When Tommy Neil was working too hastily, Scoutmaster Jack Rowland offered some advice.
“He'd say 'Tommy, TNQUE' when I would get in a hurry to finish something,” Neil said. “I would ask what that means and he'd reply, 'Think.' I said, 'Mr. Rowland, that doesn't spell think.' He'd smile and say 'But it made you think.'
“Now, I still catch myself telling myself 'TNQUE' when I get in a hurry. It's just something that stands out about my time with Jack. He made a real impact on my life.”
Rowland, the longtime leader of Boy Scout Troop 62, had similar influence on hundreds of boys under his tutelage. He didn't see us as an unruly pack that needed to be disciplined — although that would certainly be an apt description for many — but each as a young man, a work in progress hurtling toward adulthood.
After growing into maturity, we felt comfortable enough with his continuing friendship to refer to him as just “Jack.” At 94, he passed away earlier this month, and tributes primarily from former scouts poured in praising his influence.
Jim Watkins said Jack and his late father were “drinking buddies” — coffee drinking, that is.
“They would swap old scout stories and such,” he said. “When I got older and went away to college, he often would drop me a line or two talking about our beloved Dawgs. Jack came by the hospital when Dad died and had some comforting words. He was very important in my life, just as he was to thousands of others in this area.”
Art Fowler said Jack and Troop 62 “provided me with some of the outstanding experiences that made my years as a scout wonderful.”
“The program of scouting has always been a great part of my life, and Jack brought that to me with such wonder and beauty,” he added.
Mike Holt noted aside from his father, “Jack Rowland was probably the most influential male adult I came in contact with.”
“Through all the hikes, camping trips, merit badges and evening campfires, his steady presence encouraged me to be a better person,” he said.
Mike Fouts was raised in a single-parent home and called his old scoutmaster “an amazing influence on me as a young teenager.”
“He taught me how to swim and dive at camp one year,” he remembered. “It sounds like a small thing, but I used his technique to help others to swim. He also chastised me for trying to build a fire with pine needles!”
David Gaddy, a troop committee chairman for several years with Jack while his two sons were in Troop 62, pointed to an important aspect.
“Jack only knew one way to do things, and that was the right way,” he said. “He had a great impact on my two boys' lives, and it was their honor to be Eagle Scouts under Jack.”
Randy Poplin was sorrowful to hear of Jack's passing, and simply remarked that “many boys were molded into men by Mr. Rowland” and other scout leaders.
Troop 62's Larry Ruddell, who attended the 1969 National Scout Jamboree in Idaho with a conglomerate group of area boys, visited Jack decades later in an assisted living center.
“He was his old self,” he said of the visit. “That was last July. I feel the most sorrow for people who didn’t know our Jack.”
Wayne Jones called Jack “a great scoutmaster and friend (who) will be missed.”
“He shaped the lives of many a young man, including mine,” he said. “I worked with Jack and Mr. (Lamar) Wilson for over 25 years with Troop 62, and the memories have lasted a lifetime. For someone to not have any children of his own, he was a father figure to thousands.”
Brian Knowles remarked, “There was no finer man on the planet.”
Chris Day said the “first of many things” he learned from Jack was how to give a good handshake.
“There are people still today that comment on how I shake hands,” he shared. “He always had the time and a special way to teach life lessons.”
Greg Strickland (who helped pull together several of these comments) noted one pattern he still follows is dressing according to what many scouters might call “Rowland standards.”
“One of the things I still watch today is the proper length of a tie,” he said. “According to Jack, a tie is supposed to fall and touch the top of your belt buckle. I still get frustrated to this day, and have to retie many times to get it right! Also, Jack taught us how to honor, respect and fold the American flag.”
Frank Shaheen, who was not a member of Troop 62, traveled to Philmont Scout Ranch, New Mexico, with a group of scouts led by Jack in 1977.
“Just from being around him you could tell what kind of man he was — firm, but kind. No nonsense, scout uniform always pressed and looking sharp.
“He came up to me on the bus going back home and complimented me on having kept shaven the entire time, when several of the guys had let their beards grow out. He told me he appreciated it. I was surprised that he noticed, but he did — that's the kind of guy he was.”
Jerilou Albertson was certainly not a Boy Scout, but she was able to call him “Uncle.”
“When Jack graduated high school he went into the Navy … and he was always a part of our lives (when he came back to Dalton). After (his wife) Elizabeth passed away he came to eat with us on some holidays. He was dedicated to his scouts. I can remember seeing pictures of him in the newspaper at ceremonies or events with the scouts.”
Bill Bowen knew Jack in an employer-employee relationship from the family's Bowen Brothers Concrete business.
“But our relationship went much deeper, and much more personal than that,” he said. “The two words that keep coming back to me over the 40-something years or more that he was our office manager, and business manager, was honesty and integrity in his dealings. I'm certain that bled over into his scouting career as well, with many, many young men.”
Bill said Jack influenced him to take part in the Northwest Georgia Boy Scout Council, serving two terms as president in the late 1990s-early 2000s.
“At one point, prior to taking the position of president of the council, Jack said — and I think this was the early 1990s — 'You're not ready,' in so many words, or something to that effect,” he said. “Jack told me, 'It's too time consuming, you're not ready to take that on yet' basically. The next time it came around he gave me the nod, and his blessing, and I did so. He said, 'OK, it's your turn.'”
It's true that he and Elizabeth — the longtime organist at Troop 62 sponsor Trinity United Methodist — never had any natural children, but he knew time with family was very important. And the troop was an extended family, and a real family, for some.
If Jack Rowland taught me one thing above all the mentoring, instruction in outdoors skills and stewardship of the Great Outdoors, it was this — no boy, regardless of his position in life, is unredeemable. Jack accepted all boys into our ranks, from whatever socioeconomic level. Only God knows how many thousands of dollars in scout uniforms, merit badge books, camping and backpacking equipment, and gas for trips came out of his pocket.
Truett Cathy wrote a book called “It's Better to Build Boys Than Mend Men.” Jack Rowland was practicing the concept way before it was published.
Jim Watkins envisions Jack and other troop leaders — and scouts who have gone on — sitting around a campfire in heaven, drinking coffee and telling stories. It's a fitting image.
Mark Millican is a former staff writer for the Daily Citizen-News.