Leader of the Pack

Long-time Boy Scouts of America district executive Ernie Crawford calls it a career

The Grumpy Bear no longer occupies the spot at the top of the Chief Cornplanter Council.

For 14 years, Ernie Crawford was the local Boy Scouts of America district executive.

Crawford was not always involved in the Boy Scouts. “I was a Scout when I was growing up, but I got away from the program,” he said. “I never got past earning my First Class Scout award. I remember earning only one merit badge — music.”

There was a stretch when he wasn’t a Scout, but, like music, the values of Scouting were always part of Crawford’s life.

“When my son was old enough to join, I jumped at the chance to volunteer with the Pack,” he said.

The promise that volunteering with Scouting would only take “one hour per week” might have been true at the beginning. But that was fine with Crawford.

“I never regretted giving that one hour up, even when it turned into many more,” he said.

He loved that time. “When the position of district executive opened up, I decided to try to get paid for what I loved to do for free,” Crawford said. “I was hired in 2003.”

The district executive position is considered an entry-level position within the Boy Scouts, supporting the work of volunteers.

“Scouting has been a career for many and a way of life for many more,” Crawford said. “I see many of my Scouts — yes, they are MY Scouts — that have graduated college and are now working and starting their own families. Some have joined the Armed Service and served their enlistments. Some are making it a career. They all make me proud to have been a part of their lives.”

Over the years, there have been changes to Scouting. But, at its core, it remains ever the same, Crawford said. “It is ruled by the Scout Oath and the Scout Law,” he said. “Developing our youth has and always will be the goal of Scouting.”

“There is nothing that says that teaching values to developing youth has to be boring,” Crawford said. “I have had lots of fun over the past years. Running all of the events like summer day camp, resident camps for both Cubs and Boy Scouts, all the derbies and contests can be very enjoyable.”

“Developing friendships and sharing songs, games, and laughter create many memories for all,” he said. “Anyone who works with kids can relate to having them run up and greet you with a wave or a hug or shouting ‘Hi’ across a crowded store. These moments make any memories of long hours, or hard work, or stress melt away.”

“Knowing that you have made an impact on one life makes it all worthwhile,” he said. “The values that we teach and learn in Scouting are invaluable. Living the Scout Oath and Law becomes a way of life not only for the youth that we lead, but also for the leaders themselves. Being a role model is so important to the development of our youth.”

And, “Scouting has been a load of fun.”

At a Cub fun day at Camp Olmstead, the Cub Scouts went around to the cardboard cages viewing “exotic animals.”

“One of our older Scouts had this weird chicken hat on and ran around his cage cackling like a demented rooster,” Crawford said. “I was sitting in my cage pretending to be sleeping. A note read: ‘Don’t wake the sleeping bear.’ Whenever someone came up to the cage, I would jump around and complain about being woken up.”

He has been Grumpy Bear since.

Bears fit into another of the many fun memories Crawford carries with him. “Denny Mattison chasing a bear around camp pounding on a big pan with a spoon. Dick Wilson led the best flag retirement ceremonies that I have ever seen. Dan Wolbolt’s Vesper services inspired everyone for a long time. Sitting in the cabin at night playing euchre with the staff and all of us laughing and having a good time… so memorable.”

There were other, not so good, memories. “Sending campers or staff to the hospital, sitting with a homesick camper late at night, having to tell someone that a family member has passed away, having our own staff and volunteers pass away.”

“Not all memories are good, but they are all remembered.”

Retirement doesn’t mean Crawford will stop accumulating those memories.

“I may be retiring as a professional, but I will still be volunteering as much as I can,” he said.

“This is a truly caring community,” Crawford said. “It seemed like all I had to do was make a need known and someone would provide for us.”

“I would like to thank the Warren community for all the support that they have given to me and more so to Scouting,” Crawford said. “Thank you for making me successful in my career. You all know who you are.”

“Scouting needs you and your support,” he said. “Let’s all keep the Scouting program going in our community for another 100 years.”