DOVER — For John “Jack” C. Lewis, “scouting” has been an inseparable part of his 92-year life. Mr. Lewis was honored by the Del-Mar-Va Council and National Boy Scouts of America on Thursday when he was inducted into their “Second Century Society” for 70 years of being a registered scouter and a significant donation to support projects at the Akridge Scout Reservation in Dover.
A Dover native, Mr. Lewis joined the scouts in 1938, just before the start of World War II.
“Once the war started, the scouts would do all kinds of errands around town — running around, acting as messengers,” said Mr. Lewis. “Back then there weren’t as many organized sports teams for kids so scouting was a big deal. We loved it. The camping trips were always fun and it was great for character building. Eventually, I went on to the Sea Scouts. Shortly after that I was drafted during World War II, right out of Dover High School at the age of 18 — two weeks after graduating.”
Mr. Lewis was stationed in Germany near the end of the war for about year and a half, he says, before returning home and attending Goldey–Beacom College. At college he met his future wife Nancy. They’ve been married for 69 years.
For the Lewises, being a boy scout has always been very much a family affair. Mr. Lewis’s two brothers followed the program through to become Eagle Scouts and their collective 14 sons all became Eagle Scouts as well.
Mr. Lewis and Nancy (a “devoted den mother”) had two sons become Eagle Scouts as well.
“The funny thing is I’m the only one not to become an Eagle Scout because I went onto the Sea Scouts in high school,” he said.
Mr. Lewis says his family’s dedication to the scouts comes from the formative experience it offers.
“It’s always been such a big part of our lives because it has so many great things to teach young people,” he said. “For me, the ‘scouts law’ sums up its importance better that I could.
“It goes: a scout is trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean and reverent.”
According to William Garrett, CEO and Scout Executive for Del-Mar-Va Council Boy Scouts of America, Mr. Lewis’s confidential donation will make a “huge difference” in funding several expansion projects at the Akridge Scout Reservation.
“What we’ve been hoping to build here is a world-class scout camping facility to serve all the folks on the peninsula,” said Mr. Garrett. “We’re planning to build a volunteer service center that’ll house several offices, a museum and conference and meeting rooms.
“We’re also going to build a pool, archery and BB range, nature lodges and a STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) center to really get kids in a lab setting.”
The scout reservation, acquired in 2007, is nearing its final development phase, Mr. Garrett explains.
“Eventually we will have invested about $12 million from acquisition to improvements,” he said. “We still have approximately another $5 million to raise to finalize the camp, but donations like Mr. Lewis’s are so important.
“Our goal is to have a full-fledged cub scout resident camping program for seven to eight weeks during the summer of 2020.”
Serving 13,000 youths
According to Mr. Garrett, the Del-Mar-Va Council serves 13,000 youths and continues to grow.
“We’ve had membership growth for the last six years in a row and so far so good this year,” he said.
“At this point, we’ve only had about 15 girls join up, but this fall, I believe our girl membership will rise to make up about 10 percent of our total.”
Last October, the Boy Scouts of America announced that girls would be welcomed into Cub Scouts beginning in fall of 2018.
For his part Mr. Lewis is most excited about the new Akridge Scout Reservation museum because much of his own memorabilia will be among the exhibits.
“I’ve always been a hoarder and collector so, about 50 years ago, I decided to start collecting little things related to the scouts,” he said. “Since then, I’ve collected so many different items, I have a museum of my own at home.
“The collection has everything you can think of, but my personal favorite is this old scout mechanical bank that you crank back when you put a coin in, and when it goes into the bank, a scout raises this little flag. They’ve agreed to put a museum with a lot of my stuff here in the new building and call it the John C. Lewis Scout Museum. Of course I’m crazy about that idea.”