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Scoutmaster still comes to camp at 94

Scoutmaster Russ Gremel celebrates an early 95th birthday at Many Point Scout Camp last week. (Anna Erickson / Enterprise)

By Anna Erickson

At 94 years old, Scoutmaster Russ Gremel has made a name for himself at Many Point Scout Camp north of Ponsford.

He has been bringing his troop from the northwest side of Chicago to the northern Minnesota scout camp for nine years.

“This is the best camp we’ve been to, by far,” he said. Gremel has been Scoutmaster of Troop 979 for more than 60 years and has enjoyed every minute of it. The boys keep him young, he maintains.

“You’re always with kids so you don’t have a chance to get old,” he quipped.

Gremel is a military man and believes in strict rules and discipline. He was in WW II for five years and spent one and a half years in the Korean conflict. He is a retired attorney.

“He’s a very unique man,” said Arlene “Granny” Arvola, head cook at Many Point Scout Camp. “He runs a very strict program but in a friendly manner.”

The boys have to be in bed by 10 p.m. on the dot. If Gremel hears any chatter after 10, their tent gets moved right next to his tent for the rest of the evening.

“We call it discipline. I’m ruthless,” Gremel said with a smile.

“Yet the scouts all love you for some odd reason,” said Francis O’Byrne Jr., an Assistant Scoutmaster with Troop 979.

He participated in Boy Scouts as a youngster under Gremel years ago and now has a son in the troop.

“He knows a lot about everything instead of a little about everything,” O’Byrne added.

Gremel has taught and helped scouts with many merit badges over the years and continues to teach some of the older badges, including botany and signaling.

An early 95th birthday celebration was held at Many Point Scout Camp last week for Gremel. His birthday is Sept. 5. Everyone in attendance was thrilled to celebrate with Gremel, who is known for his storytelling and singing around the campfire.

“You can really tell he’s the heart of that troop,” said Travis Sutten, Director of Camping and Properties for the Northern Star Council of Boy Scouts of America.

Gremel said it all comes down to respect.

“The boys know where they stand with me,” he said. “The boys respect me because I respect them.”

Anna Erickson
Anna Erickson is editor of the Wadena Pioneer Journal.
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