A LOVE of children has moved two Martins Ferry residents who volunteer their time to a local scouting program for a combined 65 years.
Frances Green and Keith Perry are both mainstays of Troop 62 of Martins Ferry, chartered in 1936. They have been meeting with youngsters at the First Methodist Church of Martins Ferry and running the scout troop for over six decades.
Perry, 68, first became involved in the scouting as a youngster himself.
"I was about 11 years old when I first started in scouting and I went to Star," he said, noting when he turned 18 years old he entered the workforce and thought "that was the end of that" as far as scouting was concerned.
Shortly thereafter, a family friend approached Perry about helping out a local troop which he did for some time but he moved to Troop 62 once his own son Bryan got involved in scouting.
"He (Bryan) was interested in scouting and I wanted to be where he was so I ended up at Troop 62," said Perry, noting his son eventually earned the rank of Eagle Scout while he himself now serves in an advisory capacity for the troop. "Now, they won't let me leave!"
For Green, the involvement in scouting is something she has been doing throughout her life, first as a girl scout growing up and now as scoutmaster of Troop 62.
"I love it," she said. "I don't know what I would do without it. It's the best thing!"
Green's involvement in boy scouting began with her children. Oldest son Matt did some scouting but lost interest before younger brother Terry joined the club. Green noted Terry's involvement in scouting was not without challenges as he was mentally handicapped as his mother sat close by in case a seizure would strike.
"I was always close to him in case he had a seizure which is how I first learned the ropes but Terry was just Terry. He just did what the other boys did - even when he didn't like it," she said, noting he attended the School of Hope. "Everyone who worked with him just loved him."
Perry stated it was not the first time a troop took on a member with special requirement.
"We once had a boy who was deaf but he didn't let anything stop him. He even took his Eagle test in sign language," he said. "So, we were prepared for Terry and were ready to challenge him and face anything he brought us."
Terry's family taught him not to use his disability as a crutch and he was shown no favoritism during scouting events.
"I just encouraged him to do his best and not to let the disability hold him back," said Green, noting he earned all his merit badges on his own and eventually began working on his Eagle project. "In 2003, he got his Eagle badge through a project of collecting pop tabs for the Ronald McDonald House. We still do the project in the troop since he died. We call it 'Terry's Tabs' and I give a special award to the troop member who brings in the most tabs."
There is no doubt Green's dedication to the boy scouting program stems from the love she has for her sons but the joy she finds in scouting continues despite the loss of Terry.
"I served as assistant scout master from 1991 to 1997 and when the opening to be scoutmaster came, I knew I wanted it," she said. "I knew I could do it and I knew I was the right person for the boys of Troop 62."
Perry admitted he had his reservations when it came to having a female scoutmaster.
"I was adamantly against it," he said. "I didn't think a woman could handle this group of 14 to 18 year old boys. But, I didn't have any man big enough to stand up, step up and volunteer to do it, so I agreed to let her (Green) try. And, she's the best thing that ever happened to this troop.
"She's kept scouting alive," he said of Green, the only local female scoutmaster.
Both said they hope to be involved in scouting for many years to come.
"I love it! I thought I'd be ready to quit by now but there is always something new to do," said Green, noting the scouts will celebrate their 100th anniversary in February. "I love the camping, the fishing, the projects, everything. I love seeing the boys learn and grow. There is no better feeling than helping out youth."
Perry said he has no doubt Troop 62 will continue for years to come, due in part to Green's hard work.
"All my years of scouting have been wonderful. It's great to watch new groups of youngsters come in. I really don't have to worry about anything. I know she can handle the kids and her heart is always with the youth," he said. "Scouting today is very different and there are many other activities boys these days have to choose from but it is very rewarding."
Both Green and Perry are hard pressed to point to one favorite scouting memory. Both recount participating in river sweeps and jamborees, pow-wows and parades. There are many stories about camping trips with sliding tents or none at all, cooking on primitive fires, curious raccoons, frozen clothes and even undergarments being run up flagpoles.
"It's all been fun," said Green. "I'll always be there for the boys."
Graham can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org