CARIBOU, Maine — It’s not all that common to see a young Boy Scout rise through the ranks to become a scoutmaster and a beloved mentor to the next generations.
But that is exactly how Vaughn Keaton’s life has turned out, having served for 60 years as a Scout.
Keaton, 70, recently stepped down as scoutmaster for Caribou’s Boy Scout Troop 184, a role that he held for 35 years. Before that, though, Vaughn was a 10-year-old boy in 1962, joining the local cub scout troop just one year before his father, the late Rogis Keaton, became scoutmaster.
Since 1938, Troop 184 has seen 88 boys become Eagle Scouts, with Vaughn Keaton serving as a mentor for 64 of them. In the mid-2000s, Keaton led efforts to build the troop’s first-ever Scout hall, which opened in 2010. To honor Keaton’s lifetime of service, Troop 184 will call that building the Vaughn R. Keaton Scout Hall.
“It has been rewarding. I’ve seen a lot of young men become Eagle Scouts and go on to be engineers, teachers, lawyers; pretty much all walks of life,” Keaton said, on his time with the Boy Scouts. “Who knows where their lives would be without the Scouts.”
Keaton earned his Eagle Scout rank when he was 15 and first became scoutmaster when he was only 22. After a brief hiatus from the Scouts to expand his locksmith business in the 1970s, Vaughn returned as scoutmaster for the next 35 years.
In that time, Keaton took Troop 184 to numerous jamborees in the U.S. and Canada and helped expand learning opportunities for the Boy Scouts, including their annual Winterama.
While telling the story of the troop’s 1983 trip to Calgary in Alberta for the World Scout Jamboree, Keaton recalled how much his success as scoutmaster relied on the support of fellow troop members and parents.
After the troop’s bus broke down outside Quebec City, 40 hours from their destination, Keaton and the boys camped overnight outside a local repair shop.
The next day, Keaton learned that Loring Air Force Base was sending a bus and two drivers to Canada so that the troop could complete its trip. The Base knew about Keaton’s dilemma because of the quick actions of Scout committee members.
“That’s one of my best memories,” Keaton said. “It’s when I realized how much you have to stand on the shoulders of others in order to be successful sometimes.”
As they honored Keaton during a surprise ceremony on Wednesday, current and past Scout members said that without his dedication and hard work, the Scout Hall might never have existed.
Keaton approached John Powers, vice president of Aroostook Friends for Scouts, in 2007 to suggest building a new Scout hall, but Powers said he never imagined the building would come to fruition.
Keaton found people willing to donate time, materials and land to ensure the building came to life. After learning that Scout troops could not own property, he helped form a nonprofit organization — Aroostook Friends for Scouts —- which owns and maintains the building.
Located on 71 Aldrich Drive, the Scout Hall serves as the troop’s main headquarters and is available for local residents to rent for family reunions, weddings, celebrations of life and other gatherings. The hall includes meeting space, a kitchen and an Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant bathroom.
“Without Vaughn’s immense thought and foresight, the place we are standing in tonight never would have happened,” said Troy LaPlante, Troop 184’s newest scoutmaster.
For past Eagle Scouts, Keaton’s legacy goes well beyond the walls of his Scout hall.
John Powers’ youngest son Nolan, who works at Soderberg Construction, earned his Eagle Scout rank in 2015 when he was 17. He credits Keaton’s patience, wisdom and integrity as qualities that made him a great mentor.
“He had a lot to do with why I was confident enough to teach at Camp Roosevelt when I was 14,” Nolan Powers said, referring to the Boy Scouts camp in Eddington. “He was always a great role model.”