Boy receiving award from mentoring program

Introducing Wilson Grab – Trail Life USA’s Oldest Freedom Rangeman

Stephen Ashton

Wilson Grab grew up in a different time.  A time before television and the internet, before cell phones and social media. A time before major organized youth sports leagues. Life moved at a slower pace. A father was the main role model for his son, and boys respected their elders and looked to them for guidance and direction. Each night after work, Mr Grab fondly recalls taking long walks with his father through the neighborhood. Times were simpler in the steel town of Coatesville, PA where he grew up in the 1950s. In those days for extra-curricular activities a boy had two options: the YMCA and the Boy Scouts of America. The Boys Scouts provided the opportunity to go camping and experience adventure in the outdoors and so Wilson and his father became heavily involved. Together they went everywhere the scouts went.

When he joined Boy Scouts of America, a young Wilson was introduced to another man who led him with strong biblical values. His Scoutmaster, John Harley. Harley had no children and never married. He devoted his life to developing boys in his Troop. Wilson recalls, “every meeting opened and closed with prayer and when Eagle awards were presented, the pastor always preached on the life of David.”

The influence of scouting in the life of Wilson Grab was tremendous. The structure of the program provided intentional mentoring and the outdoors were an environment where he learned naturally from the example of older men who led him to achieve the highest rank in scouting, The Eagle Scout Award. Mr. Grab became an Eagle Scout on November 16, 1959. He went on to have a successful career as a businessman and a professor. A father of three daughters he had little opportunity to participate in scouting events with his children, but when his grandsons were born, he was excited to involve them in the organization that had such a powerful influence in his life.

The world of his grandsons is very different from the world Mr. Grab grew up in. Wilson went weekly with his grandsons to the Cub Scout meetings at their church and attended campout outs and Cub Scout events. However, as The Boys Scouts of America began to change, Mr. Grab found it difficult to reconcile their decisions with the scout values of being reverent and morally straight. Their home church, Calvary Baptist, made the painful decision to abandon its long history with the Boy Scouts. They chartered Trail Life Troop NC-0942 in 2013 and Wilson joined the Troop leadership team as the Treasurer. Today his son-in-law is the Troopmaster and his grandsons are active in the Navigator and Adventurer programs.

Continued in Part 2

About the Author

Stephen Ashton