Long-time Boy Scout volunteer receives highest honor

Published 12:00 am Friday, January 28, 2005

SOUTH POINT - Reclining casually in his chair, 78-year-old Art Ferguson brushes his thinning, white hair back and lets the stories flow.

And flow they do, just like the mighty rivers Ferguson and countless youth with the Boy Scouts of America paddled during his nearly 50 years with the organization that recently awarded him the highest honor it can bestow on a volunteer - the Silver Beaver medal.

For Ferguson, working with Troop 116 over the years on endless camping trips, hiking adventures and weekend excursions was never about accolades or individual attention. With a grin, he reiterates that scouts was about building character and the memories he now cherishes so much.

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"We just had all kinds of experiences through the years," Ferguson explained, with his aged hands drawing the pictures and his clear mind recalling all the vivid details. "One time, we were canoeing on the Little Sandy River and I was teaching a new scout to navigate. As we came around a bend, there was an old sycamore tree across the river laying at an angle.

"I started shouting, 'Rudder right, rudder right," the South Point resident recalls as his eyes dart from side to side and his hands wave frantically. "But the next thing I know, we were up that tree at least four or five feet. I never will forget the expressions on those boys' faces as they watched us. Those are the kinds of things you remember."

But it was exactly this dedication and selflessness that made him a perfect candidate to receive the Silver Beaver award, said Dave Lucas, Scoutmaster of Troop 106 and a Silver Beaver recipient himself who, along with Boy Scout enthusiast Bob Leith and fellow troop leader Marion Harrison, was instrumental in making it happen for Ferguson.

"The council tries to select someone who has paid a price and not just financially. Someone like Art who has spent years and years dedicated to the boys and to the community," Lucas said of the award that is handed out very judiciously. "They want to pause and say 'thank you' to Art for all he has done over the years."

The Simon Kenton Council that represents 23 counties in Kentucky and Ohio will host a formal ceremony Feb. 5 in Columbus where Ferguson will receive the medal that less than a dozen other Lawrence Countians have received in the past 73 years.

"It is a very small little token but there is a lot of love and esteem behind it," Lucas said.

Fellow recipient Marion Harrison agreed that no one is more deserving than Ferguson and the scout leader should know because he and his father Alonzo Harrison were both honored.

Ferguson remembers working with Alonzo when he first began working as an assistant in 1956, after he returned from serving in the U.S. Army during World War II.

Working at Allied Chemical, The Ironton Tribune and Ohio University Southern over the years, Ferguson always made time for scouting, touching hundreds of lives in the process.

A few years ago, Ferguson went to a local physician for an appointment. When it came time to pay the bill, the stub simply said, "Paid for by 1,000 campfires." A former scout did his part to thank the leader for his dedication.

"When a program impresses boys like that, it makes you feel real proud to be a part of something," Ferguson said with a smile. "… I consider this (the award) a reflection that mirrors the faces of the boys I have had and of their feats and activities."