Mike Tharp: Scouting celebrates 101 years of turning boys into men

January 21, 2012 

First there was "Cowboy up!"

Then there was "Man up!"

Time for a new one: "Scout up!"

The Boy Scouts of America, 101 years old next month, have led tens of thousands of boys into becoming young adults and then full-grown men. The local chapter has produced an impressive list of boys who got Scouting's highest rank -- Eagle -- and gone on to highly successful careers.

We'll take a look at that list shortly. But before we do, the new Scouting district, Rio Del Oro, is looking for a few good men. What was once the Wawona District now stretches from Yosemite to Los Banos and from Turlock to Merced. It includes 52 units and troops.

Peter Fluetsch, whose father and son were also Eagle Scouts, believes in the mantra, "Once an Eagle, always an Eagle." He and Adan Barajas of the Greater Yosemite Council and Sean Pamer are reaching out to all former Eagle Scouts in the new district.

They know that these men, as boys, spent hundreds of hours earning the merit badges needed for the highest rank. Now they're asking for some of those Eagles to offer up some hours to today's Boy Scouts. "We want recruits from our district volunteers to give back something," says Peter. "A lot of positions need to be filled."

One good sign: after a steady decline in membership since the '70s, over the last year BSA has seen a rise in their ranks. Peter, Adan and Sean firmly believe that Scouting is the best preventative to keep boys out of gangs. Boys find their true essence in Scouting's discipline, drills, rituals, campfires, hikes and merit badges.

Sun-Star Publisher Eric Johnston became an Eagle Scout in Stockton. His six years in Scouting "taught me self-discipline, personal will power, how to focus on tasks and complete them," he says. As for becoming an Eagle, "it's less about the rank than the experience. The real value was less about the badge and more the work it took to get it."

Here are some other local folks who were Eagle Scouts. You can judge for yourself whether that achievement played a role in the men they became. In no special order: Onis Lentz, a retired school administrator; Rich Kleithan, coordinator of special education for MCOE; Doug Fluetsch, insurance agent and bicycle race organizer; Dr. Ken Grossman, ophthalmologist; Bert Crane Sr. and Jr., walnut growers.

Dr. Tom Fife, family practitioner; Dr. Tom Reed, ophthalmologist; Jim Murphy, retired teacher from Atwater High; Gerald Williams, retired from Safeway; Richard Schwartz, assistant director of Public Works for Merced County; Jerry O'Banion, Merced County supervisor; Jerry Collister, attorney; Eric Harris, general manager of Razzari Motors.

Cliff Blauert, retired credit bureau representative; Peter Padilla, State Farm agent; David Fuentes, Merced County code enforcement officer; Stuart Schofield, dentist; John Montrose, colonel, U.S. Air Force; Skip George, commercial construction and involved in the Merced Theatre restoration; Richard Dye, PG&E public relations; Bob Tyler, Ameriprise Financial Services; Bill Otterson, Merced Irrigation District.

One of the largest chartered organizations supporting Boy Scouts of America units is the Church of Jesus Christ Latter-day Saints. While the faith-based community is the largest supporter, many service organizations -- Kiwanis, Lions, B.P.O. Elks -- and law enforcement agencies are also strong backers of BSA, according to Sean Pamer.

So if any of you Eagles out there -- or anybody else -- want to help a boy in our community become a better boy and an even better man, contact Sean at (209) 769-0192 or swpamer@gmail.com or Peter at (209) 722-1541.

Or you can contact this columnist, who became an Eagle Scout in Troop 11, Topeka, Kan., March 12, 1960.

Scout up!

Executive Editor Mike Tharp can be reached at (209) 385-2456 or mtharp@mercedsunstar.com.

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