Langhus ends nearly 50-year scouting journey

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Jim Langhus attended his final meeting as scoutmaster of Monona’s Troop 38 last week, ending 48 years of involvement with the Boy Scouts. Here, he stands in front of the list of boys who became Eagle Scouts. (Submitted photo)

Some of the most memorable moments over the years, said Langhus (far left), included helping and encouraging the kids to push themselves to new heights, sometimes literally. (Submitted photo)

By Audrey Posten, North Iowa Times Editor

Jim Langhus attended his final meeting as scoutmaster of Monona’s Troop 38 last week, ending 48 years of involvement with the Boy Scouts.

Langhus said his scouting journey began when he was 6 years old, following in his older brother’s footsteps. After growing up largely in Rochester, Minn., then moving to Mitchell, S.D., he fell just short of becoming an Eagle Scout. Although Langhus admitted he doesn’t dwell on it too much, he said it is one of the reasons why he encouraged kids to stick with scouting.

“It gets tough to finish because there are so many other things going on in their lives,” he said. “But every time there’s an Eagle Scout ceremony, it’s really powerful and exciting.”

Langhus said eight to 10 boys have become Eagle Scouts while he’s been in Monona. That’s just one high point in a scouting career that’s included receiving the silver beaver distinguished service award and the district award of merit, as well as resurrecting several area troops.

That first troop was in Decorah, where Langhus became a leader after working at a scout camp for several years following high school.

“I changed the way I did stuff,” Langhus said of becoming a leader. “I was used to following my brother. As a leader, you have to be out of your shell and get crazy.”

Scouting allowed him to do that.

Langhus was scoutmaster in Decorah for four years before joining the Peace Corps and serving in Lesotho, in Africa, for three years. When he returned to the U.S., he ran the hatchery at Backbone State Park, then worked at Osborne in Elkader.

“Scouting caught up with me again,” he said. “I found out the Elkader troop had died, so I started it up and kept it going for five years. It’s still going today.”

Langhus also served as roundtable chair and training chair and on the district camping committee, but some of those commitments had to go when he got married, received his teaching certification and moved to Lansing. There, he started a Cub Pack that was falling away.

After two years there, he and his family moved to Monona, where Langhus taught science for 26 years. He and his wife, Linette, were Cub Scout den leaders, and Langhus also served as the Cub master for several years. He was the committee chair of the troop in the mid-1990s and took over as scoutmaster in the fall of 1999.

Langhus was quick to credit others for helping him run  each troop.

“It wasn’t just me. There was always a group,” he explained. “My wife also took up the slack [at home]. She was really as much a leader as I was. She just wasn’t seen as much.”

Langhus said giving up the scouting reins was a tough decision, admitting that age and energy level played a factor.

“I still know a lot and I can still do a lot, but the kids need young leaders,” he said. “You have to look forward in terms of the organization and, right now, we have a lot of good, energetic families. It was a good time to make the switch.”

As with teaching, Langhus said the thing he’ll miss the most about scouting is the kids.

“I enjoyed watching the kids grow up and accept challenges,” he said. “I liked to push them past their limits. People can do so much more than they give themselves credit for.”

Some of the most memorable moments over the years, said Langhus, were when the kids pushed themselves to new heights, sometimes literally. The troop made several trips to the Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico and the Spanish Peaks in Colorado, where they traversed some pretty high terrain, including a 12,400-foot peak.

“It’s seeing the kids who wanted to give up finally make it,” he said. “When you see that smile, that’s the cool thing.”

He’s also taken scouts on several trips to the remote boundary waters in Minnesota. They’ve been snowed in and even had an “ice camp” in the Yellow River Forest.

It’s all about helping and encouraging the boys to take good risks, Langhus said. Scouting also teaches them life and leadership skills. The kids might not think they’ll need to know how to tie a good knot or start a fire, but it will come in handy, he explained.

“It also helps them understand how to be a good group member, a good citizen, knowing that they’re part of the community, the state, the world,” he said. “What they put in makes it a better place for everyone.”

As a self-described “boy at heart,” Langhus said he’ll also miss participating in the activities, especially camping.

“I like to be active and doing things. That’s why I’ve done it for so long,” he noted. “Leaders have to enjoy it as much as the kids in order to hold and draw the kids’ attention.”

His scouting journey won’t officially end here, though, said Langhus. He’ll continue to help out at summer camp and teach merit badges if requested.

“I enjoy it so much, so I just can’t walk away,” he said. “It’s been fun, and it will continue to be fun.”

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