Oldest scout laid to rest

Boy Scouts from Troop 81 and Cub Scouts from Pack 81 salute the casket carrying the remains of the nation’s oldest Boy Scout, Ira Reynolds, who died Nov. 13 at 108. He helped found Troop 81 back in 1934. STAFF PHOTO/ROBERT BAKER

BY ROBERT L. BAKER

Ira Reynolds, who joined the Boy Scout movement in 1914 – when it was just four years old – was laid to rest early Thursday afternoon.

About 50 youths from Boy Scout Troop 81 and Cub Scout Pack 81, thrust three fingers in the air and in unison cited the Scout pledge and oath just moments before Reynolds’ casket was lowered into the earth at Evergreen Cemetery:

“On my honor I will do my best: to do my duty to God and my country and Obey the Scout Law; to help other people at all times; to keep myself physically strong, mentally awake and morally straight.”

Ira Reynolds

The 108-year-old Reynolds was the nation’s oldest Boy Scout when he died Nov. 13, and Thursday he was remembered by Baden Powell District campmaster Art Warrick as the embodiment of the oath.

“The boys who encountered him at summer camp learned a lot and have great memories of a man who loved the outdoors,” Warrick said.

He noted that about six months ago the national organization of Boy Scouts of America made up a 90-year service pin for him which was unprecedented.

Warrick identified a searing memory of Reynolds each year picking one night at camp to get the kids after dark to lay on the

Ira Reynolds

ground in an open field, shut off all the lights and then look into heavens at the constellations while he told stories about each.

“You could almost touch the stars, the way he talked,” Worrick said.

 Susquehanna United Methodist Church Pastor James Rouse told of tenth graders fondly remembering a leaf collection assignment they had to complete by visiting a nature trail that Reynolds and his wife Beatrice maintained in their yard not far from Susquehanna Community High School.

He had 28 of 29 leaves needed for the assignment and that was a hit with students, Rouse said.

George Wilkes of Boy Scout Troop 81 and Travis Rockwell of Cub Scout Pack 81 stand guard with their respective flags at the graveside service honoring the nation’s oldest Boy Scout, Ira Reynolds, who died recently at age 108. STAFF PHOTO/ROBERT BAKER

Susquehanna Borough Council President David Scales recalled that more than 50 years ago, Reynolds took him aside with other boys and shared the name of the tree each leaf went with, “and it was awesome because they were lessons you never forget.”

“His love of nature and love for children was phenomenal and unmistakable,” Scales said.

And for that reason, Scales announced at the funeral that a grateful Borough Council had agreed that Riverside Park would be renamed the Ira Reynolds Memorial Park and Nature Trail.

He also read a proclamation from Mayor Michael Mattas that declared Nov. 18 a Day of Remembrance for Ira Reynolds.

Reynolds joined Troop 1 Black Bear Patrol in Dorranceton in 1914 and had Laurance Thompson who authored the first aid section of the original Boy Scouts Handbook as his scoutmaster.

He achieved the rank of Tenderfoot Scout on July 24, 1915, and then Second Class on Nov. 19 of that year. He became a First Class Scout on Oct. 18, 1916.

At age 16, Reynolds went on to Penn State to study electrical engineering and from 1920 to 1923 served in the U.S. Navy.

In 1924, he found work at the tannery in Noxen, and met his eventual wife at a boarding house she stayed at while teaching.

They were married, and moved to her native Susquehanna County  where Reynolds found work as an electrician in the Erie railroad shops.

Although the couple only had one daughter, Reynolds fathered the local Boy Scout effort in Susquehanna in 1934 when he organized Troop No. 81.

That unit survives and Thursday both Boy Scouts and Cub Scouts from it were excused from school for a couple of hours to say thanks to a hero.

In 1949, Reynolds received the highest award that an adult can receive in scouting, the Silver Beaver.

But instead of using the signal achievement as a point of retirement, Reynolds continued to be involved with scouting, serving on boards of review and attending overnights, scout-a-ramas, camporees and even the National Boy Scout Jamboree when it was held at Valley Forge in 1950.

Up until about five years ago, he regularly spent weekends with the boys at Camp Tuscarora near Sanford, N.Y., and last winter was still on the roster as a campmaster.

In 1985, Reynolds reflected on why he felt it was important for him to continue involvement in scouting: “There isn’t a finer group of men to be found anywhere than the ones who are scout leaders. We emphasize fun, but while we’re doing it, it is in the back of our minds on character building.”