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Anna Erickson, Forum News Service, Published August 14 2013

Chicago scoutmaster travels to Minnesota camp each summer at age 94

PONSFORD, Minn. – At 94 years old, Scoutmaster Russ Gremel has made a name for himself at Many Point Scout Camp.

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 served during World War II and 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.

O’Byrne 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.

Importance of respect

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, who is known for his storytelling and singing around the campfire.

His birthday is Sept. 5.

“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.”