1937 – 2020
Dave Wortendyke joined Troop 78 in 1970, 6 years after its founding and became an Assistant Scoutmaster. He was very active from the start and participated in everything. Over his years, he attended most Summer Camps, 4 Micro Adventures, at least 12 Minis, 5 Philmont’s, 10 Canoe Bases, 8 Sea Bases, and 5 troop designed special High Adventures.
Back in 1970, there had been 5 Eagles in the troop. Five years later there were 15 more. Dave’s biggest contribution during this period was to make summer High Adventures a reliable part of our annual planning. This plan laid out the schedule of adventures that the older Scouts could see and count on that would give them their own trip every year. This had an immediate impact on the retention of our older Scouts. We started producing Eagles at twice the rate as we had before.
In the late 1970’s, Dave joined the Big Brother program. This program matches boys from difficult home situations with suitable adults to provide some structure and guidance to their lives. Dave started working with his first Little Brother, Gerry Kissinger. This started to change his focus from older Scouts to the younger, patrol age ones. The troop was now retaining Scouts who wanted to go on adventures and in the meantime would become Patrol Leaders and Senior Patrol Leaders. The Patrol Method of Leadership development became cemented into our troop. However, we still had a lot of attrition among the younger Scouts and just like most troops, well over half would drop out in the first year. To them, a three year wait before they got to do the exciting trips was a long, long time.
In the early 1980’s, Dave became the Scoutmaster once again and he started working with his second Little Brother, Mike Bielkiewicz. He began to develop what would become, in my view, his most important legacy. The “Stairstep to Adventure”. It incorporated Mini Adventures into the sequence of High Adventures to schedule age appropriate trips that now covered every Scout in the Troop for as long as they were a member. Our retention rate soared.
He then introduced this program throughout Longs Peak Council. I met Dave during this period. At the time, I was the Scoutmaster of the Junior Leader Training program or JLT. It is now called NYLT or National Troop Leader Training. Dave made sure that Troop 78 was heavily involved in this week-long leadership development program held up at Ben Delatour Scout Ranch (BDSR.) He sent at least 4 learners to the course every year, mostly older Patrol Leaders and young Ventures. He also sent an additional 3-4 older Venture age Scouts to be on the Staff of the 3 JLT troops. In the two years that I was a JLT Scoutmaster, both my Senior Patrol Leaders in my course were from Troop 78. Jarrett Roberts and Paul Mantey were or would become Eagle Scouts and SPL’s of Troop 78 itself. By the time I had finished my 2 years with that program; I had met and worked with over a third of the Scouts in Troop 78 and almost all the older ones. Dave then recruited me into the Troop to become the dedicated ASM for the Leadership Corps now known as Ventures. Joining seemed very natural and I did that in 1983. Not only did I know a lot of the members, but I was strongly attracted by Dave’s camping and adventurous backpacking programs and the Stairstep to Adventure.
By then, Dave had turned Troop 78 into one of the top troops in Boulder County and indeed all of Longs Peak Council. The first thing I noticed when I arrived was the troop tee shirt with the emblem he designed. We also had our own baseball caps with an embroidered patch. These were soon followed by summer camp tee shirts and then High Adventure tee shirts. He changed the patch colors and the design evolved over the years and yet, remained the same.
He assigned trained ASM’s to specific Scouts to mentor them and perform their Scoutmaster Conferences. This gave each Scout an adult to talk to other than the Scoutmaster for as long as they were in the Troop.
Troop-wide communication was emphasized, and Dave started the first “Mountain Ears Blabbermouth.” This newsletter was assembled by hand and mailed to everyone for many years. We often had envelope stuffing sessions after Committee meetings to get the paper out. Every patrol was required to have a short article every month as did the Senior Patrol Leader. There were also trip reports and permission slips from the Trip Coordinators.
By 1990, the Troop was up to 50 Eagle Scouts and Dave introduced the Micro Adventure Backpack to the Stairstep. This was a better program for the brand new 11-yearolds. Rather than sending them on a much harder Mini Adventure, they had their own 2-night backpack trip to get them started. Once again, our retention rate jumped. Somewhere in there, he invented the concept of “Thorns and Roses” that we still use as the evaluation tool after all our programs.
