Skip to comments.104-year-old was oldest U.S. Boy Scout
Posted on 02/18/2003 5:54:40 AM PST by Lorenb420
George E. Freestone, who joined the Boy Scouts when the organization was just starting in the United States and who was still active 92 years later, has died in Mesa, Ariz. He was 104.
Mr. Freestone was the United States' oldest known living Scout, said Brandi Mantz, a spokeswoman for the Boy Scouts of America at its U.S. headquarters in Irving, Tex.
Mr. Freestone remembered persuading his mother to part with $4 for his first uniform -- a Canadian Mountie-style hat, a shirt, breeches and leggings -- when he joined a Scout troop in Los Angeles in 1910, at the age of 12.
He liked to talk about the time his troop was visited by Thomas Edison. (Young George Freestone thought Edison, then in his 60s, seemed really old.) The troop also went to Buffalo Bill Cody's Wild West show. And on camping trips outside Los Angeles, the howls of coyotes sent a chill down scouts' spines.
The scouting movement, founded in England in 1907, was brought to the U.S. by W.D. Boyce, a newspaper publisher, who in 1910 filed incorporation papers for the Boy Scouts of America.
The movement's American beginnings were muddled, with several competing organizations claiming authenticity and troops sprouting independently. Mr. Freestone's Los Angeles unit was among the first, Ms. Mantz said.
George Elton Freestone was born in Safford, Ariz., on July 28, 1898, to pioneer stock. When he was nine, the family moved to Los Angeles, where his father opened one of the first driving schools.
The family moved back to Arizona in 1915 and Mr. Freestone spent his adult life raising cotton and alfalfa east of Phoenix. He tried to enlist in the First World War but was rejected because farmers were needed at home.
He also worked for the Arizona Department of Agriculture, rising from field supervisor to agricultural director for the state, a post he held from 1961 until his retirement in 1968.
Mr. Freestone never stopped attending scouting functions, and in later years made a ceramic eagle for each Scout who earned the rank in the area around Tempe, where he lived before entering the nursing home in nearby Mesa where he died.
His cousin, Louis Crandall, realized in 1998 that Mr. Freestone must be the oldest American Scout, a status for which he began to draw wide publicity.
Mr. Freestone was married to the former Vergil Glover for 62 years, until her death, and then for 18 years to the former Mazzie Webb, who died two years ago. He is survived by his three daughters, 30 grandchildren, 75 great-grandchildren and 25 great-great-grandchildren.
His 100th birthday was observed with an appearance on David Letterman's show, where he wore a Scout uniform. On his 102nd birthday, he drove 500 of the 600 miles to Provo, Utah, for the naming of a Boy Scout museum after him. (His wife, Mazzie, drove 100 miles but Mr. Freestone took the wheel when he became impatient with her slow pace.)
In 2002, he was the oldest bearer of the Olympic torch in the relay preceding the Winter Games in Utah. He was offered a wheelchair but preferred to walk.
His advice on life was pretty much what one would expect from the oldest Boy Scout: "Live a clean life."
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