J. Walter Keating was born Feb. 17, 1910, in Farmington, youngest son of Jeremiah and Catherine Sullivan Keating. He graduated from Brockport State Teachers College in 1937 and received a master’s degree from Cornell University in 1950.
J. Walter Keating taught grades one through eight at a one-room rural schoolhouse in Billsboro and then became a junior high social studies teacher at Marcus Whitman Central School, Rushville, from which he retired in 1976, after 33 years of service. Although retired, he continued to volunteer at the school daily until 1990, including teaching swimming to elementary students. To celebrate his 80th birthday, school officials honored Mr. Keating with a limousine ride to school, a red carpet, and a brunch.
Mr. Keating became involved in Boy Scouting in 1945. Mr. Keating was also one of the first member’s of Ganeodiyo Lodge and served as one of the earliest Lodge Advisors. He was the first Vigil Honor member from Ganeodiyo and his Vigil name was “The Reformer”. Mr. Keating was best known as “Mr. Philmont.” For 34 years he coordinated annual four-week trips for about 40 older Scouts from Ontario, Seneca, Wayne and Yates counties to Philmont Scout Ranch, near Cimarron, N.M., beginning in 1954.
During those years, about 1,500 Scouts and their adult leaders visited the ranch for 10-day, 50-mile hiking and camping trips. Mr. Keating is believed to have taken more Scouts to Philmont than anyone else in the history of the ranch as of 1992.
Mr. Keating received numerous civic and Scouting awards, including the Silver Beaver Award, the highest award a Scout council may bestow on a volunteer leader; the Saint George Award, presented by the National Catholic Committee on Scouting; and many commendations for service to youth and the community. In 1979, he was the Rushville Lions Club’s Man of the Year.
Mr. Keating was an active member of St. Stephen’s Church in Geneva, and an usher for many years. He was a member of the executive board of the Finger Lakes Council for several years, and was its High Adventure Coordinator for 35 years.
I had Walt both as at teacher and Philmont coordinator. As a teacher he was comfortable enough to allow us to call him Walt, but respected enough by us students that we didn’t. As a Philmont coordinator, he made special inquiries to make it possible for a scout with a heart condition (me) to go to Philmont. He gave me his old scout books when I was a boy. They are still among my dearest possessions and to me a passing of his torch of Scouting. After almost forty years, including 17 as a scoutmaster myself, Walt is still as much a symbol of scouting to me as B-P.
Philmont 1972-crew 705-A
For me, summer of ’59, age 13, closing campfire at Babcock-Hovey, Walt gave a rousing enticement to join the council’s expedition to the 50th National Jamboree in Colorado Springs, including a 3 day stop at Philmont. My mom and dad weren’t wealthy, but after getting them to talk with Walt after it ended, I was hooked, and so were mom and dad.
That began a most treasured relationship with Walt, becoming the youngest Crew Advisor on an FLC Philmont Expedition at age 23, followed by 17 more of those trips with Walt and fantastic crews. As the years went on, both Walt and I would do those Hovey campfire promos… did not take long before I found myself being called ‘Walt Jr.’ – what an honor!
By 1989 Walt was physically unable to continue, and I did not make that trek – I was by then his primary caregiver.
1992, his journey ended, and I was charged with calling hours and final arrangements. His funeral was well attended, even by our multi-year “Mother Trailways” bus driver, Howie Doty. Several of us went on to the burial, fellow Philmont Vets. Together, we sang the Philmont Hymn standing side by side at his grave. A memory I will always cherish, a mentor/friend that began when I was a 13 year old Scout.