Aquia District’s Richard “Dick” Haas, affectionately known as “The Ancient One” (aka, “TAO”, pronounced “TAY-OH”) throughout the National Capital Area Council (NCAC), has reached a milestone few (if any) other Scouters can claim anywhere in BSA – A living legacy of four simultaneous generations of active Scouts & Scouters from the same family in the same District!
TAO, with 84+ continuous years of active Scouting under his belt, began Scouting in New York City where, as a young Scout, he shook the hand of the Founder of Scouting, Lord Robert Baden-Powell, at the 1939 World’s Fair in Queens, NY. TAO and his wife Rita are now residents of Stafford, VA, where they moved from Rockville Centre, NY (Long Island) in 2002; they have been married 64 years! Since landing in Aquia District, TAO and his son Mike (with only 50+ continuous years of active Scouting) continue to serve NCAC Scouts and Scouters as Aquia District Roundtable Commissioners and Bear Claw Leadership Conference mentors and in NCAC as Wood Badge (WB) Staffers; Mike remains a registered Assistance Scoutmaster with Aquia Troop 26 (“26 KICKS!!”). In fact, the elder Haas was one of Mike’s WB Course Mentors when Mike had the honor of serving as Course Director/Scoutmaster for NCAC Wood Badge Course N6-82-19-1. And to return the favor, Mike served as TAO’s Order of the Arrow Guide at Camp Snyder when TAO earned Vigil Honors in the Amangamek-Wipit Lodge in 2019. So, that’s two generations, but who completes this Four-Generation Aquia District Scouting legacy?
Eagle Scout Ben Haas and his wife, Heather, with their sons, Ronin and Stellan, TAO’s Great-Grandsons, are now all actively registered in Aquia District’s Pack 242. As of this year, Ronin is a proud Lion, Stellan is a wise Wolf, and their parent Scouters Ben and Heather are serving as Den Leaders with Heather as Pack Treasurer too. Heather had been a Girl Scout for seven years from Brownies through Cadets; Ben was Senior Patrol Leader and earned his Eagle Rank in Aquia’s Troop 26 (“26 KICKS!”).
As a result, TAO’s active Scouting legacy now stretches across four generations of active Aquia District Haas Scouts & Scouters!!
But there’s so much more to TAO’s Eight-Decade Scouting legacy!
Going back to the beginning of Mike’s and his brother Alan’s early Scouting years, it actually started when Scoutmaster Dick Haas took Troop 712 of Manhattan, NY to summer camp at Ten Mile River (TMR) Scout Camps’ Camp Nianque on the shores of Lake Nianque in the 1960’s. Mom and the boys (too young for Scouting) would live in a rustic forest cabin (no bathroom or running water) at the other end of Lake Nianque at TMR’s Family Camp. Alan and Mike went on many Troop 712 campouts in all kinds of weather from the time they were about 5-years old until they were old enough to join the Troop themselves. Guess you can say Alan and Mike learned to “Be Prepared” as a way of life from both Mom and Dad.
When it was time to begin Scouting, Mom was the boys’ Den Leader (back then, “Den Mother”) in Pack 757 in Manhattan and TAO became Mike’s and Alan’s first Scoutmaster in both Troop 712 of Manhattan and later in Troop 40 when the family moved to Rockville Centre, NY in 1972. Troop 40 is confirmed by National BSA to have originally been Troop 1 and the home of BSA’s first Eagle Scout, Arthur Eldred. Guess you can say that BSA history follows TAO wherever he goes.
Alan and Mike Scouted together in New York during the 1970’s and served on the same summer camp Staffs at TMR Scout Camps’ Camp Ranachqua. Alan went on to also Staff at TMR’s Camp Keowa.
But that’s not where the Haas Scouting legacy ends!
Mike and his wife, Lisa, were active Scouters, in both BSA and GSA from the mid-1990s through about 2007, with their children, Jennifer, Benjamin and Alexander, from Springfield, VA to Okinawa, Japan and then back to Stafford, VA. Mike and Lisa were so active they were known as “Velcro Scouters” –wearing Velcro on their uniform sleeves to change leadership role patches more easily. Lisa was Jenn’s Girl Scout Troop Leader, Alex’s Den Leader through Webelos and Ben’s Troop’s Committee Chair at Camp Kinser, Okinawa, where the Marine Corps stationed then Major Haas and family. Lisa was inducted into the Order of the Arrow there too. Mike served as Lisa’s Assistant Den Leader, Pack Committee Chair and Cubmaster for Pack 103 and Assistant Scoutmaster for Troop 103. They both served on the Far East Council’s Roundtable, Training and Summer Camp Staffs – one summer highlight was the year everyone in the family was involved either staffing or attending the same Summer Camp on Kin Blue Beach in Okinawa, Japan.
