The life of a Scout: Woonsocket's Arthur Keegan to be honored at Savini's reception

The life of a Scout: Woonsocket's Arthur Keegan to be honored at Savini's reception

Woonsocket native Arthur Keegan has been involved with the Boy Scouts since March of 1938. Today, he is still active with the Scouts serving as a camp inspector and sitting on the Narragansett Council Board of Directors. (Valley Breeze photo by David Wuerth)

WOONSOCKET - Arthur Keegan joined Boy Scouts of America the day he was finally old enough - 12 years old.

The year was 1938, and at the time, there were no troops available in the area for younger boys.

Keegan, who had grown up watching Scouts march in local parades, also had friends at his church - St. Charles Borromeo Parish in Woonsocket - who would tell him of the fun they had at barbecues and camp-outs.

Keegan was quick to sign up. And 76 years later, at age 88, Keegan is still a Scout, traveling to meetings and jamborees, and inspecting local camps to make sure they are safe for the kids who use them.

Asked what attracted him to the organization and kept him coming back all these years, Keegan speaks of a sense of achievement.

"If you wanted to get ahead, you had to pass all of the requirements," he said. "And when you got a badge, you felt good."

The badges, of course, are only for the younger boys, and after the age of 18, dedicated members of the organization receive awards for their service.

"I have so many around my neck they won't let me near a swimming pool," Keegan joked.

This month, he'll have to make room for one more, when the Narragansett Council leader receives the "Good Scout Award" at a reception to be held in his hometown of Woonsocket.

It's one more acknowledgement of the lifelong volunteer's contributions to the organization.

Keegan was a scout for six and one-half years before moving up in ranks and working as an assistant, then eventually a leader. For many in Scouting, the career ends there, but Keegan went on to serve on the district level, as a committee member, vice chairman, chairman, unit commissioner, assistant district commissioner, and district commissioner. From there, he went on to serve at the council level serving as the Health and Safety Committee chairman for three years; the Activities Committee chairman for three years; vice president for two years; assistant counsel commissioner for two years; and counsel commissioner for three years.

"I had a thing where I didn't want to stay at a job for too long," he said. "I moved around to keep things interesting."

His theory, he said, was that you shouldn't stay in a position for more than three years. The first year was spent learning, the second, mastering your duties. During the third, you find and train your replacement.

"Sometimes that's the hardest part," he said.

He took the same disciplined approached to both his education and his career.

Keegan's father died in 1942, when he was just 16. With two brothers and a sister to support, he was forced to drop out of school and go to work.

"I went to high school for one day," he said.

As the only breadwinner in the home, Keegan says he took work wherever he could find it during those years, often holding up to three jobs at a time. He held positions as a florist, a bartender, and in an ice cream parlor, to name a few. Eventually, he secured a job working for an electric company, where he started off testing meters. It wasn't long before he began working his way up the ranks.

He earned his high school equivalency, and enrolled at New England Institute of Technology to study air conditioning and refrigeration.

His bachelor's degree would take a little longer. Keegan attended the University of Rhode Island two nights a week for eight years before finally earning his bachelor's degree in business administration. He also became a certified protection professional and graduated from the Defense Industrial Security Institute in Richmond, Va.

All the while, Keegan's commitment to Boys Scouts remained constant. His son, Arthur Keegan Jr., became an Eagle Scout, and Keegan began serving as camp warden at Buck Hill Scout Reservation in Burrillville.

The highlight of his Scouting career however, and the memories that still bring a twinkle to his eye, happened at the National Scout Jamborees.

Held every four years at camps across the country, jamborees are attended by some 50,000 scouts on average.

Keegan has worked in some capacity at 12 of them.

His first was a trip to California in 1953. Keegan traveled to the event by train with a group of seven Scouts and served as "baggage master."

His most recent trip to a jamboree was just last year when he traveled - by car this time - to the Summit Bechtel Reserve in West Virginia.

"They have everything a kid could possibly want to do," he said of the events. "Everything" includes sporting activities, from canoeing and kayaking to zip lining, and entertainment. New badges are introduced at the events and patch trading - an exchange among Scouts of their home councils' unique patches - is a tradition.

"I just love seeing the kids have a lot of fun," said Keegan.

Keegan also volunteered for the Red Cross for more than 50 years, serving as first-aid instructor for 27, and holding around a dozen different leadership positions in that organization.

Among Keegan's lifetime of awards and recognitions for his service are the Silver Beaver Award, Kiwanis Club Citizen of the Year, District Award of Merit, Silver Antelope Award, Saint George Emblem, Ad Altari Dei Medal, Scouters Key, Wood Badge, American Red Cross Clara Barton Award, and the Shofar Award from the National Jewish Committee.

"They've been good to me," he said of the Scouts. "I've been good to them, too."

Keegan will be presented with the "Good Scout Award" at a reception at Savini's Restaurant May 31. Cocktails will be served starting at 5 p.m., with a family-style chicken dinner at 5:30. Tickets are $50 and can be purchased by contacting Juan Osorio, Scout Executive Northwest Region, at 401-351-8700, ext. 34.

All funds raised from the dinner have been earmarked for "camperships" and will be used to help low-income Scouts, who would otherwise be unable to attend, to go to Boy Scout camp.

"They're using my experience to raise money for kids, which is fine," Keegan said.

Keegan was married to the late Mary Keegan, and has two children, Arthur, and Eleanor Pierannunzi.

Trophy that the Boy Scouts gave Arthur Keegan for 65 years of service to the Scouts.