Dave’s most fun innovation for me might have been the Learn to Ski program. It started in December with dryland training for the brand-new skiers at Scott Carpenter Park. They practiced putting their boots and skis on and walking around and sliding. The next day we headed to Winter Park in his big van that was set up just for skiing. At the end of the first day, we drove to a nearby church where we would spend the night in sleeping bags on the floor. Dave organized pot-luck food for dinner that we brought to reheat. After that, we headed out to swim at the YMCA. The next morning, we cooked, cleaned up, and returned to Winter Park. Dave was the best teacher of new skiers that I have ever met. He was able to take a young, never skied beginner and bring him up to speed on the blue Intermediate slopes by the end that trip. I had a Professional Ski Instructors Association (PSIA) teaching certificate so once I joined, he taught the beginners and intermediates, then passed them to me for bump training.
The Troop skied almost every weekend at Mary Jane. The only requirement to go was that a Scout had to make the campouts. This improved the participation on the cold weather campouts such as Pre Klondike and Klondike. On most of our weekly trips, we brought a grill and cooked lunch in the Mary Jane parking lot. At Spring Break, the Skiing Merit Badge graduates would pile into Dave’s van and we would head to Taos Ski Valley in New Mexico. We would often cook dinner out the back door of our motel Friday night and eat Mexican food Saturday night to end our season on the extreme steeps of TSV.
The final major innovation was to the On-To-First-Class program at summer camps. Prior to that, we had mostly depended upon that instruction being provided by the camps. It was pretty haphazard, and the camp staff was not trained very well. They were the same age as our Ventures and Dave realized that we could do a better job ourselves. He organized the ASM’s and Ventures to teach the various skills. I was assigned to organize an axe yard program. All this in-house training had the added benefit that the younger Scouts got to know the Troop and the adults. When you live and work with someone for a week, you develop relationships. About this time, my assignment at work had increased to the point that I was considering fading out. I returned to the first meeting after summer and the Scouts were excited to be back. One of the brand-new Scouts that I had met at camp in the axe yard walked up to me, locked eyes, and said “Hi, Mr. Hanlen.” Sometimes it is the little things that keep you going. Once again, Dave’s program caused an increase in our rate of retention and Eagle graduation. At our peak, we averaged almost 5 Eagles per year.
These well-planned programs encouraged adults to remain with the Troop for long periods of time. Bob and Aleine Munger supported us for 30 years starting in the late 60’s. We still store our propane at Dick and Helen Mitchel’s also from the 60’s. John Manty joined in the late 70’s and I joined in the 80’s. Sean Coleman and John Salvador from the 1990’s. Curt Carlson and Ken Wagers in early 2000’s. Then the Smiths and Porter Bertelson. Many stayed with us long after their sons had left the Troop. All of us served because of the organization created by Dave Wortendyke
He eventually became a snowbird and started spending winters in Florida, but it was always great to see his smiling face again each spring. Gradually, even that faded and now he is gone. When I look at this troop today, I still see almost all his programs and practices in place. He is still with us and always will be. He did an unbelievable job that has left his mark on society. For all of us who remain behind, this Troop and the job that we do will continue to do will be his legacy.
Yours in Scouting, John Hanlen Assistant Scoutmaster.
Let me begin by introducing myself. I am Jerry Kissinger. I met Dave Wortendyke in October 1978, when I lived in Gunbarrel, North of Boulder. I was matched to Dave by Lee Bartlett, through the Big Brothers and Big Sisters organization. We spent the next five years learning, growing and working with each other in Boy Scouts, skiing, swimming, racquetball, running, canoeing, underwater diving, bicycling, hiking, camping, ski repairs, home repairs, yard work, gardening, science projects, photography, multi-media planning and shows, and computing. A theme here? We did not sit around much. Maybe Dave wanted me to have a well-rounded and “experiential” base, going into my adult life. I can attribute more items in my life, than I can count, to having this friendship.
Dave was a friend… to many! Dave was a mentor… to all! Dave was an influence… on everyone that he met! Dave had many sayings that I remember vividly “If you work with this (head) you will not have to rely on these (hands).” “When the going gets tough, the tough get going.” “Never let an adult do what a scout can do.” “A good Scoutmaster is a Manager of Men and a Counselor of Boys.” “A Great Scoutmaster: Listens a Lot and Says a Little.” These sayings can be applied in many situations in life (leadership, family, volunteering).
This is indeed a sad day for all of us. We have lost a great person. We can be frustrated with ourselves that we did not have the final talk. Ask the final questions. Have a final meal with Dave. We can be regretful or have sadness, that why did this happen. Grieving Dave’s death and our loss is okay, to go through these emotions. The anxiety, guilt and remorse, they all come with grief. The best way to deal with all of that is to accept and feel the emotions and to recognize the fragility of life.
