Recipe for Troop 448's success: Kepley and his 'recruits'

Published 12:00 am Saturday, September 8, 2012

SALISBURY – The young men and adult leaders attached to Boy Scout Troop 448 through the years read like a Who’s Who of Rowan County.
But to a man, they all give a tip of the hat to Jack Kepley.
For 75 of the troop’s 80 years of existence, Kepley has been there – first as a Scout, then as an unparalleled leader.
Jay Kepley, his 61-year-old son, has been involved with Scouting and this troop for 53 years himself.
“He can totally immerse himself in the projects, and he has a burning desire to get things done,” Jay said of his father.
Even at 88, Jack Kepley stays immersed, especially in the 80th anniversary Court of Honor held Saturday at Dan Nicholas Park. It was billed as “Celebrating 80 Years of Doing Our Best,” and at least 125 former Scouts, adult leaders and their families showed up.
The troop still has an amazing 55 registered adult leaders, and 42 were recognized Saturday with Veteran Scout Awards.
“That’s what makes it, I think,” Jack Kepley said.
Besides being a skillful man – “he can do dang near anything,” friend and fellow leader John Rink said – Kepley has a knack for delegating and drafting others to help.
It’s not rocket science, to hear Kepley explain it. When a boy becomes involved in Scouting, involve his father, too. Then give the son and father leadership opportunities and encouragement to stay active in the troop, even as they “age out.”
“If I want anything done, all I have to do is call one of them and ask,” Kepley said.
Ronald Steelman said Kepley is a magician “about getting work out of people.” Steelman lent his services as an adult leader more than 30 years ago and the troop, with Kepley running the show, proved to be a perfect fit.
As a kid, Steelman was one of the first Eagle Scouts for Troop 349 in Spencer. His son, Mark Steelman, became an Eagle Scout with Kepley’s Troop 448.
“This troop – it really is all about Jack Kepley,” said Mark, now 39. “He poured his life into it.”
Kepley has had a stake in 132 Eagle Scouts through the years.
Mark Steelman recalled a canoe trip on the Yadkin River’s being part of his Eagle project.
“In truth, Jack did a lot of the work, but I did it under his direction,” Steelman said.
It led to summer camp jobs for Steelman as an instructor in boating. As he viewed a gallery of photographs of outings through the years, Steelman remembered 448 being one of the biggest, most active troops in the district.
In his day, the troop had 50 active Scouts – five patrols of 10 guys each. And because a good percentage of the parents were involved – “you could do stuff,” Steelman said.
Dr. Michael Goodman said two of his favorite Troop 448 Scouting trips involved camping in Florida at Disney World and canoeing down the Yadkin River.
When Troop 448 Scouts earned their 50-mile patch for canoeing, Kepley helped them make the patch part of their customized oars.
Goodman said Troop 448 and becoming an Eagle Scout was a great experience. It may even have helped him land his job. The chairman of the medicine at Wake Forest was particularly impressed he was an Eagle Scout, Goodman recalled.
For the 80th anniversary, the troop made 200 copies of a 150-page book with 10 chapters. The chapters cover each decade of the troop’s existence, plus sections on Cubs Scouts and Ventures.
As usual, Kepley found ways to have others involved.
Lois Oster served as editor. Chapters were written by many of the former Scouts and current adult leaders.
Geof Wilson covered, for example, the ’80s; Bill Weatherford, the ’70s; Jay Kepley, the ’60s; Wayne Sasser, the ’50s; Jack Brady, the ’40s and Jack Kepley, the ’30s.
The Rev. J.W. Fitzgerald, pastor at Coburn Memorial Methodist Church, organized the troop in the summer of 1932, because his 12-year-old son, Charles, wanted to join the Boy Scouts.
The first Scouts from Troop 448 met in a second-story room over Cordell Miller’s grocery. Today 448 has, perhaps, the best Scouting facility in Rowan County – the Jack Kepley Scout Building near Coburn church.
Several years ago, Troop 448 incorporated as a separate nonprofit organization and bought the Scout building, so it could remain in the troop’s possession should anything ever happen to Coburn.
But the close ties to Coburn remain. As always, the Scouts will be part of today’s 122nd Homecoming at the church.
It may sound as though Jack Kepley were Troop 448’s only Scoutmaster. He served in that position, in various terms, for 37 years – from 1947-49; 1954-60; and 1963-1992.
There were six men before Kepley, and James Tarlton in between from 1950-1953 and 1960-62. Since 1992, three Scoutmasters have followed Kepley – Garry Puckett, Mark Tilman and Alfred Wilson, who has led the troop since 2003.
Rink himself has 60 years of experience as an adult leader with 448. If he made any important contribution, Rink said, it might be badgering Kepley until he arrived at troop meetings on time. At first, Kepley was always late, Rink complained.
Part of Saturday’s program included a presentation on Native American culture and dance, led by His Excellency Albert W. Lorenzo, also known as Chief Storm Crow. Others participating were Rosemary Sanchez, also known as Apache Rose; Carolyn Clark, Smithie Parrish, Gabe Hartman, Darlene Hallock and Rebecca Moser.
Mark Eagle, who has more than 40 years with the troop as a Scout and adult leader, took charge in arranging for the Native American presentation.
Jay Kepley said his father, besides being a greater recruiter of other men’s talents, has charisma and a high energy level.
“He has much more energy than I ever do,” Jay said.
Jack Kepley drafted Mike Bostian, an “outsider,” to cook the barbecue pork chops and chicken served at the 80th anniversary celebration Saturday.
Bostian remembered the six years he and Kepley collaborated in cooking at the Autumn Jubilee to raise funds for Troop 448.
The Scouts would sell 1,600 hamburgers and 1,600 hot dogs over two days at the park.
“I cooked every one of them,” Bostian said.
Kepley loves when he hears his former Scouts tell him what their experience with Troop 448 meant to them.
Clay Lindsay, head of Summit Developers, has a degree from Wake Forest University, but he told Kepley he relies more on the things he picked up as a Scout.
As a captain in the Marine Corps, Daryl Grissom – a 1986 Eagle Scout of Kepley’s – invited his old Scoutmaster to his wedding and told him not to worry about a gift.
Not a day passed, Grissom wrote with the invitation, when he didn’t teach a Marine something he had learned as a Scout.
“The beautiful thing was,” Kepley said, smiling like a fox, “I had it in a letter.”
In giving talks through the years about Scouting, Kepley has often read from that letter.
He can even recruit paper.
Contact Mark Wineka at 704-797-4263.