It’s been the perfect day. You’ve spent the past hour inspecting each table at the Plant Sale before making one more pass to be sure you haven’t missed anything. Your cart is overflowing with perennials, Landis-grown vegetables, and a stack of books. You venture down the hill with the help of a young man from Troop 501, summoned by Scoutmaster Chuck Stephens.
It’s a familiar scene for many, repeated each year, spring and fall. Though the Boy Scouts will be back this May, the Arboretum is mourning the loss of our dear friend, Chuck Stephens, who passed away suddenly in January.
Chuck brought quiet and constant leadership to the Scouts. He loved everything outdoors – hiking, canoeing, camping, and caving. The troop came to Landis in 2004, with six boys and a few adults who knew the Arboretum was a natural outdoor classroom in which to learn. And what adventures they had!
Troop 501 is now led by Chuck Whitman. He and his wife Lisa, an Assistant Scoutmaster, recently shared some of their fondest memories of their friend Chuck Stephens. “Everything was about the kids.” Whitman remembered the time Stephens gave one of his sons a carbide lamp, indispensable to the serious caver. “That was the coolest thing… and as our second son got older, another one showed up.” Lisa and Chuck Whitman both recalled that Stephens “would do anything for the boys.” He could be a man of few words – if few were called for – and stubborn as they come, again when needed. Steadfast and loyal to Scouting, and to Landis, Chuck Stephens would take the first shift of camping out at the Arboretum’s plant sales. A solitary figure in a sleeping bag, perhaps in a tent or under a blue plastic tarp, he was a Scout through and through.
Chuck and Lisa Whitman are ably carrying on this important work with the troop that now numbers 18 boys, impressive growth from the original core of only 6. This is quite an accomplishment as they have no “feeder group” of Cub Scouts to swell their ranks. Adult participation and mentoring is a mainstay of the organization, with adult to boy ratio in Troop 501 typically one to one or better. Scouting gives boys the opportunity to learn new skills and to dream big. Even their popcorn sales are a lesson in money management, with much of the troop’s earnings providing direct support for their equipment and activities. “Anything you want to do – we’ll teach you,” Chuck and Lisa Whitman proclaimed. We know Chuck Stephens would agree.
Farewell, Mr. Stephens, and thank you.
Arboretum-sponsored Boy Scout Troop 501 meets Tuesday evenings at 6:30 PM at either the Landis Arboretum or the Duanesburg Elementary School. Visit their website at troop501esperance.scoutlander.com, or contact Scoutmaster Chuck Whitman at firstname.lastname@example.org or (518) 864‑5972 for more information.