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Brooksby Village holds party for the Girl Scouts at 100

At anniversary event, fond memories for many former members

By Wendy Killeen
Globe Correspondent / March 18, 2012
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As the 100th birthday of the founding of the Girl Scouts approached on March 12, Ethel Leonard knew she had to do something special.

Leonard, 90, and a resident of Brooksby Village in Peabody, figured there were enough former Girl Scouts in the retirement community to have a party.

She circulated a sign-up sheet for former Scouts and troop leaders, and 140 people responded. And on Monday, more than 100 of the women gathered to celebrate the birthday and share memories.

“Some of us knew each other, but not as Girl Scouts,’’ said Leonard, who joined a troop in Dorchester in 1933 and went on to become a Scout leader.

She said now the women have a new bond, and “I hope that we can have a few more get-togethers.’’

The party began with the Girl Scout salute and recitation of the Girl Scout Promise “to do my duty to God and my country, to help other people at all times, and to obey the Girl Scout laws.’’

They sang “Girl Scouts Together,’’ “The More We Get Together,’’ and, of course, “Make new friends, but keep the old, one is silver and the other is gold.’’

They had birthday cake and cookies made from the original Girl Scout cookie recipe, a far cry from today’s popular Thin Mints and Samoas.

And, they watched as Otie Doldt-Harpin portrayed Juliette Gordon Low, who founded the Girl Scouts with the first meeting of 18 girls at her home in Savannah, Ga., on March 12, 1912.

“I do this for my admiration for a truly remarkable woman,’’ Doldt-Harpin told the crowd. “I know you also have that admiration for Juliette Low and the wonderful, powerful, and fun program she created for girls in the United States.’’

Today, she said, there are 3.2 million Girl Scouts, the largest organization for girls in the world.

“Girl Scouts is special because it teaches kids how to work together,’’ said Trudy Dearborn, 80, a Girl Scout and a troop leader until she moved to Brooksby Village in 2005.

“I took my girls to overnights at Girl Scout camp in New Hampshire,’’ she said. “Not many girls [back then] went outdoors and learned to make fires.’’

A retired pediatric nurse at the former Hunt Hospital in Danvers, Dearborn - who wore her leader uniform to the party - last registered as a Scout in 2006.

Retha Clark, 77, who was raised in a small town in New Jersey, said she learned to canoe and swim at Girl Scout camp, as well as cooking and cleaning.

“I learned independence,’’ she said. “And I made lifelong friends. It was a wonderful experience.’’

Doris Spencer, 88, of Beverly, was a troop leader for seven years. “I loved it,’’ she said. “We got the girls together and learned a lot about setting the table and manners.’’

But, she said, her best memory is of a trip her troop took to Washington, D.C. “The girls took charge of the financing and spent two years raising the money,’’ she said. “It was a great trip, and they learned the value of money. It turned out to be perfect.’’

Joan Metcalf, 85, from Manchester, N.H., herself a Girl Scout, shared memories of being a mother of three daughters who were also Scouts. “Every time they got a badge, I had to sew it on’’ the sash, she said. “Then they finally got their sewing badge.’’

Many of the women said scouting has changed over the years, but in a positive way. “I think they have done a good job keeping up with the times,’’ said Leonard.

For instance, badges the girls now work toward include computer expert, science of happiness, and Netiquette, for making positive choices online.

Leonard said scouting continues to “help young women serve their community and become wonderful adults.’’

As the party ended, the women held hands in the traditional Girl Scout Meeting Friendship Circle and sang “Taps.’’

“Day is done, gone the sun, from the lakes, from the hills, from the sky; All is well, safely rest, God is nigh.’’

Wendy Killeen can be reached at wdkilleen@gmail.com.

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