Two local volunteers are being saluted for devoting their time and talents to the Scouting community.
Somers Town Justice Michael J. McDermott and Ernest F. Wieting, the celebrated “Two Millionth Boy Scout,” are the BSA Westchester-Putnam Council’s latest Citizens of the Year.
They will be feted at a fundraising dinner in Mahopac later this month.
Scouts in the Courts
McDermott was singled out for “Scouts in the Courts,” a program he initiated 10 years ago.
It gives Scouts an Eagle’s-eye view of the legal system by allowing them—in an honorary capacity—to act as bailiffs, the folks who literally keep order in the court. They announce the judge’s arrival and deliver documents, among other things. Somers police officers still carry out duties such as maintaining court decorum and safety.
Scouts, who see everything from DWI and domestic dispute cases to traffic infractions—sometimes, even defendants in handcuffs—are not allowed to discuss the details of the goings-on outside court.
Besides helping Scouts earn merit badges for citizenship, participation “exposes them to the courts in ways they never would have,” said McDermott.
The father of four boys, including an Eagle Scout, McDermott has taken on many community leadership roles, mainly those aimed at protecting youth. He regularly sits on PTA panels on substance abuse and supports driver safety initiatives, for example.
The role of a justice, especially in traffic cases, is not just to pass judgment or levy fines, but to perhaps save the lives of young speeders and the folks who share the road with them, some say.
The variety of cases the Scouts—who range from eighth-graders to high schoolers—witness are interesting, but not nearly as important as learning about the harsh reality of making poor decisions, said McDermott, adding, “Choices have consequences.”
And that’s a valuable lesson the Scout, or any young person, can take with them as they hike down the path of life.
He estimates that 400 Scouts have benefited from the program so far.
McDermott, Somers’ town justice since 2000, is a former member of the town’s Planning Board.
He is also a member of the Lions Club and Chamber of Commerce.
He is acting city and town court judge in a number of Westchester and Putnam communities and is an arraignment magistrate for adolescent offenders at Woodfield Detention Cottage in Valhalla.
A former Bronx County assistant district attorney, McDermott also looks out for older folks by speaking to local organizations on internet safety, scams and laws relevant to seniors.
He and his wife, Fausta, have lived in Somers for more than 30 years and maintain a law practice there.
‘Two Millionth Boy Scout’
A Putnam resident, Wieting was hailed as the “Two Millionth Boy Scout” after he joined up as the BSA was celebrating its 41st anniversary in 1951. He was given special Scout credentials and directed by Brig. Gen. Carlos P. Romulo to recite the Boy Scout
Oath before a packed crowd at the Commodore Hotel in New York City. The event merited a big write-up in The New York Times.
Wieting became a temporary BSA spokesman, appearing on radio shows and in newspaper articles.
According to the BSA, Wieting grew up in the Bronx in post-WWII America. He joined an Explorer post as a way to escape the city for the countryside’s fresh air.
As an Explorer, he visited Floyd Bennett Field in Brooklyn, the city’s first municipal airport, where he practiced his piloting skills on a mechanical flight simulator. He camped at Camp Alpine and Ten Mile River Scout Reservation.
Wieting has been an adult volunteer for the Boy Scouts of America since 1980, serving as an assistant Scout Master for Troop 134. He became the Westchester-Putnam Council’s district advancement chairman in the 1980s and has helped many boys obtain the rank of Eagle Scout.
Wieting was district commissioner for six years, winning the Silver Beaver, the Lamb Award and District Award of Merit. He is Vigil Honor member of the Ktemaque Lodge, Order of the Arrow.
He had a career that spanned six decades of government, military and civic service, including stints in the Army and with the New York Police Department as a detective.
Wieting belongs to the Bavarian Club Edelweiss Westchester, the Yorktown Masonic Lodge and the Cortlandt and North Court Seniors. He is an elder with St. Luke’s Lutheran Church of Putnam Valley.
The Scouting Citizens of the Year dinner, a fundraising event, is Thursday, Oct. 24, at the Four Brothers Pizza Restaurant, 654 Route 6, Mahopac.
Cocktail hour begins at 6:30 p.m.; dinner at 7:30 p.m.
Tickets for the reception are $85. Gold sponsorships are $1,500; silver, $1,000; and bronze, $500.
To register, visit WPCBSA.org/SCOTY.
For more information, contact the WPCBSA at 914-773-1135.