Scouts Attention! Scout Sign, Scout Motto: “Be Prepared”, Are we prepared to take the Scout Law? “We are prepared”. A Scout is Trustworthy, Loyal, Helpful, Friendly, Courteous, Kind, Obedient, Cheerful, Thrifty, Brave, Clean and Reverent.
These 12 words or points of the Scout Law are recited at every Boy Scout Troop 3 meeting to remind us on how we should live our lives to the best of our ability. Rod Kneen recited these words for more than 80 years and more importantly was a great example to generations of scouts as he lived those words. He was especially loyal, to his loving family, friends, his church and to his scout troop.
To me, Rod Kneen was a scouting version of the character Forrest Gump, in that he seemed to be present for important events throughout the history of Scouting.
Raised on upper Minerva Street he was only a short walk to the Derby United Methodist Church, which he attended with his family. The church has been the home of Cub Scout Pack 3 since 1927 and Pack 3 is the oldest Cub Scout Pack in America. Rod joined Pack 3 in 1932, just 2 years after Cubbing became an official program of the Boy Scouts of America.
Rod also performed in his first Scout Minstrel in 1932 and has participated in them every year since, except for the 2 years he was serving his country in the Air Force Reserves during World War 2. The Minstrel, now a Scout Gang Show, is the longest running show of its kind and helps generate funds to run the Pack, Troop and Crew and assist scouts in attending the Edmund D. Strang Scout Reservation.
In 1935, Rod joined Boy Scout Troop 3, sponsored by the Derby 2nd Congregational Church and he never left. His Scoutmaster was the late Edmund D. Strang, who became a lifelong friend and cohort. Rod spent many summers at Camp Irving on the Housatonic River, near the present Indian Well State Park, where he may or may not have been the lone bugler blowing middle of the night reveille.
In 1937, Rod attended the very first National Scout Jamboree, which took place on the Mall in Washington DC, where he saw President Franklin Deleano Roosevelt, and Scouting founders James E. West and Daniel Carter Beard.
In 1939, Rod was part of the Troop 3 contingent to camp at the World’s Fair in New York, where they served as Safety Monitors and through the RCA exhibit, he was able to witness the first public television broadcasts.
Also in 1939, Rod was a charter member of Senior Troop 33, which became Explorer Post 33 and is now Venture Crew 33, sponsored by the Derby Shelton Rotary Club. In the early 1940s Rod was also instrumental in helping to form Scout Air Squadron 13, named for his brother Colonel George Kneen.
Upon returning from the war, Rod became Post 33’s Advisor, a position he held for more than 60 years. While Advisor he was coach of Post 33’s basketball team that included Shelton Board of Alderman President John Anglace, the late Sunnyside School Principal Frank Skoronski and Bob Skoronski, who went on to Captain the Superbowl Champion Green Bay Packer’s Football Team.
In 1948, Rod shared the minstrel stage with the actor Brian Dennehy. Rod was in charge of receiving the donations from the troop alumni for the annual Minstrel and now Gang Show boosters and he loved receiving the little notes along with the donations from the generations of alumni. He was always a hit at the end of the shows as part of his brother-in-law Walter Petz’s “Beauties” or “Leftovers from the Easter Parade”. Who can forget in the late 1960s when he wore boots, flowered miniskirt, wig, hat, sunglasses and lipstick, holding the sign “Make Love, not war”. His biggest role in the show was as Stooge Director, for more than 60 years he worked with the explorers and crew members to perform run on one liners like “Big Dame Hunt” “Hawiia or Haviia” and of course the ever elusive “Mrs. Jones”. Even as of last year’s show, it was always a great honor to be selected as a Stooge to work with Rod.
In the late 1950’s Rod was part of the group of volunteers to make weekend trips up to Goshen, Connecticut to help clear campsites for the newly established Housatonic Scout Reservation. Renamed in 1990 the Edmund D. Strang Scout Reservation, the scouting paradise continues to provide Scouts of the Valley with a premier summer camp program. Rod continued to support the camp through covering the cost for his son, Rod to install lightning rods on all of the camp structures.
In 1969, Rod was one of the chaperones of Post 33’s first Europe Trip. Three weeks, seven countries, 40 scouts, what an adventure. This was the first of many big trips the Troop and Crew continue to make to expose the world to our scouts.
Last year Troop 3 celebrated its 100th anniversary and Rod was on hand to help celebrate that milestone by assisting in installing a time capsule on the Derby Green. He also helped honor Dr. Sherwood Lewis, the late Charles Stankye Jr, Jim Florczak and myself with “3 for Life Awards”. It was quite fitting since we were all Explorers under Rod in the 1940s, 50s, 60s and 70s respectively.
Rod was Troop 3’s 28th Eagle Scout and his love of Scouting had an impact on his family. His lovely wife Ruth was such a strong supporter of our scout groups. She was also involved in Girl Scouts with their daughter Robin. Rod’s son Boo is a Troop 3 Eagle Scout and grandson Jayson was a member of Pack 3 and Troop 3. Rod’s nephew Jim Connery is also a Troop 3 Eagle Scout and he also served as President of Housatonic Council BSA. Because of Rod, hundreds of Post 33 Explorers earned Eagle Scout Rank, including 21 in a single court of honor! Scouting is truly indebted to Rod’s family for sharing him with our Scouting family all of these years.
Rod has been honored numerous times by the Boy Scouts of America for his outstanding service to Scouting. He earned the Housatonic Council President’s Award in 1971 and the Silver Beaver Award in 1972. He was honored with the Spurgeon Award for Exploring in 1973. Rod was presented with a James E. West Fellowship Award in 1999, when he was also honored with the “3 for Life” Award for his service to Troop 3. Rod was quite touched when he was notified last month that he was selected to receive the Housatonic Council Distinguished Eagle Scout Award on January 3rd.
It should be no surprise that Rod was honored by the Valley United Way with the “Living Treasure” Award. He was certainly a good friend, a Good Scout, “3 for life” who lived the 12 points of the Scout Law and he was a living treasure to everyone in Pack 3, Troop 3, Crew 33 and Housatonic Council.
Randy Ritter, Scoutmaster, BSA Troop 3 Derby