Person of the Week
Gary Nash, Jr.: Leader of the Pack
Gary Nash, Jr., a movable bridge project manager, felt the need to get the hands-on experience as an ironworker to do his job well. He’s taking that same attitude toward learning as the cubmaster of the newly formed Tri-Town Cub Scout Pack 13, which serves boys and girls in Chester, Deer River, and Essex. (Photo by Rita Christopher/The Courier | Buy This Photo)
Here’s a riddle: What is blue and yellow and runs in packs? Answer: Cub scouts.
Nationally, the Cub Scouts recently made news when the organization voted to admit young girls to the scouting program. Now the local Cub Scouts are making news by merging the cubs from Deep River, Chester, and Essex together in to one group, Tri-Town Pack 13.
The Chester and Deep River cubs have been a combined group for several years and now Essex is joining them. Youngsters from kindergarten to 5th grade are eligible to become cub scouts.
“It’s going to be a better experience for all of them,” says Gary Nash, who will be the cubmaster of the new group.
Not only is the group new; Gary is a new cubmaster. He has been a den leader for several years, but now he is stepping up to lead the entire pack. Dens, which meet twice a month, are divided by age, starting with lions for kindergarteners and running through tiger, wolf, and bear for each succeeding year until the two years of webelos, those cubs on the verge of graduating into boy scouts. All the dens meet together once a month for a pack meeting.
Gary is already making plans for those pack meetings. He is starting in October with a visit from master wildlife conservationist Maureen Heidtmann, with a program on bats.
“I want the scouts to come away with a realization that protecting bats is very important for us all,” she explains. “I plan to bring one non-releasable bat with me.
Heidtmann has a permit from the USDA to display the animals for educational purposes.
Gary says that today’s Cub Scout programs are at the same time both the familiar and different.
“We still emphasize core values but we have embraced technology; we have to be flexible about incorporating all kinds of skills,” he says.
For instance, hiking adventures may use GPS and there are interactive videos for various programs. In addition, the training for leaders in now web based.
“We try to be outside as much as possible and camp as much as we can,” he adds.
Cub scouts, he adds, must always do camping adventures with at least one parent.
“Different parents have different skills,” he says. “It is exciting for the kids to see new aspects of what their parents can do.”
Gary thinks the experiences of cub scouts are antidote to playtime filled with video games and cell phones.
“Kids have to get out in the woods, get dirty, catch frogs, learn about different kinds of knots. People walk in their own yards now and don’t know the names of plants and trees,” he says.
He is also eager to raise the visibility of the cub scouts in community activities. This year they have already been asked to help with clean-up after the Chester Halloween Parade and will also participate in a tree lighting ceremony at the gazebo on the Essex Green at Christmas. Before Memorial Day, the cub scouts also place American flags on the graves of veterans at local cemeteries.
Two of Gary’s children, Ben, 8, and Josh, 6, will be cub scouts this year. His daughter, Kelly, at 3, is too young to join. His wife, Julie, a psychologist, is also involved.
“I am the figurehead; she’s doing the work,” he says.
Gary, who grew up in Deep River and now lives in Chester, and Julie are both graduates of Valley Regional High School, but, because they were different years, they didn’t meet a school. They met when both were busing tables at Oliver’s, the now-closed restaurant once on the site of Scotch Plains Tavern.
Gary earned his engineering degree at Wentworth Technical Institute in Boston. He describes the practical emphasis the school provided as a good fit for him. Initially, however, he wasn’t as practical about getting his first job. In fact, he says he was working so hard his senior year he all but forgot about landing a position. Then he went to a school career fair to talk to employers. One employer he talked with seemed like a far reach.
“They did all the things that I didn’t,” he recalls.
Gary had concentrated on residential construction and the potential employer was involved with civil and public programs. Still, he was hired and has spent his career working on movable bridges. Now he is a project manager, but he has done a variety of jobs including iron worker.
“I needed the actual experience of construction,” he says.
The key question in movable bridges, Gary explains, is not simply that they move correctly, but that they stop moving when they should.
He is so busy at the moment that he has been leaving work at five in the morning and not getting back until five in the evening. But he is going to make room for his responsibilities as cubmaster.
“I’ll just have to do a little less of some other things, like cut the grass,” he says.
In what spare time he has, Gary renovates vintage heavy equipment and sells the refurbished machines. At the moment, there is a 1975 John Deere 301A tractor in his backyard and well as a 1973 Simplicity 40-41 bulldozer. He says he picked up the skills he uses in renovation working with his father, Gary Nash Sr. Gary’s father and his mother, Jackie, live in Deep River.
Gary is aware of the numerous activities that youngsters can now choose from but he feels that Cub Scouts has a special place, not only for the wide variety of programs, but also for the chance to learn about the outdoors and the values the scouting movement has always advanced. He sees another important benefit for cub scouts as they look forward.
“They go into Boy Scouts and then the world really opens up for them,” he says.
For information on Cub Scout Pack 13, email firstname.lastname@example.org. New members can join any time of year.