Everyone is passionate about something. For Clyde Oliver, that passion is for serving as a role model and mentor for local Scouts.

“Boys like to have someone they can look up to, besides their dad. Their dad scolds them and things like that so they don't always listen,” said Oliver, an assistant Scoutmaster with Pine River-Backus Boy Scouts of America Troop 73. “So when they get another point of view from an adult, it has a lot of impact on them. ... I've just tried not only teaching them outdoor skills, but teaching them about life in general.”

To that end, Oliver is being recognized by the Pine Tree District of the Central Minnesota Council of Boy Scouts of America to receive the District Award of Merit.

It might surprise people to learn that Oliver spent very little time in the Boy Scouts organization as a youth.

“I was in Scouts just for one or two years and we just didn't do enough outdoor stuff,” Oliver said. “And I felt that I could learn more from my dad because he was from Walker. He was a hunter and a fisherman. So, only after a year or two, I left Scouts. But I've always been interested in the same things that Scouts do.”

Though he wasn't in the Scouting organization, Oliver sought the same outdoor adventure and adult guidance from his own father.

“We'd always come up to Walker and I started deer hunting when I was 12 years old,” Oliver said. “Being out in the woods with my dad deer hunting or grouse hunting, those were the times that I treasured the most. And I learned a lot from him about deer hunting, because something would happen and then he'd say, 'Well, you should have done this, you know.' OK, so I learned a lot about being out in the woods and following trails and in scouting out deer, and that's one of the things that he really left with me.”

It was through his parents that Oliver got acquainted with the lakes area, though he grew up mostly in the Twin Cities.

As an adult, Oliver took a job in accounting at Central Lakes College and built a house on the Pine River, three miles from the city of Pine River, where he lives today. He worked for the college for 31 years. He's been retired for eight years, and one of the ways he spends his time is to serve as an assistant scoutmaster.

He started serving as an assistant Scoutmaster in 1999, after Craig Anderson, of Pine River, talked him into volunteering. Oliver quickly learned from fellow Scoutmasters.

“Todd Switajewski was assistant at that time, and I said, 'Well, we can use some bungee cords to tie sleeping bags or something on sleds, or whatever,'” Oliver said. “He said, 'Boy Scouts don't use bungee cords, they use ropes.' OK, that was a little bit of a surprise for me, but otherwise I fit in.”

It wasn't long before Oliver started teaching the group a thing or two as well. He was part of a big effort to make the annual Boundary Waters canoe trip more affordable for every student. Since this was most Scouts' favorite part of the program, it made a huge difference.

Clyde paddling his favorite Grumman canoe during PR-B Troop 73's June 2019 Boundary Waters expedition.
Clyde paddling his favorite Grumman canoe during PR-B Troop 73's June 2019 Boundary Waters expedition.Denton Newman Jr.

“In 2000, they were going to go to the Boundary Waters,” Oliver said. “And I said, 'Well, why should we spend $300? Why don't we get canoes, see who's got canoes locally and paddles?' These other leaders had camps stoves and tents and stuff like that. And so, instead of having to pay $300 for a Scout to go to the Boundary Waters, their cost was $100, or a little bit less, and so on. I showed them how to use the packs that we needed.”

To Oliver, being an assistant Scoutmaster provides the opportunity to interact, guide and serve as a positive influence on young people who are getting ready to join society. This year and in years past he's met a lot of Scouts who have made him proud in the program and moving forward.

“In the 22 years, the boys that come to mind as outstanding people,” Oliver said. “One is Troy Switajewski; another is Josh Simek, Casey Dabrowski, Malachi Wipper and Marcus Lukanen. In the last year we've had seven new Scouts join our group. They are called the Frontiersmen and they are seven boys that are just go-getters. They are a cohesive group and they all get along, which is so important. They are a delight to teach - Lake Mongan, Caleb Shamp, Eli Shamp, Kayden Butricks, Hudson Good, Andrew Volk and Brock Altepeter.”

Despite earning the District Award of Merit, Oliver doesn't like the focus to be on himself.

“I don't care about awards,” Oliver said. “I don't care about district meetings. It's all about the boys, to me, and their learning process. And it's fun too. It's fun for me and I love doing that stuff.”

Travis Grimler may be reached at 218-855-5853 or travis.grimler@pineandlakes.com. Follow him on Facebook and on Twitter at www.twitter.com/@PEJ_Travis.