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Longtime Scoutmaster Jack Kepley joins Order of the Long Leaf Pine

posted Aug 28, 2018, 12:44 PM by Sapona District   [ updated Aug 28, 2018, 12:47 PM ]

By Mark Wineka, Salisbury Post
Published 12:00 am Saturday, June 9, 2018

SALISBURY — Here was the ruse: Scout leaders had asked one of their legends, 94-year-old Jack Kepley, to address a group of adults about the benefits of Scouting.

But the real reason Kepley’s family and friends wanted him to be at St. John’s Lutheran Church’s Faith Center on Friday evening was to confer on him the Order of the Long Leaf Pine.

The jig was up quickly when Jack walked into the room and saw the good-sized crowd of friends, family, his former Scouts, assistant Scoutmasters — and some people he knew had no business being there, such as Rowan County Commissioner Jim Greene.

“We all lied to you tonight,” Greene confessed to Kepley.

“I know you did,” Kepley shouted from his front-row seat.

Few people are more deserving of the governor-signed Order of the Long Leaf Pine, the state’s highest civilian honor. A World War II veteran and recipient of the Bronze Star, Kepley has done plenty of things to merit consideration.

But it’s his 81 years of involvement in the Boy Scouts of America — as a Scout, Scoutmaster and Scout leader in general — that set him apart.

Yes, that is not a misprint — 81 years.

In 1937, Kepley joined Boy Scout Troop 448 at his home church, Coburn United Methodist, and for 81 years he has lived up to all tenets of that oath, Greene said.

“It’s so beautiful,” Kepley said of the framed certificate he received. “I’ve never been so overwhelmed in all my life.”

He laughed, thinking back to the late-afternoon conversation he had with Grace, his wife of 68 years.

“Grace said she was going with me,” Kepley said. “I said, ‘You’re not invited.'”

You have to know Kepley to appreciate what came after he received his honor Friday night. He gave his talk anyway, telling three different stories from his days as Scoutmaster of Troop 448.

They were illustrative, he said, of what it means to be a Scout.

The stories touched on a 65-mile hike on the Appalachian Trail and an encounter with a bear; a New York City excursion when for a moment he thought he lost one of his 33 Scouts; and the successful exchange program Troop 443 had with Scouting counterparts in Wales.

When he was finished, Kepley asked whether there were any questions, even though a reception and many congratulatory embraces were waiting.

Al Wilson, the current Scoutmaster of Troop 448, told Kepley that with an award like the one he received Friday night, “the expectations are real high for your future service.”

Kepley himself was a genius at expecting more. For decades, the accomplished woodworker would carve Indian-slide neckerchief holders for senior patrol leaders, the most active Scouts and the many adult assistants he had through the years.

But with the handmade slides came expectations from Kepley that you would do even more for the troop.

“It’s a weight around our necks,” Wilson said, calling for everyone in the room with a slide to raise their hands.

On a more serious note, Wilson said if you think about the leaders in Scouting, “Jack Kepley is up there with the greats of all time.”

As a Scoutmaster and Scoutmaster emeritus, Kepley had been involved in the lives of more than 700 kids, of whom 142 have become Eagle Scouts. He was Troop 448’s Scoutmaster for 41 years, until turning the reins over to Wilson in 1992.

Kepley then devoted his time to Camp Barnhardt along Badin Lake and served as the camp director in 1995 and 1996. In addition, he instructed Wood Badge courses at the camp for Scout leaders.

As Scoutmaster, Kepley had taken his Scouts to Camp Barnhardt for 40 consecutive summers, missing only once when Grace was sick.

He also served 10 years as an inspector of Scout camps in the Carolinas to verify compliance with 75 BSA standards.

His personal awards have been among the highest ever given in Scouting, including the Silver Beaver, District Award of Merit and National Eagle Scouts’ Scoutmaster Award.

On its 100th anniversary in 2010, Boy Scouts of America asked for one person from each council in the country to be inducted into the National Hall of Leadership.

The Central N.C. Council chose Kepley, and the induction took place on the National Mall on July 25, 2010.

He also was one of the 10 national finalists in 2016 for the Glenn Shepard Excellence in Leadership Award. He was selected out of 2,000 nominations from 43 states and six countries.

Kepley has said the main reason he joined Troop 448 in 1937 was to hang out with his friends Jim Tarleton, Jack Russell and Paul Greenway.

His parents gave him 50 cents to join. In maybe the most interesting twist to Kepley’s Scouting career, he is not an Eagle Scout, though his sons Jay and Bill are. Jack never attained a rank past second class.

