The Laurel District of the Boy Scouts of America continued its Friends of Scouting fundraising campaign while honoring two Elkin icons, both who are Eagle Scouts and served their country during World War II before returning home to leave their stamps on the community.
Dr. Jim Harrell Sr. and Fred Norman were honored with a breakfast at the Fairfield Inn Friday morning and were awarded with the first Good Scout Awards to ever be presented in the Laurel District, which includes Elkin to Mountain Park communities in Surry County as well as all of Yadkin and Wilkes counties.
“It is an exciting time in the life of the Laurel District,” said Michael Wilson, Good Scout Award chairman, as he opened Friday’s program. “We are here to honor two gentlemen who exemplify Scouting in their everyday life.”
The duo spent their lives growing up together, members of the Elkin High School football team and both receiving their Eagle Scout awards in 1939. Harrell’s father started the Elkin Scout troop in 1920, not many years after the Boy Scouts were founded in 1911, explained Harrell.
Mike Powell, scoutmaster of Troop 648, and Phillip Thompson, retired senior district executive for the Old Hickory Council of the Boy Scouts, shared the lives of Harrell and Norman as they presented each of them with the Good Scout Award.
“I’m humbled and honored to do this presentation for Dr. Harrell,” said Powell. “We are here to honor two of the Greatest Generation, two who have been in support of scouting a long time.
“Dr. Jim Harrell Sr., Dr. Jimmy as we like to call you in church and in your family, is one of respect.”
Harrell, after visiting the Marine Recruitment Center, joined the U.S. Navy Dental Corps and served until 1946 stateside. He rejoined the corps during the Korean War.
After serving in World War II, Harrell returned to Elkin, Powell said. “Dr. Harrell says this is where his story starts.”
He proceeded to serve three terms as an Elkin commissioner and three terms as Elkin mayor, leading the town in the development of a new water plant, an airport, a regional library, a sewer plant, fire station, hospital and two bridges, Powell explained.
“As humble as you are, you say you came in at the right time, but it happened because of you,” Powell said. “You’ve raised funds to support the hospital and dental schools. You have that gift of service, to give when need happens.
“My sons remember you, we love you, this community loves you,” he told Harrell. “Thank you for all you’ve done to influence us.”
“Scouting has been a guiding force in my life, the scout oath and scout laws,” said Harrell as he accepted his award and thanked those presenting. “It is all about trying to make boys into men.”
“My presentation is based on positive influence for humanity,” said Thompson as he began the introduction to Norman’s award. “Fred, you’ve been that way for a lot of children, my children. Thank you.”
Norman, during his sophomore year at the University of North Carolina, was drafted into service where he became a gunner on a thank serving with the 6th Armored Division of the Third Army led by Gen. George Patton.
“Fred was with him in D-Day and the Battle of the Bulge,” said Thompson.
Norman received two Bronze Stars for his heroic actions during the war. Thompson read the description on one of those citations, “Corporal Fred C. Norman … For heroic achievement in Belgium, given in the vicinity of Marvis on 4 January 1945. While serving as assistant and messenger in a forward observer group, he with utter disregard for his own personal safety, under intense mortar, artillery and small arms fire, successfully accomplished three separate trips from the observation post in the 9th Armored Infantry Platoon Command Post located approximately one hundred yards in the rear. In the latter part of the afternoon, with full knowledge of the withdrawal of the Armored Infantry outpost line of protection he persisted in the performance of his duty, assisting in the conducting of artillery fire so that one enemy tank was immobilized, four others were forced to withdraw and enemy equipment and personnel were destroyed. Through these actions corporal Norman reflected heroic credit upon himself the Battalion and the Field Artillery.”
“Fred, your service with Patton was highly recognized, and rightfully so. After being discharged, he married his sweetheart from fourth grade in 1945,” Thompson said. “Fred experienced a very successful business life, always giving more than he took. He was chair of the building committee for Hugh Chatham Memorial Hospital.
“He served as a positive influence for children, he taught them 26 years in Sunday school at First Baptist Church,” said Thompson, adding Norman was a scoutmaster for 27 years in the Elkin troop.
“Fred Norman’s positive influence to better humans will continue until Gabriel blows the old horn,” he said. “This is an honor you deserve. Thank you.”
“I can’t tell you how much this means to me and Jimmy,” said Norman as he accepted his award. “We traveled the world over and had a great life. All you being here makes me feel real good.
“Scouting has meant so much to me and my family,” he said.
Part of honoring Harrell and Norman was an invitation to those in attendance to pledge financial support to the scouts of the Laurel District in honor of them.
Kevin Cheek, district director for the Laurel District, said the goal is to raise $33,000 to help provide scouting opportunities for the Laurel area. Already about $10,000 had been raised prior to Friday morning’s award breakfast.
“We have a great district here. The Old Hickory Council serves eight counties,” he explained.
The Laurel District served 500 youth last year through Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts and Venturers, and leaders hope to organize an Explorer program in the future. More than 200 adult leaders and 26 charter partners, such as the churches who host the troops, make the scouting program in the Laurel District possible, Cheek said.
“Scouts earned 577 merit badges last year,” he said. “Hopefully those will lead to a career and help build on citizenship.”
Last year, the Old Hickory Council scouts provided 33,123 service hours in their local communities. The Laurel District scouts also collected about 5,000 pounds of food during the Scouting for Food drive, which were given to local food banks such as Tri-County Christian Crisis Ministry in Jonesville.
Cheek said the Journey to Excellence, a tool used to measure how well the scouting program is reaching its scouts, ranked the Old Hickory Council and its six districts number one in the southern region and number four nationwide.
“We have a very strong scouting program in our council. Without all of you from every level, volunteers supporting in the background to volunteer leaders in the trenches, we couldn’t do this,” Cheek said.
At the end of the program, Wilson announced that more than $8,000 had been pledged Friday morning toward the $30,000 goal.
Wendy Byerly Wood may be reached at 336-258-4035 or on Twitter @wendywoodeditor.