Ballwin resident Tom Gertz proud to be ‘oldest boy in the troop’
By: Betsy Zatkulak
A Scout is trustworthy. A Scout is kind. A Scout is cheerful and reveren, loyal and helpful. A Scout is obedient and brave, clean and thrifty.
These are some of the tenets selected from the Boy Scout Law every Boy Scout must recite when he comes up for advancement before the review board.
In the scouting world, these words mean something. They are words to learn, practice and live by.
No matter which tenet you choose, Scouts, ex-Scouts and leaders past and present believe Tom Gertz, who has served Boy Scout Troop 357 of Ballwin for over 20 years, lives by it.
Gertz joined Troop 357 in 1988. His son was already a Scout but the troop needed a leader. Gertz said yes, but only if his son’s friend’s father could co-chair.
Today, Gertz calls himself, “The oldest boy in the troop.”
“That’s because I act like a kid. I don’t want to grow up, so I’m just one of the boys,” said Gertz. Like any boy, he loves hiking but does not like to clean up after cooking.
His official duties have been many. First, he served as camping chair, then quarter master and since 1999, as unit commissioner, serving as a liaison between the district console, the pace and troop, and the “adventure crew.”
Gertz was also selected into the Order of the Arrow – a separate society for quality campers who “crystalize the Scout habit of helpfulness into a life purpose of leadership in cheerful service to others.”
“He is everybody’s dad and is the guide the Scouts all look up to,” said Bill McManus, committee chairman for Troop 357 in the New Horizons District.
“He is somebody that has made an impression on them that will last the rest of their lives.”
“He’s firm when he needs to be and gets guys to learn how to be leaders, but then he’s one of the nicest, joking around and having a good time,” McManus said.
Gertz is a master records-keeper too.
“It’s critical that those records are maintained in exact detail in the scouting world for (Scouts) to achieve those higher ranks,” McManus said.
Gertz has resided in Ballwin since 1971 and is a veteran of the U.S. Navy. He shares three children and four grandchildren, two of which are in his troop, with his wife, Pat.
Asked what he enjoys most about scouting, Gertz said, “It’s a chance to get some good camping in, some outdoor living, camaraderie and a chance to show boys a lot of different ideas of what talents and possible job positions they can have when they’re older.”
Eagle Scouts Jacob Goring and Kyle Ernst, both Marquette High seniors, have known Gertz since the first grade and think of him as a grandfather who has made scouting a worthwhile experience.
“I would describe him as passionate. He’s funny, caring. He just goes out of his way to make sure everyone has a great experience,” Goring said. “He pushed me to get work done, to help other people at all times and just do my best.”
Ernst described Gertz as “a big influence.”
“He really helped push all the Scouts and kept things interesting even though some of the activities weren’t as fun. He would always try to make them funny,” Ernst said. “We had 14 boys cross over from first grade and five of those boys became Eagle Scouts. That’s a high percentage because only 2 percent of most Scouts get Eagle and we had a lot more than the average group. I think Mr. Gertz really helped that along because of his devotion to Scouts.”