Narimatsu honored for lifetime of scouting

POULSBO — There is a Chinese proverb that holds a special place in Ray Narimatsu’s heart:

If you want prosperity for a year, grow grain.

If you want prosperity for 10 years, grow trees.

If you want prosperity for 100 years, grow people.

If that holds true, North Kitsap may be in for a great future due in part to Narimatsu’s work. A driving force behind revitalizing Boy Scout Troop 1571 in Poulsbo, Narimatsu is known throughout the region for his contributions to youth. But his philosophy is simple about why he does what he does.

“It’s our responsibility to the future to help these young men,” he said of his work with the Boy Scouts of America.

This month, Narimatsu stepped down after four years as Scout Master of Troop 1571. But those who know him best couldn’t let the moment pass unnoticed. The troop honored him last Tuesday night with a special potluck and ceremony reflecting on a scouting career that spans nearly 50 years.

Narimatsu joined the Boy Scouts of America in 1955, becoming a member of Troop 1 on the Big Island in Hawaii. He received his Eagle in 1973.

Service to the U.S. Navy, especially as a gifted photographer, took him from Hawaii and eventually landed him in Kitsap County. Though he took a hiatus from being involved in scouts for some time, the desire lay dormant in his heart. Coming to Poulsbo in 1996 with his wife Maureen and sons Kenji and Terry, the family soon became acquainted with the scouting life once more.

“My father was in scouting and he gave a lot and I guess it was just my time to help out,” Narimatsu said of what made him return to scouting.

At the time the Narimatsus joined Troop 1571, the numbers of active members had dwindled to about a dozen. In a year’s time, and through a heck of a lot of hard work, that number rocketed to more than 50. Ray Narimatsu became Scout Master in 2000.

“There was a time when they were practically the troop,” said Troop 1571 parent Tim McClanahan, who has worked with the Narimatsus for about five years. “Ray was the Scout Master and Maureen and I were the committees.”

McClanahan added that in the last four years, he’s counted about a dozen Eagle scouts Narimatsu has helped through the ranks. Scouting’s highest rank, Eagle is a level that an average of four in every 100 scouts receive.

“That’s an incredible record,” McClanahan explained of the number of Eagles 1571 has turned out.

During last week’s festivities, several Eagle Scouts from Troop 1571 spoke about the help the Narimatsus were to them.

“I know without Ray, it definitely would have been a lot harder to get my Eagle Scout,” said Steven Green. “He’s a life saver and has been behind me 100 percent.”

“I probably wouldn’t be standing here tonight if it weren’t for Ray,” added Kyle Mutter. “He’s helped me a lot through the years.”

But besides an inspiration for young men, and a few young women, (as the BSA does allow females) McClanahan said Narimatsu was also a good role model for parents. He recalled coming up from cub scouts with his son and having Narimatsu teach him that as the scout gets older, you have to let them do more and more things on their own — even if it means sometimes they might fail.

“I learned a lot from him,” McClanahan said. “Ray’s a good friend and he’s also my mentor. I’ve learned a lot from him as a parent, too.”

And as if revitalizing a slipping troop weren’t enough, Narimatsu found other ways to be involved in scouting activities such as performing duties at the district level, being a counselor for order of the arrow and organizing camporees for more than 300 participants just to name a few.

“He’s scouting the majority of the time,” McClanahan said.

“He’s involved in just about everything,” added 1571 parent Rich Starkgraf.

In fact, while Narimatsu may be retiring from a leadership role in the Poulsbo troop, he’s going to be continuing his other activities including working with Adventure Troop 552 in Silverdale, which offers more high-adventure activities for older scouts.

“So these guys are going to leave us, but they’ll be back,” Starkgraf said with a chuckle.

Last Tuesday’s celebration was also attended by several dignitaries from the Orca Council. They came with word for Narimatsu that he will be one of the recipients this year of the Silver Beaver award — the highest honor that can be bestowed on a BSA adult leader in a council or district position.

“I don’t know why or how he can do all that he does but I can tell you that Ray means something very special to us,” commented Brad Olsen, the Orca District Chairman. “We know when Ray comes to speak to us, he’s speaking for the young people in the troop. We know he’s very well grounded there.”

With tears in his eyes, Narimatsu said that once he receives his Silver Beaver, it will be displayed next to the same award his father received years ago.

Besides leading an Adventure Scout troop, Narimatsu said he plans to continue to be active in the Orca council and he recently went back to school at Old Dominion to seek a teaching certificate. He said he’ll also be around 1571 from time to time as his son Terry, a life scout, is working toward becoming the fifth Eagle Scout in their family.

But with all the praise heaped on him, Narimatsu remained humble about his contributions. Sweeping a hand toward a gym full of scouts and their parents, Narimatsu said they are the reason he has been willing to put in so many long hours. He also mentioned his wife, Maureen, and said she has contributed just as much as he has over the years.

“It’s all her fault I’m here,” Narimatsu said with a laugh of his constant scouting companion. “She twisted my arm. But you know what? I had a blast.”

He also credited the many adult leaders before and after him for continuing the great tradition of scouting.

“Even though they’re talking about me tonight, a lot of these people had a hand in all of these things,” Narimatsu said.

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