Dave may have meant something to each and every one of you. Personally, he was a guardian angel. I remember where I first learned to ski. It was on the East hill in Scott Carpenter Park, doing the snow plow, falling down and learning how to get back up, with the skis on, using the poles. A very simple lesson learned but has stuck with me for over 40 years. When you fall down, you have to be willing and learn to get back up and try again. He is also the only person I could confide in. I could talk to him about anything, and he would listen, because he never judged or made me feel less. He always had great advice ready for me, if I wanted it. He had a way of empowering me and helped me learn how to make my own decisions to be successful.
Dave never married or had children of his own. He built relationships with adolescents and adults alike. This must have fulfilled his need for a family and for carrying on his traditions. I can stand before you and say that Dave’s LEGACY lives on in me and my family. Let’s be thankful for all the special moments and memories that Dave has left us. With that, I hope that Dave will continue to live on within our hearts and our minds.
Day is done, gone the sun, from the lakes, from the hills, from the sky. All is well. Safely rest. God is nigh.
Written by Mike Bielkiewicz and delivered at St. Andrew Presbyterian Church, Boulder, CO on February 1st, 2020
I met Dave when I was a scrawny little 7 year old kid and my mom decided that I needed a male mentor in my life. I never knew my father and the Big Brothers program is a program whose mission is to “create and support one-to-one mentoring relationships that ignite the power and promise of youth.” I was introduced to Dave and we immediately hit it off. I was very big into baseball at the time and he played catch with me in the backyard of the Big Brothers offices here in Boulder. That’s all it takes for a 7 year old. Ironically, I never saw Dave TOUCH a baseball after that day. He immediately started to bring me along on scouting activities – primarily in those days it was troop ski trips. I was the annoying little kid who always got to sit in the front seat of the Super Scout – Dave’s 70’s style, light blue, Chevy Van – even though everyone else on the trips were much older than me. Of course Dave made sure I joined the Cub Scouts, and a few years later, I joined Troop 78 here at St. Andrew even though I lived in Lafayette. As you’ve already heard, Scouts was a way of life for Dave. And through the Scouting program, as well as his time with me, Dave was able to introduce countless young men to activities most of them likely would have never gotten to experience.
For me it was things like swimming. Canoeing. Scuba Diving. Camping. Skiing. Knots – how many Knot Nuts are in the room? Hiking. Backpacking. Photography. Computers. Slide Shows. Countless Slide Shows right here in this very room. Travel. Finances, Investing, and Budgeting. Healthy eating (although not all his teachings necessarily stuck with me).
What do all of these things have in common? They were not just a way to have fun – they also were tied to the Scout Motto: Be Prepared. A life motto. You see, Dave was all about imparting as much of his knowledge as possible into everyone he came into contact with, not just the boys in the scout troop, not just me and Jerry, but even other adults. He wanted us to Be Prepared for anything life threw at us. Dave wrote the original software that this troop utilized for many decades – Scoutware. We would lug around one of the first ever “portable” computers – a Zenith monstrosity with a tiny little orange screen – to the Scout Show in Denver just to share the software with any troops that were interested. Come to think of it, Dave was basically a pioneer of open-source coding. I think back also on Dave-isms. When asked why he carried two handkerchiefs, he always responded “One for showing, one for blowing.” (Although to this day I don’t know of anyone who “shows” their handkerchief to other people?). On any trip or adventure that Dave was on, one could always count on a slew of absurd puns, most of which he clearly made up on the spot. Come to think of it, Dave was a pioneer of “Dad Jokes” before it was a thing. You’ve heard about Dave’s Stairstep To Adventure – a scouting program that I’ve come to appreciate even more so now that I’m attempting to help lead my sons troop. When done right, the program is phenomenal, but you can’t imagine how difficult it is to get buy-in and get it implemented but Dave persisted. This summer I’m leading the first mini-adventure in my boys troop – a mini-canoe trip to Flaming Gorge Utah with my boys. A trip that Dave led me on when I was 12 years old. And just to reiterate Dave’s passion for these trips – at the end of last summer, I told him that I was planning to lead this trip. And even being in the late stages of the memory-loss affliction he had, he said to me “well that’s a trip I’d like to join you on.” And while I knew he couldn’t join us on this trip, he will definitely be there in spirit as I am planning the trip based on the meticulous records he kept of ALL of the trips he ever attended. Like I said, Be Prepared. Dave did more than just live that motto, he made sure we all did.
