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Centenarian credits Boy Scout principles for long life

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George Freestone knew if he wanted to be a Boy Scout he had to look like a Boy Scout.

So his mother agreed to scrape together $4 for an official Scout uniform replete with Smokey Bear-style hat, shirt, breeches and leggings.

That done, young George enlisted in his troop, pledged to live the Boy Scout oath and enjoyed the rigors of marching and drill, camping and cooking — even mock combat and war games.

"I became a Scout in 1910 [in Los Angeles], the first year Scouting came to America," said Brother Freestone, a Church member who recently celebrated his 102nd birthday and is recognized as America's oldest living Boy Scout. The centenarian marked his July 28 birthday by cutting the ribbon for a new Boy Scout museum in Provo, Utah, that bears his name.

A member of the Tempe 1st Ward, Tempe Arizona West Stake, Brother Freestone can recall events long relegated to history texts. After hearing of the Wright brothers' first flight above Kitty Hawk, N.C., he experimented with aviation himself — crashing his home-built glider in a Los Angeles park. He shook Thomas Edison's hand and remembers being thrilled when Buffalo Bill Cody staged a Wild West show for him and other Scouts.

He is not the oldest living Eagle Scout.

"We didn't earn Eagle awards then, but Scouting did teach us boys to live good lives," Brother Freestone said.

While the Scouting program has evolved over the past nine decades, its charter spirit remains. Like contemporary LDS boys, turn-of-the-century Scouts such as young George Freestone were afforded opportunities to make new friends, camp and appreciate the outdoors and interact with caring, responsible leaders.

Today, Brother Freestone credits the tenets of the gospel and Scouting for his long, rich life.

"I've tried to live a clean life by not drinking, staying away from tobacco and eating right," said Brother Freestone, who still shares driving duties with his wife, Mazie. He is a father of four and has several grandchildren.

A retired businessman and pilot, Brother Freestone remains active with local Scout Troop 74 in Tempe. He frequently attends ward and stake Eagle Award presentation ceremonies, at which he usually makes a few comments. He still loves to wear the Scout uniform.

"[The Scouts] think it's great to meet someone his age," Sister Freestone said.

The George E. Freestone Boy Scout Museum is owned and operated by the Crandall Historical Printing Museum and is located adjacent to the Printing Museum at 257 E. Center Street in Provo. The museum — which includes a trove of Scout uniforms, Boy Scout handbooks, rare Scout medals and hundreds of unique World Jamboree items — is open daily, without charge, from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m.

E-mail: jswensen@desnews.com