Grown Up Girl Scouts celebrate 50+ years

Published 12:00 am Sunday, June 1, 2014

National surveys show former Girl Scouts say their leader made the difference in their troop experience, and former Salisbury Girl Scouts agree. The phrase, “If it wasn’t for Mrs. Shermer, I would have dropped out” was repeated more than once recently when former Salisbury Girl Scouts gathered in Salisbury to celebrate their leaders, troop volunteers and their Girl Scout experiences.
Lynn Fowler and daughter Susan Fowler Stafford of Charlotte hosted the group for a luncheon. Lynn’s daughter Sara Fowler Anderson, who died 18 months ago due to brain cancer, had wanted to have just such an event, and we had been making plans to find the women who had been in Girl Scouts with us so many years ago.
After Sara’s death, I contacted Lynn and Susan to see if they could help make the event happen. Sara and I had been in Girl Scouts together all the way through college at UNC-Chapel Hill.
After talking with Susan, Sara’s older sister, we decided to expand the list to anyone who started in Brownies at First Baptist Church in 1962 and all who participated in any of the Junior, Cadette and Senior troops through 1984. Lind Shermer led a number of the troops at First Baptist and served as the Senior Girl Scout Leader for more than 14 years.
During the past nine months, Shermer searched through scrapbooks and newspaper clippings to find names of former troop members, leaders and volunteers. As the date for the luncheon approached, the former leader and longtime Salisbury resident contacted parents, siblings and friends of former troop members in an effort to get current mailing addresses. I utilized social media to find friends and to find out if some of the younger women on the list were the siblings of my high school classmates.
Susan Fowler Stafford contacted women from her high school class and enlisted her mom’s help in getting addresses of those women still living in Salisbury.
The group effort yielded a list of more than 65 women who were Girl Scouts, volunteers or leaders, that would be invited to the celebration.
But we knew the list was not complete. The invitation itself asked for help in identifying others who should be invited. Guests were encouraged to share their invitation with others or forward contact information for any troop members they remembered.
Hostesses, Lynn Fowler, Susan Fowler Stafford, Lind Shermer, Margy Fink and I heard from invitees who regretted they could not be present, but sent their good wishes for a great time and their gratitude for their Girl Scout experiences.
Lois Stirewalt O’Connor from northern Virginia wrote, “ I am forever grateful for women like Mrs. Shermer for going above and beyond what she had to do. People are constantly amazed that I know how to tie knots/ turn a scarf into a sling/ bandage/ make a leg brace out of that and stick…much less sew (The French Knot Pillow that I made is still around!)…Oh…and my fire building skills are LEGENDARY! All because of my Girl Scouting…sure there is that whole leadership, confidence, patriotism etc. etc….and my ongoing never ending and abiding love of Samoas!”
Mary Poe McFarland of Mebane sent a Facebook message on the morning of the luncheon, “Have fun and give hugs to Mrs. Shermer and Mrs. Fowler for me!
Cathy Griffin Young responded on behalf of herself and her mom Peggy Griffin, a long time leader, saying, “We will miss seeing all of you and sure hope that you will have another event like this again soon!”
Guests brought Girl Scout memorabilia, shadow boxes, Girl Scout patches, scrapbooks, photographs and their Girl Scout Handbooks. The lunchtime conversation rang with laughter. Questions like, “Do you ever hear from Judy or Weezie?” were repeated at each table. Occasional exclamations such as, “Oh, I forgot about that camping trip! I think I blocked it out after it took three weeks for my sleeping bag to dry out” brought long forgotten memories to the present.
Adele Kirk traveled from Washington, D.C. to attend. Adele’s father, Dr. Daniel Kirk, former professor at Catawba College, occasionally drove the Girl Scout bus on trips. Adele related that she recently thought about the importance of having something you enjoy outside of work. Although she doesn’t feel she excelled at all the “crafty “badge projects, she does feel that she learned that hobbies are important.
Sally Agner Nicks from Hickory shared that Girl Scouting gave her the chance to travel and apply for “wider opportunities.” She was selected for a Wagon Train experience in the Western U.S. and for a Girl Scout and Girl Guide event held in Trinidad and Tobago.
Sarah Shuping Schieman of Salisbury, said she felt that community service was a consistent theme of her Girl Scout experience and that she has tried to continue with that effort as an adult.
Michelle Goodnight Smith was in the last Senior Girl Scout troop led by Lind Shermer and she said, “There was never another leader like Mrs. Shermer.”
This sentiment was echoed by many of the women who knew that they had tormented their Girl Scout leader with their adolescent behaviors, from pinning up their uniform skirts to the length of mini-skirts to pleading that Myrtle Beach be the destination for every spring camping trip.
Nan Zimmerman, Catawba College counselor, pointed out that earning the child care badge helped steer her to a career working with young adults. As Nan said, “I learned a long time ago, I don’t do children.”
Stephanie Brown Johnson recently moved from Wilson to Raleigh and is the mother of three adult children. She recalled that her participation in the Emergency Preparedness Challenge began with backing away from the “unconscious victim” and asking, “Is this real or are you faking it?”
Rebecca Stevenson Jennings inquired about many of her Girl Scout friends who were unable to attend the luncheon. Rebecca lives in Salisbury, but hoped to see friends who had moved away. She shared that it was the friendships she developed in her Girl Scout troops that meant the most. “We learned to work together and play together. Girl Scouting was a safe environment to try new things, learn new skills and provide support for each other.”
The group agreed that one does not need to have a daughter to stay involved in Girl Scouting or find ways to continue supporting the organization. Susan Fowler Stafford said, “My two boys made sure that I bought plenty of Girl Scout cookies.”
I found my way to the professional Girl Scout ranks with the former Tarheel Triad Girl Scout Council. After the birth of my two sons, I volunteered at the board level with the former Pines of Carolina Girl Scout Council and served as Council president.
Wendy Walters Dufour lives in Pittsboro. As she looked at badges printed in the handbook, she said that she had the chance to explore many areas of interest and never thought she really did well at decoupage when preparing for the many fund raising bazaars the troop held; but that she has found her niche specializing in fabric arts as an business owner.
Mikell Miller Reynolds was in the Brownie troop that began in 1962 at First Baptist Church. Girl Scouting got in her blood and today she still leads Girl Scout troops at St. John’s Lutheran Church here in Salisbury.
As a dessert of vanilla ice cream covered with crushed Thin Mints was served, Mrs. Fowler said she was grateful for the many chances to travel that Girl Scouting had provided for her two girls, Sara and Susan.
The attendees also expressed their gratitude for Gordon Shermer, Lind’s husband who drove the group on many of their outings, as well as for the many other volunteers who taught badge skills, served as troop cookie chair or organized the many covered dish dinners and picnics at the park.
Before the group departed, I presented Mrs. Shermer with the 100th Girl Scout anniversary alumni pin in recognition of her commitment to Girl Scouting and long-standing love and leadership for girls.