devoting his life to preserving the historical resources of the Suffern area.
Today, he still supports Scouting and volunteers with the American Legion’s Post 859.
The centenarian method
Even at 104, Watts still hikes and goes canoeing and kayaking.
“Not too many people my age go out in a kayak,” he told the Rockland/Westchester Journal News last month.
What’s the secret to living past 100?
Watts surrounds himself with friends and family. He has remained physically active. He never smoked, drank or used recreational drugs.
Beyond that, Watts says, it’s important to be friendly, cheerful and kind. Sounds familiar.
“I still have a happy outlook on life,” he told the Journal News. “Never be down if you have a failure. Keep trying again and again. Just have a positive life.”
Thanks to Richard Piñeiro for the blog idea.