I first met Del at an Order of the Arrow function when I was a teenage Scout. That’s not surprising because Del was profoundly dedicated to the O/A and eventually received the O/A’s prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award. Back when I met Del he was still a young Scoutmaster in his 20s. Though Del could be very impressive, especially as a speaker, he was also very approachable to both youth and adults alike. And he had a great sense of humor. As I recall, Del kept me and a Scout from his own troop laughing half the night.
Speaking of Del’s troop, I have to say there was no other unit quite like it in our council, and perhaps in America as a whole. For example, Del’s troop still wore the traditional Scout uniform, just as Baden-Powell designed it – complete with Scout shorts worn year-round (including long stockings) and of course, everyone in broad-brim hats. Del deeply believed in the principles of Scouting laid down by its founder, and that included wearing full uniform on outings. I was astonished a few years later when I saw color slides of Del’s troop hiking in the middle of the Olympic Mountains in that same, complete uniform. But it made me think – how could a Scout not be proud of a uniform he had worn in the wilderness? I have to say that when I too became a young Scoutmaster in my 20s, I followed Del’s lead. I have photos of my own Scouts in the Olympics wearing that same full uniform, and yes – including those distinctive broad-brim hats.
My first, unforgettable evening with Del changed my perspective on Scouting forever. And Del never lost his ability to inspire the young. One of the last times I saw him he was attending an Eagle-Scout recognition banquet a few years before his passing. During the meal, Del happened to be paired with a new Eagle Scout who was only 14. And whenever I would glance in their direction, I saw that young Eagle fully absorbed in what Del was telling him. I remember thinking how lucky this high-achieving Scout was to be sitting there with Del Loder, and I was certain this promising young man would always remember the things that Del shared with him. Sadly too, I also realized that evening, that Del could not possibly be available for many more years, to offer his wisdom to the young.
Certainly, I never forgot what I learned from Del. He gave me an understanding of why Baden-Powell is uniquely important as the founder of an international organization. In the shrinking world of the 21st century, it becomes increasingly important that Scouting is available in every democratic and peace-loving nation, training the young to be successful citizens of the future. Because only a world organization can successfully lay the foundation for a lasting peace in the one place that matters – in the hearts of the world leaders of tomorrow. – Bruce Johnson