Scouting took a back seat during World War II. Kepley was an Army gunner in a tank platoon and was among the men who stormed beach after beach in a Pacific Theater campaign that for him included Leyre, Luzon, Bataan and Mindanao.

He also was part of the occupation forces in Japan. After returning home, he graduated from Catawba College in 1949 and built a successful insurance business.

“Jack is a full-fledged member of the Greatest Generation,” Greene said.

Beyond Scouting, Kepley has served in virtually every capacity at Coburn UMC, where the Scout building off South Main Street is named for him.

He has served as an auxiliary policeman.

He has restored a couple of houses.

He’s a licensed tree farmer, managing the acreage his family owns off Bringle Ferry Road and the place where many Troop 448 Scouts camped and explored.

In the past, Kepley has been named the Lions Club Man of the Year and the Civitan Club’s Citizen of the Year.

Contact Mark Wineka at 704-797-4263.

A busy sky: Cub Scouts help museum display model plane collection

posted Oct 15, 2017, 8:33 AM by Sapona District   [ updated Oct 15, 2017, 8:33 AM ]

By Staff Report 
Published 12:05 am Saturday, September 23, 2017 

SPENCER — About 35 Cub Scouts and their adult leaders descended on the N.C. Museum of Dolls, Toys and Miniatures Thursday evening to help in displaying 101 model airplanes. 

The Cub Scouts are part of Pack 306 at North Hills Christian School. The planes were part of a collection belonging to late model enthusiast Richard Leroy Young, who died in 2014 at the age of 75.

Pack 306 representatives were up and down ladders all evening hanging the many planes from the museum ceiling as part of a community project.

Young’s brother, Tom Young, donated the model planes and military vehicles to the museum on behalf of the family. Richard Young had 1,146 models in his collection, and while hundreds have gone to the museum in Spencer, others also were given to military museums.

Richard Young graduated from Somerville High School in 1957, and he served on aircraft carriers with the U.S. Navy, mentally absorbing the details of the planes he saw and using that knowledge for his model planes later in life.

Young never got to fly.

Rusher Earns Eagle

posted Apr 2, 2017, 8:43 AM by Sapona District   [ updated Apr 2, 2017, 8:44 AM ]

Published 7:20 am Sunday, February 12, 2017 

Bobby “Bo” Lee Rusher III, 16, received his Eagle Scout award on Sunday, Feb. 12, 2017,  at St. John’s Lutheran Church of Salisbury.

Bo joined Pack 443 as a Cub Scout, and earned the Webelos, Arrow of Light, and God and Family awards.   As a Boy Scout in Troop 443, Bo earned 27 Merit Badges, along with the Cyber Chip, Firem’n Chit, Fish and Wildlife Management and the Totin’ Chip awards. He enjoyed attending summer camps at Camp Barnhardt and Camp Daniel Boone, as well as camping and hiking with his fellow scouts.  Bo served as Troop Quartermaster and Assistant Scouts Leader. He is a member of the Order of the Arrow.

For his Eagle Scout service project, Bo led a team of 16 Scouts and volunteers in serving 120 hours at Salisbury High School’s athletic facility. Bo spent six months planning the repair and painting of the baseball field’s home and visitor dugouts and foul poles after meeting with Baseball Coach Mike Herndon.

A sophomore at Salisbury High School, Bo participates in baseball, football, Student Government, Crosby Scholars and the Rowan County Student Leaders. Bo is also a member of the 2019 South Charlotte Panthers baseball team.

As an active member of St. John’s Lutheran Church, Bo participates in the Fuel Senior High Youth Group, serves on the Youth Discipleship Committee and is a member of the Order of St. John’s as a Crucifer, Banner Bearer, and Torch Bearer.

Bo is the son of Bobby and Kathy Rusher of Salisbury.  His grandparents are Bob and Joan Rusher of Salisbury and Rodney and Susan Stalheim of Lenoir.

Boy Scouts collect more than 14,000 pounds of food for local food pantries

posted Apr 2, 2017, 8:33 AM by Sapona District   [ updated Apr 2, 2017, 8:37 AM ]

By Amanda Raymond 

Published 12:10 am Monday, February 6, 2017 

SALISBURY — Boy Scout packs visited neighborhoods all over the county to collect food for local food pantries during the “Scouting for Food” event on Saturday.