Moving the family back from Okinawa to Virginia in 1999, Lisa continued as Alex’s Den Leader in Aquia District’s Pack 840 until he crossed over to join his brother Ben on the Scouting Trail in Troop 26 (“26 KICKS!!”). Mike served that Troop as both Assistant Scoutmaster and Scoutmaster and Jennifer successfully earned her GSA Silver Award.
Meanwhile, Alan and his son, Zach, began Scouting in Pack 539 of Kings Park, NY, where Alan served as Zach’s Den Leader through Webelos and, as the Committee Chair, Alan helped grow Pack 539 from 35 to over 100 Scouts – TAO’s Scouting Legacy continues!
There’s a Hebrew expression “Dor L’Dor” meaning “Generation-to-Generation” – The Haas family Scouting tree continues blooming with Scouts and Scouters who are proud to be the living legacy to the leader of the band.
More about TAO’s Scouting History
There aren’t many active Scouters in NCAC, or BSA for that matter, who can compare with TAO’s background as a WWII Navy Veteran and awardee for life-saving heroism, the latter for actions taken after the war, when he used lifesaving techniques learned as a Boy Scout and Red Cross Lifesaving Swim Instructor to rescue himself and the only two survivors from a public bus which plunged into the East River in New York City.
Besides actually shaking the hand of the Founder of Scouting, Lord Robert Baden-Powell, at the Boy Scout encampment at the 1939 World’s Fair in Queens, NY, TAO also met Dan Beard when he and his fellow Scouts stopped in at the Scouting Museum while hiking along the Palisades-Alpine Trail on the cliffs above the Hudson River in New Jersey. Scoutmaster Haas also met “Green Bar” Bill Hillcourt, the Scouter who literally wrote the book on the Patrol Method, when Green Bar Bill was a Staffer on TAO’s Wood Badge Course in 1966. In 2013, friends and family honored TAO with a full-sized brick on the Camp Snyder Dining Hall flag patio. So, if your Scouting Trails should cross TAO’s, shake his hand and talk with this living legacy of the Greatest Generation and Scouting’s history.
The Legacy Continues
TAO continues to inspire, train and impact untold numbers of Scouters and Scouts through on-going servant leadership roles at monthly Aquia District Scouts BSA Roundtable breakout sessions and on NCAC Wood Badge and Aquia District Bear Claw leadership Courses’ Staffs. What’s Bear Claw? Another example of TAO’s Scouting legacy across multiple generations. He started Bear Claw in his home District in New York and could have just let Bear Claw drop when he moved with his wife, Rita, to Virginia, but instead TAO brought it with him to share, planting new roots in Aquia District. So, his impact also includes 30 years of Youth-led BSA leadership training in New York and another 11 years (and counting) of Bear Claw in Aquia District.
TAO has served on nine NCAC Wood Badge leadership courses and two National Jamboree Staffs. He recently told fellow Scouters: “I am entering my 83rd consecutive year in Scouting and am still learning. Keeps me young at heart!” Active in his religious community at Beth Sholom Temple in Fredericksburg, VA, he still golfs and fishes with his buddies from Falls Run.
Like ripples on the water from a powerful Scouting Spirit dropped into our lake as a gift from the Great Spirit, TAO’s impact continues to move out in waves that extend beyond his (or our) visible horizon. TAO continues to be invited to speak to BSA Scout Units whose leaders want him to share Scouting’s history with their Scouts, Scouters and Parents.
When he was presented his 80-year BSA pin at an Aquia District Roundtable, during a time of substantial BSA policy changes and challenges, TAO used his time in front of the assembled Aquia Scouts and Scouters from Packs, Troops, Crews, Ship, and OA Brothers, to offer words of encouragement. He placed the momentous changes in historical context, based on his many decades and broader perspective of living through many changes in Scouting over that time. He expressed support for the changes and assured everyone that Scouting would be just fine. This kind of powerful leadership example and guiding light is emblematic of what TAO brings and will continue to bring to Scouting with all his heart and soul.
As TAO told an audience during a recent Eagle Court of Honor: “So you see, I’m proof that no matter how long you’re in Scouting or how old you get, there are plenty of opportunities to give back to Scouting and the Scouts who are following in your footsteps.”
TAO continued with a challenge for all Scouts & Scouters across all time: “I hope you give back to your Troop and Scouting as long as I have and that you continue on the leadership trail – it can be a life-long journey and I’m proof that it can be done! The only question left is – what will you do next for your fellow Scouts, your communities, and your Nation? A true Scout never stops serving others.” Dor L’Dor!!