Do you ever scan the obituaries, see a familiar name, then slowly realize that yes … that was someone who was important to you, years ago?
So it was when I learned recently of the death of Edith Metz, 90, of Ridge Farm. When I met her in 1963, she was 34 and I was 9. She was my den mother in Den 1, Pack 13 at Washington School when I joined the Cub Scouts.
I wanted to join the Cubs in 1962, but we lived in Westville then. Dads were expected to attend the monthly pack meetings, but my dad lived in Danville. No dice.
In 1963, my mother, sister, brother and I moved into an apartment across Madison Street from Washington School. Dad had spent eight years in Washington School and he didn’t mind attending the pack meetings there.
Brother Pat, then 8, joined the same day I did. Dad took us to Meis Bros., where we were outfitted with blue and gold Cub Scout uniforms, Cub Scout pocket knives and our introductory “Wolf” Cub Scout handbooks.
From then on, we lived and breathed Cub Scouts. We would wear our uniforms to school every Wednesday. As soon as the dismissal bell rang, we’d run straight to Mrs. Metz’s house, at the corner of Lafayette and Robinson streets. Every week, she had cookies and Kool-Aid waiting for us, plus everything we needed to play games and do craft projects – glue, paper, Popsicle sticks, pipe cleaners, buttons, etc.
Time has dimmed my memory of Mrs. Metz. Her obituary noted that she had worked at Illinois Bell and at TeePak, and had been a Cub Scout leader in Danville and Ridge Farm.
I remember her as welcoming, motherly, kind, and dedicated to helping boys do something worthwhile with their free time. Anyone who would invite eight or 10 boys into her kitchen every week had to be a saint. With her help, we learned the Cub Scout Promise, the Cub Scout motto, the Law of the Pack, the Cub Scout sign, the Cub Scout handshake, the Cub Scout code, the Cub Scout salute and the Cub Scout “Living Circle” … a communal interlocking of everyone’s pinkies and thumbs.
It was fun to gather at Mrs. Metz’s house with other boys our age. Pat and I, who were new at school, made friends there, learned new stuff, sold Cub Scout candy and Scout-O-Rama tickets, and earned our Wolf and Bear badges. When our school photos were taken, we made sure to wear our Cub uniforms.
At the end of the school year, the Cubs of Pack 13 went fishing in Lake Vermilion with our fathers. Pat and I caught a turtle and drank water directly from a stream, Daniel Boone style. When Dad found out, he was, well, not overly happy.
We moved back to Westville in 1964. I was in Cub Scouts there, then Boy Scouts. I earned my Eagle badge in 1970.
Thank you, Mrs. Metz. It all began with you.
Danville native Kevin Cullen is a former Commercial-News reporter. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org