Once a year, Boy Scouts go around to different neighborhoods and drop off bags and explain the food drive to neighbors. A week later, they return to those neighborhoods to pick up the donated food and deliver them to local food pantries.

The packs ended up collecting 12,000 pounds of food for Rowan Helping Ministries, 2,500 pounds of food for Woodleaf United Methodist Church’s food bank and 385 pounds for Main Street Mission in China Grove.

John Barber, an adult leader for Pack 306, said the boys did all of the talking while visiting neighborhoods.

This was the first year kindergarteners were included in the event. Barber said sometimes they forgot what to say to the neighbors, but the older kids they were paired with were able to help them out.

Barber said the event helps get the boys out into the community and talking with people.

It is also a chance to talk with the boys about poverty and those who do not have the same opportunities as they do.

“It makes them realize not everyone is as fortunate as they are,” he said.

Kelly Hunsucker, cubmaster for Pack 375, and his scouts collected food in the China Grove area. He said the event teaches the scouts about their duty to their country and to helping others. He said it reinforces their lessons on being a servant leader.

Jeff Bays, district director for the Boy Scouts of America, said the boys were earning service hours and helping the community with the food drive, which is what the Boy Scouts are all about.

Bays said there were 50 scouting units in the county and the majority of them were out in the community collecting food on Saturday.

The scouts also reached out to North Hills Christian School to help with the drive. The school ended up donating 1,200 pounds of food.

At Rowan Helping Ministries, the scouts, adult leaders and other volunteers brought the donations in from vehicles, weighed the bags and sorted the food for the pantry.

Kris Mueller, director of resource development at Rowan Helping Ministries, said the food pantry had been low lately because of the busy holiday season.

“That depleted us pretty heavily,” she said.

Mueller said the annual donation from the scouts and Sunday’s donations from the “Souper Bowl of Caring” event, during which youth groups collect food and funds from their churches on Super Bowl Sunday, helps restock the shelves.

“Hopefully we’ll be in a little better shape,” she said.

Nate Valentine, food manager at Rowan Helping Ministries, said they give out 2,500 pounds of food a day and 12,500 pounds of food a week.

Food drives like “Scouting for Food” help fill the gap in food donations for this time of year.

“We’ve kind of relied on this being a big part of our year,” Valentine said.

Ann Barber, adult leader of pack 306 and chairperson for the event, said the event was truly a community effort, and the high energy of the scouts and adult volunteers was encouraging.

“It’s great,” she said. “It’s so positive. They want to be here.”

Scouts Give Blessing Bags to Homeless Shelter Guests

posted Dec 26, 2015, 9:07 AM by Rowan District BSA   [ updated Dec 26, 2015, 9:12 AM ]

Thursday, December 24, 2015 By Shavonne Walker 

It took a group of 35 Cub Scouts three months to collect toiletry items for a group of people they didn’t even know. 

Pack 254, chartered out of Bethpage United Methodist Church, took on the notion of being a blessing to others by creating “Blessing Bags” for the guests and clients of Rowan Helping Ministries. The boys, their parents and Scout leaders collected enough items for 205 bags.

Scout leader Darrin Jordan, a local attorney, said he was on Facebook when he read about the “Blessing Bags.” The Scouts in the past organized canned food drives for the shelter, and Jordan said he thought the bags were a neat idea.

“The kids had a blast. We got everything collected and assembled the bags,” he said.

He gave the children a list of appropriate items including toothpaste, razors, washcloths, hats, notebooks and pens.

The group stopped by the kitchen Wednesday where they gave out about 80 bags. The Scouts were encouraged to take the rest of the bags, place them in their parents’ vehicles and give them to someone who may be homeless.

The Scouts try to participate in a community service project each year, Jordan said, and this was one of them.

Reid Vanpelt, 10, said being able to meet the people at the shelter was a good experience.

“Sometimes a person needs a second chance,” he said.

Vanpelt said he introduced himself and was able to talk with a shelter guest, who said he’d also been in the Boy Scouts as a young boy.

The two talked about how the organization has changed over the years and the projects the children participate in today.

Lachlan Jackling, 9, said it was important for him to be able to help other people and good for him to “be a good person when you grow up.”

Noah Stowe, 10, enjoyed meeting other people at the shelter.

“It’s good to be able to help all of the people and experience new things and meet new people. It’s good because we can make a difference for them,” Stowe said.

Luke Thompson, 10, said he felt it was a good experience for him to spend time with the people who stay at the shelter and to “make them feel happy.”