Dave was not a man who regularly showed much emotion, nor did he always outwardly show how proud he was to see people succeed, but I know for a fact he was. While cleaning out his house over the past couple of years I found a box full of Eagle Court of Honor programs. Each one was personally signed by the Eagle or Eagles who celebrated that night. I even came across my own, which I had no memory of signing. The thing is, there were tons of programs in this box. Yet as I continued to clean the house, I kept coming across more. And more. And more. All personally signed. And many of them had wonderful notes of thanks directed towards Dave. I don’t know what Dave’s intention was for all of those programs, but I like to think it was to remember just a small portion of those he helped to succeed. A memento of a job well done. Along that same vein, countless people sent Dave thank you notes over the years. Parents, proud of their scout’s accomplishments and Scouts themselves, maybe shortly after aging out of Scouts or even as adults, who commented on how many of Dave’s teachings have helped them in adulthood. Someone recently asked me if I had any idea how many scouts Dave had impacted over the years. This was a question that had crossed my mind many times over the past few years. My guess is well over 1,000. But the thing is, it’s not just the scouts. It’s the scouts families. The scouts children. The scouts nieces and nephews. The scouts grandchildren (after 65+ years in scouts, I imagine someone has had grandkids by now). And even further, what about all those scouts who went on to lead in their kids troops like myself? All of those scouts as well. It’s awesome. In the true sense of the word. Awe-some. Awe-inspiring.
If I had to describe Dave in one word…well, it would be very hard, but I think I’d choose SELFLESS. Dave was the most SELFLESS person I’ve ever known. EVERYTHING he did seemed to be for other people.
The time he spent here with the troop.
The time he spent here as a dedicated member of this church.
The time he spent serving his country in Vietnam, earning a Purple Heart when his building was bombed while he slept in it.
The time he spent in his career, where his dedication won him numerous awards and commendations to make sure the military would have the best communications devices and radios possible.
The time he spent in retirement, when most people like to relax and start taking it a little bit easier, no no, instead Dave joined an additional church and an additional troop in Naples.
The time he spent taking pictures including over 28,000 slides that he took between 1950 and 2000 and the countless photographs he shot once he went digital – so we all could remember those trips all these years later.
The time spent designing software in his “free” time to make scouting even easier over the years.
The time he spent with Jerry, and then me, teaching us life.
One starts to wonder where Dave found all this time. When you or I decided to take a breather and just “veg”, Dave was finding ways to help others. Dave was so good at finding a “need” and filling it. As a career electrical engineer, maybe this came naturally to him – but for someone to spend his life as a life of service to others – and applying what came naturally to him in EVERY facet of his life is…well…there just aren’t words for what it is. Just last weekend, I was at an Eagle Service Project for an older boy in my troop down in Littleton and was talking to another adult leader who heard I helped out with another volunteer effort the previous weekend and he asked me if there was anything that I didn’t volunteer for? And all I could think of was Dave and how what I do barely scratches the surface compared to how much he dedicated his life to others. SELFLESS.
I implore each and every one of you. Be more like Dave. Make the time. Help others.
Dave pushed me pretty hard to get Eagle Scout. Even though I generally advanced through the ranks faster than my peers, he still pushed me. Once, just shy of my 13th Birthday, Dave wrote me a letter calling me out for the fact that I hadn’t achieved a goal I had set to earn Life by a certain date. So he withheld my birthday gift until I accomplished my goal. While it was a hard letter to receive, he ended it by saying “Life rewards those who are doers. Couch potatoes get nothing. With love, your Big Brother.” I earned the rank of Eagle right here on this stage at age 16 – thanks to a big assist from Dave.
About a year before he moved into a memory care facility, we were packing for his annual trip down to Florida for the winter when he brought a bunch of file folders to me. In one of those file folders was the Big Brothers “Match Closure Self-Report,” filled out shortly after I turned 18 and aged out of the program. A couple of the questions and Dave’s responses really have stuck with me. One asked him to “describe the present relationship with your Little Brother.” Dave answered “It was officially for 11 years. It may be for life.” Amen to that Dave. Another one asked “What improvements or changes, if any, have you seen in your Little Brother during the time of your match.” To which Dave, one to never mince words, responded: “5000% – from an immature cry baby to a very self reliant young man. From a very self-centered spoiled little kid to one who cares for others.” Finally, they asked “What benefits have you received from this experience” to which he responded simply with “Many. Like a proud father.”
In the Catholic church, they talk a lot about saints and what it takes to become one. Dave was the most saint-like person I’ve ever met. One of the main tenets is to perform two miracles. All you have to do is look at Jerry, and his family, and me, and my family.
I misspoke earlier when I stated that “I never knew my father” – because I knew Dave. He was the best father any kid could ask for. Thank you Dave.