Scoutmaster's honor

Jack McCarter Sr. has led Scouts since 1968

Jack McCarter Sr. has led Scouts since 1968

May 11, 2004|by LAURA ERNDE

When Boy Scouts go hiking, the slowest person sets the pace for the group.

In Troop 100 of Hagerstown, that person is usually Scoutmaster Jack McCarter Sr.

At 77, McCarter may not be as quick as he used to be, but he still loves camping and spending time with "his boys."

The Mason-Dixon Council of Boy Scouts of America said McCarter is the oldest active Scoutmaster in the council, which covers the Tri-State area.

He's guided his two sons and two of his grandsons to the rank of Eagle Scout and touched thousands of other lives along the way.


One of the first people whose life he touched was Washington County Treasurer Todd Hershey, who said McCarter helped him overcome the loss of his father when he was in his early teens.

"I look back on the people that affected my life and he's just up there at the top," Hershey said.

McCarter joined the Cub Scouts in 1938. The preacher at his Southern Baptist church in Kannapolis, N.C., was the Scoutmaster.

After a two-year stint in the U.S. Navy during World War II, McCarter bounced around a bit before landing in Hagerstown in 1948 doing office machine repairs.

He married and, when his two sons were old enough, McCarter joined the Mason-Dixon Council as an assistant Cubmaster in 1968.

"I've been in it ever since," he said. "Seeing a young man getting on the right way, I think that's been the most rewarding thing."

Being part of an institution that frequently recognizes the achievements of its members, McCarter has plenty of awards and souvenirs to his name, including a large collection of coffee mugs from different Scouting events.

Even after receiving the highest award for an adult in 1981, the Silver Beaver Award, McCarter continued his work.

"He would always be the guy out in the trenches, making sure the troops were running smoothly," Hershey said.

Scouting has changed a lot since McCarter was a Cub Scout. Back then, his troop would drag country hams and jars of home-canned vegetables into the wilderness and camp.

These days, Scouts rely on pre-made foods and high-tech camping gear.

But the mission is the same - giving young boys something constructive to do and teaching them about character, citizenship and personal fitness.

"I always figured if we get 'em out there in the middle of the mountains somewhere they won't get into too much trouble," McCarter said.

McCarter fondly remembers some of his camping excursions over the years, although these days it takes him a couple of days to recover from a night in a sleeping bag.

One time, about 15 years ago, he woke to outside temperatures of 17 degrees below zero.

"There's been times I thought, 'What am I doing here? I have a warm bed at home,'" he said.

On another cold outing, one of the other adults wanted to know how they were going to fry frozen eggs.

"I said, 'Take 'em to McDonald's and get 'em something to eat,'" he said.

McCarter said he couldn't have devoted so much time to Scouting without the support of his wife, Marlene, who died two years ago.

Hershey said he would love to climb the New Mexico mountains with McCarter as they did together so many years ago.

"I don't know if he's up for it. I don't think I'm up for it," he said.

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