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LaVey's life as a good Scout honored with national award

For many of the 2,018 Towson-area Scouts who, over the last 40-something years, have had their Eagle Scout reviews conducted by Jim LaVey, one step along the journey was a meeting in the basement office of his Lutherville home.

The office is a shrine to LaVey's extensive service — both to his country as an Army Air Corps gunner over North Africa and Italy in World War II, and to his community through more than four decades of Boy Scout service.

One wall is lined with mugs from each of the dozens of Boy Scout camporees he attended. Another section features photos from a Scout trip to New Mexico he led in 1976, flanked all around by reunion photos from his Air Force bomber groups, which he laments become smaller and smaller with each reunion.

"I'm the kid of the group, and I'm 87," he said.

But Thursday night, Jan. 26, LaVey added one more certificate to the room that tells of his extensive achievements.

At a ceremony in Glen Burnie, LaVey was honored with the National Eagle Scout Association's Outstanding Eagle Scout award, marking the first time the award has been given in Scouting's Baltimore Area Council.

Ethan Draddy, CEO and Scout executive for the Baltimore Area Council of the Boy Scouts of America, said the award has been offered by the National Eagle Scout Association for about a year.

"We couldn't think of a better person than Jim LaVey to be the first honoree," Draddy said.

One of LaVey's daughters, Bernadette Wathen, flew in from Utah to share in the moment and she and Rose Lavey, Jim's wife of 61 years, were given a bouquet of flowers by the Boy Scouts at the ceremony.

Draddy called the flowers a "very small token of our appreciation" for the countless hours Rose Lavey gave up of her husband. During those countless hours, LaVey was a fixture in the Eagle Scout process for generations of Baltimore-area scouts.

Of those 2,018 Eagles, LaVey said 18 were young men whose fathers he had also supervised on their way to becoming Eagle Scouts as well

Chris Burton, a lifelong Scout volunteer who is currently the senior vice president of gas and electric operations at BGE, said the symmetry of his son Brad, 19, becoming an Eagle Scout two years ago under the same man who supervised his own Eagle Board of Reviews back in 1979, had a "tremendous amount of meaning."

Later in his life, LaVey couldn't always make it to the ceremony and give out the Eagle Scout award, "but he was actually able to come to the Court of Honor and present my son with it, which was a highlight to see him do it again," Burton said.

When Burton first became a Boy Scout, one of his first meetings was the Eagle Court of Honor for a friend's older brother.

"As a bright-eyed 11-year-old, you're looking up to this young adult," Burton said," Then you see Mr. LaVey, who is speaking so highly and eloquently.

"The older you get, the more you appreciate what he's saying, and the more you wish you could pass it along to your children," Burton said.

One aspect of LaVey's Eagle Scout speech — which was scripted, but he knew by heart — was a challenge that an Eagle Scout was a "marked man."

"You have leadership qualities and you're supposed to use them for good," he told every new Eagle.

In the summer of 2010, LaVey passed on his supervisory responsibilities for the Eagle Scout reviews to Rick Shaw, who agreed to allow LaVey to continue to do part of his duties.

LaVey had served in an advancement capacity since 1969, and for four years prior, he was the treasurer of his local troop after a supervisor was satisfied with LaVey's answer when asked whether he could keep his checkbook balanced: "Most of the time," he told him.

In all, Scouting has been a huge part of his life, and despite some health issues, including lung problems last July, LaVey said his time around the Scouts helps keep him young — or at least tries.

"Your golden years — forget it," he said. "I keep missing parts."

And yet there he was, Thursday night, wearing the same uniform as Eagle Scouts a quarter of his age.

But unlike the awards in his office, the tan uniform had no mention of his Outstanding Eagle Scout Award — at least not yet.

"It's so new they don't even have the medal for it," he said.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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