(Written by Larry Hribar)
Gary Brown McKee passed away sometime last week, the last week of July 2020. What can I say? Plenty.
I first met Gary Brown McKee back in 1998 or 1999 when I had just started working for the then Monroe County Mosquito Control District and Gary was the park manager at Bahia Honda State Park. He retired and we lost contact for a few years. As my sons got more involved with Scouting, so did I. Lo and behold, whom did I meet again? Gary.
Everyone needs a mentor, a role model, someone they can look up to and try to emulate. For me, that person was Gary McKee. Gary had a long and distinguished Scouting service record. He started with his own family in the Greater New York Councils, and continued on in the former Sunnyland Council (now part of Southwest Florida Council) and then here in South Florida Council. He was variously a Troop Committee Member, Cubmaster, Unit Chaplain, Roundtable Commissioner, District Commissioner, District Training Chair, Associate Chapter Adviser (Nok Su), and merit badge counselor, among other positions that I forgot. Gary was a Brotherhood Member of O-Shot-Caw Lodge #265 Order of the Arrow. Gary was also a member of Buccaneer District’s Eagle Scout Board of Review.
Gary was a four bead Woodbadger. That means he’d graduated from the course, served as a staff member, then served as course director.
Gary had been a radioman in the Coast Guard, and he wore the “MORSE” interpreter strip on his Scout uniform – one of the rarer ones, to be sure. Something that few people knew about Gary: when the BSA National organization decided to create a new merit badge, Signs, Signals, and Codes, Gary was invited to be a member of the nationwide committee that wrote the requirements and instructional material for the badge.
Gary and I often rode together to attend the South Florida Council Program Committee meetings. We’d leave at around 4:30 PM and still usually didn’t arrive until 7:45 PM – 15 minutes late! We had many interesting and important discussions on those trips. I will always treasure the time we spent together. When we returned to Marathon, Gary never forgot to tell me to say hello to my wife and children. He really liked all of them.
Among Gary’s many Scouting awards were the District Award of Merit (service above and beyond at the district level), Silver Beaver (service above and beyond at the council level), and the Silver Conch Award (Buccaneer District in-house award for exceptional service). Nok Su Chapter presented Gary with the first ever Soaring Seagull Award (exceptional service to the chapter). He had more awards, that I don’t recall right now. One other award was the Arrowhead Award for commissioners.
Gary was nominated for the Vigil Honor six times that I know of. That particular honor eluded him, but in my mind Gary truly deserved the Vigil Honor and to me is a Vigil Honor brother. (I am Achgiguwen and I kept the vigil on May 6, 1979, while a member of Kiasutha Lodge #57.) Gary, you are Wapantpeulenno – Grayheaded Man, keeping the eternal vigil. Until we meet again, friend.