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Major Greany--Soldier and Scoutmaster.

Shortly after his return from San Francisco to Detroit at the end of the 1919 Transcontinental Expedition, Captain William C. Greany's young son died. Greany then decided to undertake a second career as a father to all boys. In 1923, while working at the Packard Motor Company, he took over as scoutmaster for Boy Scout Troop 194 in Detroit, a role in which he served for 48 years. By the time Greany died in 1971, more than 2,000 boys and young men had passed through the ranks of Troop 194. They became doctors, lawyers, teachers, soldiers, priests, and policemen--and one, Jerome P. Cavanagh, even became mayor of Detroit.

By the mid-1960s, Troop 194 was the largest Boy Scout troop in Detroit with more than 110 boys and a staff of 25 senior leaders. Unheard of today, there was a waiting list for 11-year-olds anticipating membership. At every weekly scout meeting, Greany spoke to his young scouts about decency, patriotism, and the wonders of exploring the American landscape that he had seen up close while traveling across the country.

In 1938, Greany was appointed an Eagle Scout commissioner and developed a summer program at the Mackinac Island Service Camp, where Eagle Scout and future politician Gerald R. Ford proudly served. During World War II, Greany was promoted to the rank of major in the U.S. Army Reserve and placed in charge of 300 armed men providing plant protection for Packard's war production.

Greany also remained in touch with Dwight D. Eisenhower, and whenever Eisenhower came to Detroit, he invariably contacted Greany to revisit old times. "I got to be very close to him," recalled Greany. "I still called him 'Ike.'" When Greany retired from Packard in 1953, President Eisenhower sent well wishes: "News such as this reminds me that it is thirty-four years since you and I went off on a jaunt across the United States." Whether it was at a scout meeting or around a campfire, Major Greany often reflected on Eisenhower's organizational skills, congenial temperament, and personality.

Caption: Scoutmaster William C. Greany (center), a veteran of the 1919 Transcontinental Expedition, greets Michigan Governor John B. Swainson on Mackinac Island in 1961. (Photo courtesy of Robert E. Benjamin.)

Please Note: Illustration(s) are not available due to copyright restrictions.

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Publication:Michigan History Magazine
Geographic Code:1U3MI
Date:Jul 1, 2019
Words:381
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