Scouting History

Scouting History in the Heart of America Council - August 2015

by Andy Dubill, Council Historian

Father Tom Waterman - The Scouting Priest

There have been many priests and other members of the clergy who have volunteered their time to serve the Scouts and Scouters who camped at Camp Osceola and the H. Roe Bartle Scout Reservation—but very few have approached the level of Father Thomas Waterman.  Scout Tom Waterman was inducted into the Tribe of Mic-O-Say in 1946 as Brave Glowing Maple Leaf.  While on staff in 1947 he was elevated to Warrior and Runner.  He was made a Keeper of the Sacred Bundle in 1949 and a Medicine Man in 1963 after exemplary service to camp as a Catholic Priest.

He is remembered fondly by “old-time” campers to this day.  In the early 1960’s Father Waterman was assigned to St. James Parish in Kansas City, Missouri.  St. James sponsored a Cub Scout Pack, Boy Scout Troop and Air Explorer Squadron 7054.  From left to right in the picture are Air Explorers Joe Dekat, Paul Boe, Joe McNamara, Jim Voelker, John O’Klause, Tom Stewart, Bill Brown, Ernie Bryant and Father Waterman.  The picture was thought to have been taken in 1961 or 1962 at an award ceremony for Squadron 7054.

Father Waterman spent many full summers down at camp and he even had a special “trailer” constructed prior to the construction of the Catholic Chapel on Chapel Hill.  The trailer had a living area with a kitchen, bedroom and bathroom and then the trailer folded out to form a large room with an altar where Father Waterman could celebrate mass with the Catholics who were down at camp each session.  He also made it a point to visit each Catholic Troop and Scoutmaster during the camp sessions inviting them to bring their Troop to mass or to see if he could assist them in any way.

Jim Voelker remembers when he was woken up by Father Waterman one night during his second year at Scout camp.  Jim’s father, who was the Squadron Advisor, had suffered a heart attack that afternoon at camp and was given emergency treatment without success.  He had a heart condition as a child although he told another father that day that he had never felt better in his life.  Father Waterman provided assistance and comfort to Jim and drove him back to Kansas City that night so he could be with his family during their time of grief.

In 2004 Father Joseph Powers of Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Raytown, Missouri recalled Father Waterman saying mass at the Bartle Scout Reservation from his camping trailer.  Priests with dedication to youth, like Father Waterman, were one inspiration that led men like Father Powers to join the priesthood.

In addition to all parish and local Boy Scout Council responsibilities, Father Waterman served as the National Chaplin (or Chairman) of the Catholic Committee on Scouting from 1966 - 1972.  Father Waterman died in 1998 but is still remembered fondly at camp.

If you have questions about Scouting history that would be good topics for future columns email Andy Dubill at adubill@aol.com .