There’s no merit badge for this Peachtree City woman’s unique accomplishment
It was 22 years ago when Ute Whatley’s husband came home one afternoon and said he’d seen a flyer at a local school advertising a Cub Scout troop. He thought it might be a good activity for their two sons to be involved in.
It was, as it turned out, good for the boys. But it also changed their mother’s life in a way she could not possibly have imagined.
Ute Whatley — who has lived in Peachtree City for 28 years — has recently been recognized nationwide for her 13 years of service as Eagle Scout coordinator for the Fayette district of the Flint River Council of the Boy Scouts of America. Earlier this month the 1,000th young man was commissioned as an Eagle Scout on her watch.
“People who have served in this position in the past would do it two, three years at the most,” said Carl Lowry, spokesman for the Fayette district. “The remarkable achievement of having 1,000 scouts going through her supervision is significant.”
Of the four districts in the Flint River Council, Fayette produces the most Eagle Scouts, although Coweta is a close second, according to Lowry. It averages about 75 per year, with 95 making the grade in 2010 and a record of 102 in 2012, the 100th anniversary of scouting.
Ute (pronounced OOH-ta), born in Germany, has been active in scouting almost as long as her sons have. When her oldest was a Tiger Cub, one of her friends, who was the den mother, was unable to finish the year. “My husband signed me up and volunteered me for the job,” Ute said with a laugh.
Eventually she was den mother for both of her sons — Ben is now 28 and Nathan is 25 — and they both reached Eagle Scout status during her time as Eagle coordinator. She started in that post in January of 2004 when her predecessor had to step down that she planned to only do it for a few months since she was busy with plenty of other scouting activities at the time.
“The more I got into it, the better it seemed to get,” she said. “These young men are amazing. I’m the one who is honored by having them sit before me.”
Eagle Scouts are commissioned every month, and each candidate appears before a three-member board. Whatley is responsible for putting the various boards together, which is the most difficult part of her job because there are often multiple boards required in a month and she has to make sure that a scout is not previously acquainted with any member of his own board. Sometimes board members have to be swapped at the last minute because of this.
“I try to keep a minimum of three boards going (at each month’s Eagle event), and that is nine people,” she said. “I’ve had as many as eight boards going, and I think my highest number was 17 in December of 2012 because these young men wanted that 100-year patch.”
She has kept meticulous records throughout her tenure, including the dozens of adults she has met in that time, from parents of Eagle scouts to board members. She has made lifelong friends in the process.
“Some of these families have three or four go through, and I’ve seen an entire family’s sons on several occasions,” she said. “We sit with each scout a minimum of 20 minutes but sometimes we end up talking an hour or more.”
Lowry called what Whatley has done every month for 13 years “just a massive undertaking. We just can’t thank her enough for what she’s done.”
In addition to honoring Whatley at the local level, Lowry got word to the Boy Scouts of America at the national level and last week Scouting magazine published a story recognizing her achievement. Lowry believes she has set a national record but that has not been confirmed officially.
According to the Scouting magazine story, the 1,000th Eagle scout under her mentorship was named March 14. Later that evening Whatley was surprised with a reception attended by friends, family members and scouting officials. Lowry presented Whatley with a citation of appreciation, and she was also honored with a Henry Repeating Arms Golden Boy Eagle Scout Tribute Edition Rifle, the article stated.
Almost a decade after her youngest son left scouting, Whatley has no intention of slowing down.
“I did not set out to break a record at all,” she said. “I simply love what I do.”
Friend and fellow scout leader Carl Lowry described the surprise award ceremony:
“Upon entering the room completely unaware of what was to follow, Ute was taken completely by surprise to be in the presence of fellow scouters, friends, and family members. With Scout Executive Kelvin Williams, CEO of the Flint River Council, present, Fayette District Chairman David Worley conducted a enthusiastic and well planned program.
“Danny McCranie, Senior District Executive, made personal remarks that recognized, honored and commemorated Ute Whatley’s dedication and passionate service to the scouting. Long-term friend and fellow scouter Carl Lowry presented a Boy Scouts of America ‘Citation of Appreciation — 1,000 Eagles’ in addition to highlighting Ute’s 13-year tenure as the District Eagle Chair and 22 years of Boy Scout involvement. Dallas Worth and Ray Willocks presented VFW Certificates of Appreciation.
“The highlight of the evening was the presentation of a Henry Golden Boy Eagle Scout Tribute Rifle by Jeff Shafer. In personal remarks, Ute Whatley emotionally displayed her passion for scouting while thanking her family, the scouting community, and the Eagle Scouts. She also made it very clear that 1,000 is not an ending number as she plans to remain active for years to come.”