Wednesday, April 21, 2010

A Scouter Goes Home

William von Almen I, right, at my Wood Badge beading ceremony in 2003
William von Almen I, one of the most dedicated of Boy Scout leaders in the former New Orleans Area Council and the renamed Southeast Louisiana Council, went home to be with his Lord this past Monday morning. A past recipient of the Silver Beaver and Silver Antelope Awards presented on a local council and a regional basis, respectively, von Almen was among the best known Scouters from the New Orleans area. He and his first wife Mitzi donated thousands of dollars to several worthy projects through the years. Following her passing, Bill found companionship and love again with another distaff Scouter, his second wife Elaine. Bill and Elaine were so well known that they were featured in the promotional video placed on the National BSA Council's site when the Adventure Base 100 reached New Orleans the weekend before Mardi Gras this year. That video can be found here. Bill was a Vigil Honor member of the Order of the Arrow, Scouting's honor society, and served as the Associate Adviser to the Chilantakoba Lodge #397 and as the Vigil Honor Adviser for many years. He had also been acknowledged as a recipient of the Founders Award from the Order of the Arrow. He was a former Council Commissioner and at the time of his passing was the Vice-President of Programming. On a personal note, Bill was one of the most difficult and opinionated Scout leaders I ever dealt with over the course of my short Scouting career. When he served as my Wood Badge ticket counselor, we had huge arguments over what needed to be done in order to ensure that I was deemed worthy to have completed the five items that comprised my ticket. I am certain that I was as intractable as he was and I recall he even offered to resign on at least one occasion. But I would hear none of it. I wanted to do whatever was needed, even if it meant pleasing someone who was extremely hard to please. When he insisted I serve on the Introduction to Outdoor Leader Skills course in January of 2003 in sub-freezing weather, I wore shorts, partly in respect to "sweet old Bill," who long advocated that the only true Scouting uniform was the one with the short pants. The other reason was to prove to myself that I could do it. Yeah, I know; not the brainiest of moves. Despite my difficulty in dealing with von Almen, I still had the greatest respect for him. He gave of himself tirelessly to help promote Scouts and Scouting and was last seen at the Order of the Arrow's Section I-A Conclave this past weekend at Salmen Scout Reservation. He was obdurate and exacting and would reprove a Scout or a Scouter if he felt they were out of line. Yet he would also compliment them should they achieve a special rank or receive recognition. While it might not have been his nature to be warm and fuzzy, he nevertheless stuck to his guns about a great many things he believed in, especially how to keep America strong and the importance of leadership among youth members. He represented the best that this country stands for and was a staunch and devoted member of his church. A convert to Catholicism, he was one of the most adamant of adherents to his faith. Oftentimes, he would attend mass at Scouting events with his devoted wife Elaine. It is ironic that he died during the 100th anniversary year of Scouting in this country and that he will be unable to attend the Jamboree being held in July and August at Fort A. P. Hill for the last time. Both von Almens were looking forward to being there and his presence will be missed this year "on the hill." My prayers go out to his children, grandchildren and great-granchildren as well as his widow and I hope they will find solace in the legacy he leaves behind as a man who contributed mightily to the Scouting movement and whose mark on others will be felt for generations.

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