Walk into Lewis Wood’s workshop in Danbury and you will see walls lined with plaques and photographs, symbols of his vast Scouting career which has spanned 70 years and counting.
Over the Christmas holiday, Wood got a special honor when the Stokes County Board of Commissioners presented him with plaques in recognition of his dedication to the Boy Scouts of America organization and to the county.
Family members and Scouts gathered at the Dec. 26 commissioner meeting to show their support for Wood. He also received a certificate from the N.C. Division of Parks and Recreation in recognition of his support of Hanging Rock State Park.
“I was really proud of (the plaques),” said Wood while standing in his workshop Monday morning.
Wood has received national awards such as the Woods Services Scouting Award for working with Scouts with disabilities. He has been given the Raven Award and received his Wood Badge — the highest level of adult Scout leader training available. He has been named Hanging Rock District Spark Plug and Scoutmaster of the Year for four years, just to name a few honors. But the plaques from the county were the first of their kind to go on his wall.
After 70 years of Scouting, Wood thought he had received all of the awards and recognition he could possibly get. “But they still come in,” he said with a chuckle.
He added sincerely, “But I’m not in it to get plaques … I’m in it to help boys.”
Wood joined Boy Scout Troop 412 as a Scout in the 1940s and went on to assist when he turned 18. He was Scoutmaster at Troop 412 for about 20 years — only missing one night, due to lighting striking his tobacco barn. He currently serves as assistant Scoutmaster for the troop. He is also the Scoutmaster of special needs Troop 440 and the Venture Crew at West Stokes High School. For about 30 years he has served on the Camp Raven Knob Cooking Crew and has attended the one-week summer Scout camp since the 1960s.
His wife, Maxine, sometimes asks when he is going to quit volunteering with the Boy Scouts, and Wood replies, “The day I draw my last breath.”
Wood is 83 years old, but age has not slowed him down. He still does not take any medications and he is gone many nights of the week to attend a meeting for the Stokes County Planning Board or district Boy Scouts or Hanging Rock Advisory Board.
There is one primary reason Wood sticks with Boy Scouts. “I’ve always liked to work with kids,” he said.
Now he has taught many Scouts and their kids and their grandkids in Stokes County. His former Scouts say it dawns on them later in life how much Scouting has helped them.
“That’s what makes you keep going,” said Wood.
And all of the Scouts hear the same message from him: “obey and respect.” He tells kids now, “I have to do it and if you live to 83 years old you’ll have to do it.”
One of his greatest joys is in leading Troop 440 for Scouts with disabilities. Wood said he was asked to take over the troop in 1989.
“Those are super kids,” said Wood of his Scouts in the troop. “They enjoy life.”
Wood has gone above and beyond the duties of a Scout leader. He has invested untold amounts of money in local Scouts and Scouting programs. He even built a camp site by the river nearby his house. He cleaned up the property, built the road, put in the pipes, and more. The site even has a bathroom and is now large enough to host Klondike derbies for Boy Scouts.
While Wood is still fully dedicated to the Scouting program some 70 years after joining, he said many youth today do not stick with it, complaining that they do not have enough time to invest in the program. Wood says, “You can do anything you wanna do if you wanna do it bad enough.”
Wood always made time for Scouts. In fact, Wood jokes that his wife does not complain about his dedication to Boy Scouts because she knew what she was getting into when she married him. He would sometimes leave before the courting curfew on Saturday nights to attend a Scouting event.
But times have changed since Wood was a young Boy Scout. Of kids growing up today, Wood says sadly: “They don’t know a poplar from a pine.”
“What we teach them (in Boy Scouts) they don’t teach in schools,” he said.
When he is not working with Scouts, Wood can often be found in his grandfather’s old house, which was converted into a workshop. His home and workshop in Danbury are located within a mile of where he was born. He married his sweetheart, Maxine, in April of 1948 and then finished high school in May. He went on to work for R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company for more than 30 years, only clocking in late one time, taking one sick day and asking off twice over that period. Wood and his wife had two sons and two daughters.
After retirement, Wood took up the hobby of making walking sticks in his shop. It was a way to pass the time during the winter months. He cuts the sticks in the fall and then strips them of their bark, sands and polishes them. He finishes anywhere from 500-600 sticks a year, some of which are sold at the Danbury General Store. Last year he gave 400 to Hanging Rock State Park, which brought in numerous monetary donations. This allowed the park to set up a new exhibit.
After 70 years, Wood says he does not regret the numerous hours he has dedicated to Boy Scouts and the community.
“It’s been an enjoyable life,” he said.
He adds, “If I have helped one boy, it’s been worth it.”