By Martin G. Blaise

The 1999 Lutheran Retreat and Camporee is being dedicated to Donald J. Blaise. Who was Don Blaise? He was my father and a man I respected very much. He died unexpectedly on January 25 during a heart catheter test. My dad's health had been risky since 1988 when he had five-bypass surgery after a heart attack. Doctors told him he could expect to live about 10 more years. I had no idea how close they would come.

My dad gave many years and many of his hours to Scouting. One of his loves was helping boys whether it was his own two sons or a complete stranger, maybe even a brand new Scout in a new Troop. Don Blaise served Scouting as a Scoutmaster, Assistant Scoutmaster, in various capacities on the Troop Committee, as a Commissioner and in other areas. He and Tom Wehmeyer put together the Lutheran Association of Scouters - Sam Houston Area Council, back in 1975. They put together the first Lutheran Retreat and Camporee in 1976. A camporee has been held every year except one since 1976.

Some of the best memories I have are working together with my father while we ran the camporee events. A lot of the boys probably remember him as the man that blew the horn to signal the starting or changing of events. He had the events timed just right so that a patrol could get the task done in about 15 minutes or less. For many years, my dad provided the materials needed to make the events work - such as the wood and string for string burning, the ropes for line toss and so on.

Don Blaise was a family man, a church-going man and a man who helped his neighborhood. He earned the Silver Beaver and the District Award of Merit, and he participated in the Woodbadge program in Scouting. He made many trips to summer camps with Scout Troop 399. He was the head usher at Our Savior Lutheran Church for many years. Don Blaise was named "Leader of the Year" in 1995 by the northwest Houston community newspaper, The Leader. He was the coordinator of the Citizen Patrol for his subdivision, Shepherd Park Plaza.

My dad was always volunteering for things. And, people were always asking him for help. Yet, he never sought out fame - he just enjoyed helping others. He loved the Lutheran Camporee - it was one of his events and projects. Don, along with Tom Wehmeyer, Billy Radtke, Ernie Callenius and Wolf Back (who passed awya several years ago) developed many of the ideas and activities of the Lutheran Retreat and Camporee.

One of those ideas was that of inter-mixing patrols. That is, taking boys from all the troops at the camporee and making new patrols. This way, patrols would most likely be even and there would be no super-patrols of all the biggest boys.

This method has proven very successful. It leads to boys taking leadership roles in the newly formed patrols, new friendships are formed and it shows how teamwork can get the job done. My dad always believed in every boy getting a fair chance. That's why some patrol events are designed for athletic ability, some for thinking ability and some just for fun. My father knew that every boy was different.

Don Blaise attended nearly every camporee, except for the year when he had the heart attack (1988). He was there when we had the crashing lightning and howling wind at Camp Brosing a few years ago. In addition to working with the boys and the troops, I also remember my dad playing dominoes with the staff during quiet time. He was hard to beat for a 42 partner.

I somehow feel like my dad's spirit will be with us at every retreat and camporee. I will really miss it the most when I sit down to breakfast or lunch with the staff at the camporee and my father won't be there. Maybe not in person, anyway. But I know that he would be happy to see that the Lutheran Association of Scouters will continue its work of helping Scouts, Scouters and their families.

I hope everyone enjoys the 1999 Lutheran Retreat and Camporee. I know my dad would have if he could be there.