On the second Saturday of every month, Girl Scout Troop 61, the Merrimac Mariners, get together for an important meeting to discuss their next good deeds.
And “every girl has a responsibility for organizing her particular month,” said Rose Funk, troop leader for the past 65 years.
That’s no typo. Funk, 91, has led the band of scouts since the group was founded in 1948.
And while they’re technically not Girl Scouts anymore, the group that calls itself the Evergreen Pollyannas still hold true to each other and the ideals they learned through scouting.
“I call them my daughters,” Funk said of the group of women who are mostly in their late 70s. “We meet every month, rain or shine. We do a lot of things. We always considered ourselves a service organization. They’re such great, great ladies. They’re all doers. They’re all contributors to society.”
Ask members to talk about themselves and they quickly deflect praise onto others and Funk.
“Promise me this story will be about the girls and not me,” Funk said sternly to a reporter asking about the group’s history.
After a noncommittal pause, she continued. “Promise me now,” she repeated in a tone that brooked no argument.
But talking to Dolores Dearborn, 79, an original member of the Evergreen School District group, doesn’t make that promise easy to keep. For her, Funk is a hero.
“She’s a jewel,” Dearborn said. “She’s been going with us since we were 14 years old.”
The group started with 11 14-year-old girls who couldn’t find a troop in the county. Three went to a PTA meeting to beg for a leader, and Funk, a mother with three young sons and nary a daughter, couldn’t resist them.
“Here were these three little girls that wanted to start a scout troop, and they asked for a volunteer,” Funk said. “I just looked at those sweet faces and I couldn’t refuse.”
Original members of the troop still go to just about every meeting. They are Funk, Dearborn, Dolores McKell, Eileen Abernathy and Shirley Galloway.
But over the years they’ve also gained members, with a tally of about 17 right now that includes some of their original classmates, daughters and friends.
“A couple of them I started first grade with,” Dearborn said. “That goes way back.”
Through their time together the women have supported the arts, made quilts for the needy, visited hospitals, sent goodies to soldiers, put on fashion shows, provided college scholarships, held a variety of fundraisers and done pretty much every other community service activity you could think of.
But what’s perhaps most important is that they’ve also been a family and support system to each other that almost transcends time.
“We’ve all stayed friends,” Dearborn said. “Through the years we can just depend on each other to always be there.”
They’ve been there for one another through high school, wedding parties, the birth of children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. They’ve also been there through deaths, sickness and tragedy. And that’s something that despite their ages, isn’t going to change, Funk said.
“We’re not done yet,” she said. “We’re getting up there, but it doesn’t matter. We’re going to keep going.”
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