When sitting down with Josiah V. Benator, you can see an undeniable spark. He walks around like a book waiting to be written, with a confidence that puts Sinatra to shame, and a sharp wit that could cut down a redwood. He’s also 96-years-old. And while he lived through the Siege of Bastogne, has a Purple Heart (among other medals of merit) and carries a shrapnel piercing in his hand — he maintains an active lifestyle and a continued spirit of service.
Scout for Life
Josiah is a remarkable human who has always had a strong sense of adventure, and perhaps the most extraordinary adventure of all has been his involvement with the Boys Scouts of America.
Starting off as a scout himself in 1934, Josiah has been with the organization for more than 80 years and a Scoutmaster for more than 70. In layman’s terms, “that’s a helluva long time.”
The man is so dedicated that he continued his Scout leadership while in the service and throughout WWII. Surviving Normandy and the Battle of the Bulge wasn’t enough; he had to teach kids survival too.
Josiah is truly one of a kind. Scouting is an activity that requires both physical and mental dexterity, as well as constant community involvement. It’s a job, and not an easy one. You are looking after, directing and providing support to many young people at a time. As a result, scout leaders usually call it quits after a couple years. But, as we have learned, Josiah is far from the usual.
In his own words, “most scoutmasters retire by their fifth year, and those who make it to the five-year mark are given a special walking stick. I should have 14 walking sticks by now.”
In reality, Josiah deserves a lot more than a walking stick. Maybe a knighthood.
A Calling Via Email
After all Josiah has done, one might wonder why he hasn’t thrown in his badge-covered towel and picked up golf. The answer is simple: people need him. And he has fan-mail to prove it.
Over the years he has received quite a few emails from people telling stories about how his teachings and leadership have affected their lives in significant ways. He wanted to show us two in particular.
The first email he presented was titled, You, Me, and Scouting. It tells the story of a man who became an Eagle Scout in 1960. He goes on to tell Josiah that his teachings saved his life multiple times in the combat zones of Vietnam, where the mantra “always be prepared” was profoundly useful throughout every step of survival.
The second email was from a couple of proud parents who explained how their son was able to resuscitate a fellow soldier who had collapsed on base. Due to Josiah’s lessons on CPR and using an AED device, their son brought this man back, saving him from residual brain damage — maybe even death.
“These emails are what keep me going, they’re why I do what I do,” Josiah explains.
To him, being a Scoutmaster is a higher calling. He’s seen lives change and people grow. He has firsthand experience with the unparalleled value of scouting. He’s made a positive impact on entire generations of families and countless young minds. He has even saved lives. And this is why he stays involved after all these years.
Though Josiah retired from being a Scoutmaster full-time in 1991, he is still the diligent leader of the VeShalom’s Boy Scout Troop 73. He spends at least four to six hours each week planning and sending out emails. He interacts with parents, overlooks leadership and frequently attends meetings. Not only this, but Josiah is a devoted husband and father. He’s been married for 70 years and has seven children, most of whom are doctors. And as a member of the DeKalb Grand Jurors, his local synagogue, and a large, close-knit family — there is never a dull moment for him.
This incredible man defies senior stereotypes and proves that age really is just a number. And if someone were to tell him to slow down or take it easy, Josiah would probably yell, just like General McAuliffe did to the Germans in Bastogne, a hardy “NUTS!”
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