There were a lot of smiles from shelter guests, volunteers and staff as the Scouts approached one person after another. Ronald Ransbottom is one of those shelter guests who received a Blessing Bag.

He jokingly told one Scout he’d be a fine Marine someday. The Marine Corps veteran said he’s had a hard time dealing with the death of his twin brother, and the Scouts brought a smile to his face.

Ransbottom said he felt blessed because “God wakes me up every day.”

“I’m appreciative for what I have,” he said.

Amy Goodell, who has been a resident of the shelter for seven months, said it’s wonderful to see the Scouts are starting out young learning to give back to the community.

Albert Shelton used to be a Boy Scout and said its an amazing organization that influences children in a positive way early in life. Growing up in his community, there weren’t a lot of positive influences for African American males.

“Kids today don’t have guidance. The Boy Scouts has a positive impact on our community and our nation,” Shelton said.

Contact reporter Shavonne Walker at 704-797-4253.

Colton Opel earns Eagle Scout Award

posted Dec 26, 2015, 9:01 AM by Rowan District BSA

Published Sunday, June 28, 2015 

Colton Opel, 18, of Salisbury, is receiving his Eagle Scout award today, June 28, 2015, at Christiana Lutheran Church. Scoutmaster Jeff Fleming of Troop 317 is presenting the award. 
Colton has earned 27 merit badges and is currently the troop’s Senior Patrol Leader. He is a member of Order of the Arrow. For his Eagle project, Colton collected 4,343 pounds of food for Rowan Helping Ministries.
The son of Joe and Jenny Opel of Salisbury, he is a 2015 graduate of East Rowan High School and plans to study engineering at UNC-Charlotte. 
Colton is the brother of Carly Opel and Cody Opel, also an Eagle Scout.

Cubs honor Arrow of Light recipients at annual banquet

posted Apr 3, 2015, 8:48 AM by Rowan District BSA   [ updated Apr 3, 2015, 8:49 AM ] By Sylvia Andrews 

In celebration of Lord Baden Powell’s birthday, the founder of Scouting, Cub Scout Pack 306 of North Hills Christian School held its annual Blue and Gold Banquet on Feb. 21, at the Spencer Moose Lodge.

During the event, Pack 306 honored its Arrow of Light recipients, Nicholas, Ryan and Samuel. The Arrow of Light is Cub Scouting’s highest honor.

Joe Steinman earns Eagle Award

posted Apr 3, 2015, 8:40 AM by Rowan District BSA   [ updated Jan 14, 2017, 6:13 AM by Sapona District ] 
Joseph Charles Steinman, 15, received his Eagle Scout award Sunday, Feb. 8, 2015, at First United Methodist Church of Salisbury.  Joe began his Scouting adventure as a Tiger Cub in Pack 442 in the fall of 2006. As a Cub Scout, Joe earned the God and Me, God and Family and the Cub Scouts’ highest award, the Arrow of Light. As a Boy Scout, Joe earned 28 Merit Badges and completed more that 69 nights of camping. He served as a Patrol Leader for his troop and as a Crew Leader at Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico.

- See more at:

Robert Clement earns Eagle Award

posted Jan 18, 2015, 7:14 AM by Rowan District BSA   [ updated Jan 18, 2015, 7:14 AM ] 

Robert Young Clement, II has earned the Eagle Scout Rank. Bobby is a member of Troop 333, St. Matthews Lutheran Church, Salisbury. A member of Cub Scout Pack 333 as a Webelos, he earned the Arrow of Light Award and God and Country Award. Bobby has earned 31 badges in his journey to Eagle Scout. He was received into the Order of the Arrow in 2012. For his Eagle Project, Bobby built a prayer garden honoring his dad, fallen police officer Robert Clement, his maternal grandparents, Jim and Helen Hill and his uncle, Paul Hill. Dedication for the prayer garden was held at Liberty United Methodist Church on Oct. 12, 2014, with church pastor Rev. Charlie Curtis officiating. - See more at:

Troop 443 High-achieving Eagle Scout deserves ‘merit’ pay

posted Nov 28, 2014, 7:43 AM by Rowan District BSA   [ updated Nov 28, 2014, 7:44 AM ] 

Jared  is a goal-oriented young man. In the fifth grade, he started playing the trombone, and now in the eighth grade, he’s holding down first chair for the all-county middle school band.

In elementary school, Hensley wasn’t satisfied when his third-grade science fair project won the Rowan-Salisbury Schools competition but didn’t make district competition. “The next time,” he vowed, “I’m going to state.” His next science fair project...

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