Lowell saw its first Boy Scout achieve the highest rank in scouting, that of Eagle Scout in 1931. Since then many have followed in his footsteps and the community has been enriched because of the scouts. Along with many other requirements, every Eagle Scout plans, organizes, and manages a project benefiting an organization outside of scouting. While the community has received many volunteer service hours from these Eagle projects, the Eagle Scout also leaves a tangible reminder to the community of their character through these service projects.
The Boy Scouts organization began on February 8, 1910. In 1927 a young Boy Scout from the West Michigan area became an Eagle Scout, and then went on to become President of the United States. Gerald R. Ford, of East Grand Rapids was the only U.S. President so far to be an Eagle Scout. Soon after Ford’s Eagle accomplishment, Troop #78 was formed in Lowell.
Sam Yeiter joined Troop #78 and in 1931 at the age of 13 became the first Eagle Scout from Lowell. He went on to volunteer and fight in World War II. He led a reconnaissance regiment through Tunisia in Northern Africa against German General Rommel, the “Desert Fox”, even chasing him into Italy and France. Sam was awarded the Silver Star for gallantry and Bronze Star for bravery. He even received one of the top honors from France, La Croix de Guerre medal. His fellow, though younger, Eagle Scouts gave him a party for his 91st birthday in 2009.
The Lowell Troop folded later as they did not have a Scoutmaster. Young men themselves initiated the founding of current Lowell Troop #102. They researched how to start a troop and recruited adults to serve. In the spring of 1942 the troop was formed. The first Eagle Scout produced by Troop #102, and one of the young researchers who founded the troop was Ken Dennis in 1945.
Over the years many young men have come through the Lowell Boy Scouts, at one time eighty boys were registered. Lowell supports its Boy Scouts. Their meeting place, creatively dubbed “The Boy Scout Cabin”, exemplifies this. Local citizens and organizations came together to build the cabin.
The Boy Scouts in turn, have brought great contributions to the community. Just a short list of Eagle Scout projects include, benches at area cemeteries, the paved drive at Flat River Outreach Ministries, the Vine Barn at the Wittenbach Wege Agri-science and Environmental Center, the path between the high school and the football stadium, projects on the Lowell Showboat, bridges and benches on nature trails, a footpath at the Veen Observatory, horseshoe pits at Creekside Park, North Country Trail signs, landscape and signage for local non-profit groups, and the list continues!
Mentorship paves the way for meaningful relationships. Bill Novak served the Lowell Troop #102 for 24 years. At his funeral in 1983 seven Eagle Scouts that achieved that rank under Nowak’s time as scoutmaster served as an honor guard at his funeral. They were; Mark Blough, Mike Blough, Kraig Haybarker, Kurt Haybarker, George Lessens, Dirk Ritzema and Mark Ritzema.
At President Ford’s funeral in 2007, more than 1,000 Eagle Scouts from the Gerald R. Ford Boy Scout Council lined the casket’s route, including more than a dozen Boy Scouts from Lowell. Rich Riley, Troop #102 Scoutmaster said in an interview, “It was an opportunity of a lifetime. It showed the boys that anything is possible. They get their Eagle, and they could be president.”
Image shows Gerrid Uzarski, Gordon Marshall and Sam Yeiter.