McQueen, oldest active Girl Scout in Martin County.
Photographer: Photo by Deborah Silver - TC Palm
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JENSEN BEACH, Fla. - Martin County resident Elizabeth McQueen first recited the Girl Scout Promise in The Bronx, New York, when Calvin Coolidge was president. Fourteen presidents later, she’s still snaps a crisp Girl Scout salute.
Though Girl Scouts of the USA does not officially keep track of its oldest members, McQueen, at 97, is the oldest active Girl Scout in Martin County and among the longest serving in the country, said Natalie Gustafson, Girl Scouts of Southeast Florida membership manager.
On Wednesday, McQueen passed out Journey Award badges and presided over the conclusion of a year-long environmental awareness project by members of local Brownie Troop 30104 at her Emeritus of Jensen Beach home.
“I am so honored and thrilled to see all these beautiful children so excited about scouting,” McQueen said. “I don’t think there’s anything bad about scouting.”
And if anyone should know, it would be someone born only a year after Savannah, Georgia’s Juliette Gordon Low founded the first U.S. group of Girl Guides, later to become The Girl Scouts, in 1912. McQueen joined the scouts in seventh grade and went on to meet the organization’s founder twice.
“She was such a lovely person that I just wanted to see more of her,” McQueen said of Low. She still wears the medallion Low presented her on one of her visits.
“There are many things wonderful about scouting,” McQueen said after awarding each girl her badge and trademark hug. “First, it gives you a chance to meet people you have no other way of meeting. There are girls from all over. It broadens your scope.”
In addition to cooking, camping and the broad array of other scout activities, McQueen has traveled the world collecting vintage Girl Scout uniforms.
Nine-year-old Marissa Caulkins, who spent the year studying the Indian River Lagoon, drawing marine art and photographing the estuary with her sister Brownies, was impressed by McQueen’s scouting credentials.
“I just think it’s awesome,” Caulkins said.
McQueen moved from New York to her assisted living community about a year ago, but she has no plans to idly pass the time under the Florida sun.
She’s compiling a book on her family history, and a few months ago decided it might be time to return to New York and start a Girl Scout troop at an orphanage she knows of there.
“I have a good mind, and I should do what I want to do,” she said, adding, with a wry smile, “if I have the time.”
Standing nearby, McQueen’s son, Wilson, smiled and watched as his mother held forth with her fellow scouts.
“Yeah,” he nodded. “She still thinks she’s 80.”
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