When I heard the Boy Scouts were honoring volunteer Robert Savage for 55 years of dedicated service, I called “Mr. Scout” Keith Grove to find out more.
Grove, after all, should know. He’s been a Boy Scout for 72 years.
Imagine that. Between them, they have devoted 127 years to teaching boys values such as being trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean and reverent.
Actually, Savage traces his scouting roots about as far back as Grove. But he took a few years off before rejoining scouting as an adult volunteer in 1952.
In fact, both men share similar life stories that mirror the Scout oath of doing “my best . . . to God and my country.”
Savage, 82, joined scouting as a boy in Virginia, where his dad worked at a YMCA. Scouting was a natural after a childhood at the Y, Savage said, because the two organizations shared similar values.
He made it to star scout, a couple levels below eagle, before dropping out during World War II.
“We didn’t do much advancement because most of the scout masters had left to join the Army or Navy and fighting the war,” Savage said. “The guys left behind didn’t know much more than me. Eventually I dropped out.”
He joined the Air Force in 1951, got married a year later and was stationed in Denison, Texas, where they were raising three young children. He was asked to work with the local Boy Scout troop as he was leaving church one Sunday in 1957.
“Two months later, the scout master had a heart attack and I took over,” Savage said. “I’ve been with it ever since.”
That includes stints in Germany and various Air Force bases around the country where Savage was stationed during his 26-year career. After he retired as a senior master sergeant in 1977, Savage deepened his commitment, working primarily as an adult trainer.
“If you work with the type of people who share your values, you know you’re not going to end up with a bunch of drunks or something like that,” he said. “They are the best of the best.”
When he and his wife relocated to Colorado Springs in 1998, one of his first acts was to contact the Pikes Peak Council and get signed up.
Grove, who turned 83 on Friday, echoed Savage’s sentiments and reasons for his long association with scouts.
Like Savage, Grove joined as a boy in Nebraska and worked his way up to second-class scout. But he never advanced due to a simple reason.
“I never learned to swim,” he said, noting that he served three years in the Navy without being able to swim. Still can’t.
But Grove never quit scouting. He kept re-registering throughout his high school years in Colorado Springs and after his graduation in 1948, even though he could not achieve eagle status.
His interest stayed with him as he served in the Navy and then during a 27-year career in the Air Force where he achieved chief master sergeant.
“My whole life, my moral values, religious values, civic values, all came from my being in scouting,” Grove said. “I managed to make it through 27 years in the military and never used profanity, never smoked, never drank.”
I think he took that Scout law to heart.
Grove is proud to have helped restart scouting in Germany after World War II. And in his retirement, he has devoted much effort to spreading the Boy Scout message around the world, including a trip to Russia in 1992 to restart scouting there.
Both Savage and Grove are proud to note that while neither reached eagle scout, both produced sons who are proud eagle scouts. Savage’s son, Don, earned his eagle. Savage’s two daughters were Girl Scouts, as well. And Grove’s three sons and two grandsons achieved eagle status.
I asked Barb Sweat, a member of the board of the Pikes Peak Council, what it means to have men like Savage and Grove devote their lives to scouting.
“It means hundreds of boys have a value system in place, thanks to their work,” Sweat said. “They’ve impacted hundreds of boys and even more adult leaders.”
Two lives devoted to serving their country and instilling values in young people. I’d say they have upheld the oath.