One July day in 1969, John J. Rush Sr.'s son, Randy, came home and said his Boy Scout troop was disbanding because the scoutmaster had decided to quit.
Mr. Rush decided he couldn't let that happen.
For nearly 25 years, he has helped shape youngsters' lives in Boy Scout Troop 381 in Westminster. But his commitment to the Boy Scouts of America goes back even further than that.
"I started in 1937," Mr. Rush said. "I joined a troop when I was 12."
Mr. Rush said he "never really left scouting" -- despite serving in the military, marrying and becoming a father. He and his wife, Bebe, moved to Westminster in 1957.
In 1987, Mr. Rush was honored by the Boy Scouts of America for 50 years with the organization.
He has received practically every award bestowed by the Scouts, including the notable Silver Beaver Award for service.
Although he originally became a scoutmaster to help his son, he stayed with it for more personal reasons. "I stayed in scouting after my sons [Randy and John Jr.] went to college because I saw that there were boys who needed help."
"The scouting program is one of developing character and citizenship," he said. "Actually, it's also a lesson in living and being ready for the world."
Last year, the troop got a firsthand lesson in coping with death. One of its members, 11-year-old Thomas Richard "T. R." O'Farrell 3rd, was struck by a car and killed while delivering fruit from the troop's citrus fund-raiser.
"After T. R. was killed, after the grief and the shock, my reaction was, 'Why do I need this?' " Mr. Rush said. "I was tempted to walk away, but the reality of it was, while T. R. was gone, I still had 70 more boys that needed me to function."
The boys received group counseling and individual grief therapy to help them deal with the loss.
Mr. Rush affectionately calls the troop of about 75 youngsters "My boys." They range in age from 10 to 18, and it is obvious that the love is reciprocated for Mr. Rush, whom they call the "Bald Eagle."
The troop recently presented him with a scrapbook filled with pictures, essays and thank-you's from past and present members.
Mr. Rush said he has received much support from parents, the troop's sponsor -- First United Presbyterian Church -- and all his assistant scoutmasters, including current helpers Harold Sultzbaugh and Bruce Larson.
One of the things that testifies to his troop's success is the number of boys who have been named Eagle Scouts. Of about 350 boys, 70, including Mr. Rush's sons, have achieved the organization's highest rank.
"The National Council tells us that only about 2 percent ever reach that goal," Mr. Rush said.
Under Mr. Rush's leadership, Troop 381 undoubtedly will continue to lead boys to Eagle Scout status.
"I've had so many lasting friendships, and it's been so fulfilling to me as an individual that you don't want to give it up," he said. "Just when I think now is the time to give it up, one more boy comes that touches you and you think 'Here's one more I can help.' "