Scout for life celebrates eight decades of mentoring youth

September 13, 2011

By Sarah Gerdes

Bob Jones remembers his introduction to Scouting, 75 years ago. It began with a knock at the door of his home, when he was 11 years old.

Bob Jones has received numerous honors over the years, including a 75-year achievement award. By Sarah Gerdes

“My dad was making a big pot of coffee and three men from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints were standing at the door,” he recounted.

His father wasn’t a member of the church, nor was he interested in Scouting.

“The bishop told him that God couldn’t smell the coffee, and neither could he, but the young men needed a Scout leader,” Jones said.

A week later, he had his first experience as a Boy Scout. Now 85, Jones has held every position in the Boy Scouts of America, achieving milestones accomplished by only a handful of men, including getting the Silver Beaver Award and the William Spurgeon Exploring Award. His dark-green uniform is adorned with patches, ribbons, recognitions and pins, and the ribbons around his neck attest to his decades of devotion to an institution that has influenced thousands of young men.

“He has easily touched more than 30,000 young men,” said Ken Kenyon, of Issaquah, a business owner and local Scouting leader.

Kenyon had sons that were mentored to the rank of Eagle Scout by Jones, and many of Kenyon’s 19 grandchildren were influenced by Jones.

They are not alone. In the Issaquah area, there have “been dozens of Eagle Scouts who have benefited from Jones’ hands-on leadership,” Kenyon explained. “His work had been passed down for generations.”

Kenyon is a great example of many men who are now grandfathers whose grandchildren are in Scouting because of Jones, according to former Alpine District leader Philip Boynton, himself a Boy Scout for 33 years.

Jones has “been a mentor, a father, a grandfather, a friend, a leader and a constant to all of us,” Boynton said. “I can’t even think of him being gone.”

‘God, patriotism and family’

Jones didn’t plan on serving the Boy Scouts of America for decades; it just continued when he had a son of his own. After earning his Eagle Scout, Jones earned a management degree, served in World War II and became a general contractor, working his way through the ranks until he ran his own business. As he managed multimillion-dollar projects across the western states of Nevada, Arizona, Utah, California and finally the Northwest, his dedication to the Boy Scouts never wavered. In fact, it increased.

“The first thing Dad did in any new area was get involved with the BSA, volunteering, doing anything he could do,” explained his son Dayle Jones. “God, patriotism and family. They are inseparable to Dad.”

Dayle earned his Eagle Scout, and had the fortune of working side by side with his father to teach his own six sons leadership skills necessary to achieve their own Eagle awards.

“Scouting has been around 100 years,” Boynton said. “Bob has literally shaped the organization, created leadership processes and mentored the mentors across the country.”

Zeal, leadership and service

Jones’ zeal hasn’t dimmed with old age. At the recent Washjam, a jamboree in Washington state attended by thousands of Scouts, Jones and Boynton engaged in a friendly contest of cooking skills, where the 84-year-old Jones gave seminars on cooking and leadership, and interacted with hundreds of Scouts. Months later, in February, Jones was in the snow at the outdoor Klondike retreat, once again making food in his famous cast-iron pots, and exhibiting more energy than a 12-year-old.

“His quiet leadership style permeates everything he does,” Boynton said.

Brad Allen, former council Scout executive for the Chief Seattle Council in Seattle, served with Jones for three years until he took a position out of state. He recalls Jones as one of the finest men and greatest Scouts he has ever known.

“Bob has given a lifetime of service, living the Scout oath and law, all the while keeping the boys’ interest as his paramount focus,” he explained. “He is the very definition of a servant-leader, and he’s not done yet.”

Now serving as an area director for the six Boy Scouts’ councils in Utah, Idaho and Western Wyoming, Allen knows first hand how vital volunteers like Jones are to the health of the Scouts’ organization.

“Bob is tireless, selfless and single minded in his dedication to helping young boys become leaders,” Allen said. “Thanks to him, we have two generations of leaders now serving the BSA.”

On my honor

For the hundreds of Eagle Scouts who worked for years on merit badges and service projects, attended campouts and Explorer adventures, no experience was more nerve-wracking than attending the Eagle Scout review board. During the formal process, always led by a senior member of the district, Jones interviewed hundreds of prospective Eagle Scouts.

In each one, Jones finished by asking one very simple question — “When we were done, I’d ask the young man to tell me what the words ‘on my honor’ meant to him,” Jones said with a twinkle in his eye. “Not just repeating the words, but truly embodying the principles of a Scout.”

Jones said he believes that those who fully embraced the essence of the Scouts are the pillars of society, the leaders at Fortune 500 companies and the fathers who are giving back to the community.

“These men are all around us,” he said.

“The women, too,” he noted, talking about his deceased wife Elaine, his constant companion for 60 years until her passing.

“Scouting is a gift the parents give to their children, and they to their children,” he said. “It lasts for generations.”

Sarah Gerdes is a freelance writer. Comment at www.issaquahpress.com.

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