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It's true: Thelma heads Boy Scout troop


THELMA MAY BE ONE OF the least likely names you'd expect to belong to the scoutmaster of a Boy Scout troop.

But Thelma Furlong, the first female scoutmaster in the Scouts' Capital District, is part of a new breed of Scout leaders.

Besides Furlong, whose district includes the southern and western parts of Anne Arundel County, the state has no more than five female scoutmasters.

Granted, there have always been women Cub pack leaders. That's how Furlong started her Boy Scout career.

But, when it comes to teaching the rugged, big-guy stuff, the role is traditionally left to men.

"Boys move from Cubs to Boy Scouts when they are 10 years old," Furlong said. "I think men have a misconception that at that age, boys are ready to be on their own.

"It's easier for women to detect that boys need at least a year of transition before standing on their own two feet."

So, three years ago, when Troop 813, which meets at St. Stephens Episcopal Church in Millersville, needed a new leader, it seemed natural to Furlong that she should become the new scoutmaster.

No stranger to Scouting, Mrs. Furlong had been a Girl Scout, and she and her husband, Ronald Furlong, who was in 4-H while growing up in Johnstown, Pa., have worked in Scouting for more than 14 years.

The Furlongs work for the federal government. He's been on active duty with the Navy for more than 28 years, and she works for the State Department in Washington.

Both of the Furlongs' sons are Eagle Scouts. Rob Furlong, 23, earned his Eagle award in 1992, and 16-year old Ed Furlong, a junior at Old Mill High School, just became an Eagle Scout.

A member of his mom's troop, Ed said, "She makes it hard on me; she's more demanding because I'm her son, but she's an excellent leader.

"The leadership we learn in Scouting is helping prepare me for adulthood, things like being camp patrol leader and patrol leader."

In addition to her scoutmaster responsibilities, Furlong is also the district's first female Round Table Commissioner, which means she provides monthly training for area Boy Scout leaders.

As area commissioner, another of her titles, she organized two new Cub Scout packs, one in Herald Harbor, the other in Millersville.

Her latest Scouting achievement is about to get under way: a Venturing Crew for ages 14 to 20.

Formerly known as Explorer Scouts, Venturing is open to both males and females. Venturing, like the word "adventure," aptly describes the kinds of activities in which members participate: hiking, backpacking, camping, snow skiing, kayaking, canoeing, and more. The group is planning a ski trip to Wisp in Western Maryland in early February.

The organization will meet at St. Stephens Episcopal Church in Millersville, and while the girls won't actually be Boy Scouts, all members will be registered with Boy Scouts of America.

A kick-off meeting is planned at 7: 30 p.m. Dec. 15 in the church fellowship hall.

Information: 410-923-2637.

Pub Date: 12/03/98

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