The ultimate Boy Scout Lititz remembers Tom Lehmier
MELISSA HUNNEFIELD Record Express Staff
, Staff Writer
Tom Lehmier was the quintessential Boy Scout.
Lehmier passed away last weekend at age 90 and left behind a lasting legacy of service and patriotism, and was a positive role model to the young people of Lititz for the past 47 years. He was referred to by many locally as the "Grandfather of Scouting."
Lehmier founded Troop 142 in 1967 and served as Scoutmaster from 1967 to 2001. During that time, he oversaw the advancement of over 100 Eagle Scouts.
In addition to being a paragon of Scouting, he was also a collector of Scouting memorabilia. One of Tom’s most prized possessions was his Eagle Scout card – signed by the country’s very first Eagle Scout, Arthur Rose Eldred.
Joining Scouting was a life-altering event for Lehmier.
"The organization has been part of my life since I was 12 years old," Lehmier remarked in 2010, when interviewed during the 100th anniversary of the organization. "My whole life was changed when I joined. It’s meant so much to me to be involved in it as a member, volunteer and professional."
Bill Maney, current Scoutmaster of Troop 142, has a long history with Lehmier. In fact, way back in 1975, when he himself obtained the rank of Eagle Scout, Lehmier was his Scoutmaster.
Maney was quick to list all of Lehmier’s contributions to Troop 142.
"Tom formed the Troop in 1967, served as Scoutmaster, Committee Chairman, and Committee Member," Maney said. "He had for many years taken the troop to summer camp. We have Troop pictures for each year (1968-2013) and Tom is in all but one (the first year; he was taking the picture)."
Lehmier also served for 24 years as a Scout executive for the Lancaster-Lebanon Council, supervising and establishing troops throughout the area. He was also responsible for raising funds for maintenance and new construction. Lehmier’s largest campaign financed the construction of what is now Camp Mack, north of Brickerville.
Maney was eager to discuss how meeting Tom Lehmier affected his life.
"When I was in eighth grade, my family moved to Lititz where I met some neighborhood kids; one invited me to one of his Troop’s meetings. I went and was warmly greeted by a man with the biggest smile. His name was Tom Lehmier," Bill Maney said. "After meeting him, the other Scouts and leaders, I knew that this was the place for me."
"Growing up in Troop 142 was a terrific experience for me," Maney continued. "I was able to do more than I ever expected in Boy Scouts. I attended a National Jamboree and a World Jamboree, learned many things about life that I still use today, and I earned my Eagle Scout rank. All of this would not have been possible if I had not met Tom; he has been in the top five people that have influenced my life."
"Years later, when it was time for my son to move on to Boy Scouts, we went to all of the Troops in Lititz to see which one fit him the best," Maney added. "When we got to Troop 142, he was warmly greeted by a man with the biggest smile. It was Tom, he was still Scoutmaster. My son made his decision to join Troop 142. I was very happy that he was going to get the ‘Lehmier experience.’"
Retirement in 2001 didn’t slow Tom down. As Scoutmaster Emeritus, he continued to play an active role in Troop activities, camps and ceremonies.
"He has always been a role model for the Scouts and leaders of Troop 142," Maney said. "The youth, as well as the adults, really look up to him. Every once in a while we would have a ‘Lehmier Night’ for a troop meeting. Tom would come in and talk about his past from WWII or his past as a Scout executive or his past in Scouting. When we normally have a speaker, the boys are a little fidgety during the talk, but when Tom was talking, it was complete silence and everyone was mesmerized by what he had to say. Every time he showed up at a Troop activity the boys flocked to him to say hello and give him a hug."
Even in failing health, Lehmier still continued to attend meetings, ceremonies and parades where Scouts were involved, with Maney’s blessing.
"I wanted the Scouts in our Troop to get the ‘Lehmier experience’ while they could," Maney said. "They will remember it the rest of their lives, as I do. He has always loved Scouting, but he loved the Scouts more. To Tom, it was always about the boys. He will greatly be missed by me and anyone else that his life has touched. We all will remember and love him forever."
When interviewed on his 87th birthday, Lehmier himself mentioned the importance of sincerity when dealing with children, an idea that germinated way back in his college years.
"I said to myself while I was studying teaching, ‘If I work with kids, I’ll always tell them I love them.’ You can’t fool kids. They know where your heart is."
Lehmier’s long-time devotion to Scouting and the community led to him being chosen as the Grand Marshall of the 2010 Lititz Fourth of July parade. At the time, the Record Express received many letters applauding the decision.
"What a role model for our youth. Not only has Tom been active for decades with the Boy Scouts, but he also served his country with great honor and pride," wrote John Sukenik, former Warwick High School golf coach. "Tom was a member of the U.S. Marine Corps during World War II. He took part in action at Bouganville, Guadalcanal, Okinawa and Guam. For his service, he was awarded three Battle Stars."
"Mr. Lehmier, you are of great importance to the town of Lititz and to the many men, women and youth," wrote Trinity E.C. Assistant Superintendent Barb Harnly. "You have touched hundreds, maybe thousands of lives with your sincere caring, encouragement, acceptance and love. The world needs more male role models and mentors like you."
Tom Lehmier is, without question, one of the reasons Lititz is so "cool." His community pride was evident when interviewed following his Grand Marshal experience.
"When I rode the Jeep in the parade, and saw so many of my former Scouts, and felt the love and support of the Lititz community, I was touched to the depth of my soul. I thought of Norman Rockwell, who I once met, and realized that if he were still alive and wanted to paint a typical small town in the year 2010, Lititz would be it."
Lehmier’s obituary, containing more information about his very full life, appears on page A8.
More LEHMIER, page A3