Leading the way: Longtime Claremont scoutmasters are 2024’s honored citizens

Jim Martin (left) and Kevin Ward are the two honored citizens for this year’s Fourth of July celebration. Courier photos/Matt Weinberger

by Mick Rhodes | editor@claremont-courier.com

A line in the Boy Scouts of America’s oath implores scouts “To help other people at all times.” As the City of Claremont’s 2024 Honored Citizens, Jim Martin and Kevin Ward have certainly lived up to that pledge.

Both served as longtime scoutmasters for Claremont Boy Scout Troops 407 and 402, respectively, and over the decades have helped dozens of boys — and one girl — reach the ultimate scouting accomplishment, Eagle Scout, a designation just 4% of scouts attain.

Though they have recently stepped aside as scoutmasters, both remain involved with their longtime troops.

Jim Martin: scout for life

Jim Martin was born in Boulder, Colorado. He’s lived in California most of his life, and graduated from Claremont High in 1977. He holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in engineering from Harvey Mudd College and is nearly 50 years into a successful career as a software engineer.

He and his wife Kerry have been married 32 years. He has been a member of The Claremont Chorale for 37 years, where he met his wife 35 years ago. They both sing in the CUCC Choir. Their son Zachary, a 2022 Claremont High School graduate, is a rising junior at Lewis and Clark College in Portland.

He joined Boy Scouts in the early 1970s at age 11 when his family was living in Rhode Island. In 1974, he joined Claremont’s Troop 407 at 15, and he’s been connected to the troop ever since. At 17 he became 407’s 40th Eagle Scout. When he turned 18, he became the troop’s assistant scoutmaster, a position he held for 10 years. In 1987 he took over as scoutmaster. He continued in his leadership role for a remarkable 35 years, stepping down in 2022. He’s now troop sponsor Claremont United Church of Christ’s chartered organization representative.

In a lovely full circle moment, his son Zachary earned his Eagle Scout designation in August 2020, one of nine troop members who earned their Eagle during the pandemic. The Eagle cohort was recognized in a Boy Scout Court of Honor awards ceremony at CUCC in March 2022.

“And that nine included a lot of the kids that had gone through Cub Scouts with [Zachary] all the way from second grade, so it was kind of cool. That was a special day,” Martin said.

Now 65, to say Martin is a believer in scouting is selling it far short.

“I think it’s a fabulous way of instilling citizenship and character, and good discipline into young people,” he said. “Getting them out in the outdoors is a fabulous way of introducing young people to opportunities that they might not otherwise get.” Learning to camp, to cook outdoors, and to enjoy nature is primary among those benefits, Martin said. “I get a lot of enjoyment out of watching these kids grow up and get to experience all of these really cool things that they might not otherwise have gotten to. From a purely practical standpoint, I’ve always been a camper, and it’s been a way of guaranteeing that I get to go camping at least once a month.”

The Boy Scouts of America eliminated its ban on gay youth in 2013. In 2015, it allowed gay adults, followed in 2017 by clearing the way for transgender people. “You see, the BSA did not allow the three Gs: girls, gays, and the Godless,” Martin told CUCC’s congregation in February 2019. He and Troop 407 were involved for years in pushing for changes to those rules, and it was gratifying to finally see the organization become more inclusive.

“That’s been an important part of my involvement in scouting, to fight some of those exclusive policies that have existed for way too long in scouting,” Martin said.

Troop 407 was poised when the final barrier fell and BSA began admitting girls on February 1, 2019. It had a cohort of seven girls registered and ready to be admitted on that day, becoming one of the first troops in the country to officially welcome all genders. And earlier this month, Troop 407 awarded its 129th Eagle — and its first to a female — to 17-year-old Kate Emmert.


Kevin Ward: a three Eagle family
Kevin Ward, 56, and his wife Lisa have been married 32 years. He began teaching at Sycamore Elementary School in 1994, and has been with Claremont Unified School District ever since, and was recently promoted to Assistant Superintendent, Student Services after 13 years as Assistant Superintendent, Human Resources.

All three of the couple’s boys attended Claremont public schools from kindergarten through high school. Their oldest, Kyle, 26, is a middle school music teacher. Joshua, 20, just finished his sophomore year at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles. Nineteen-year-old Nate is a U.S. Navy sailor on the USS Truman in the Atlantic Ocean. Before he’s deployed to the Red Sea for the better part of a year, Nate and Martin’s son Zachary will present the flag prior to Claremont’s Fourth of July parade.

Ward was a Boy Scout himself, having made it all the way to Life Scout, the rank just below Eagle Scout.

His son Kyle joined Troop 402 in the fifth grade. Ward was quickly recruited as assistant scoutmaster, and his other two boys followed suit. All told, the family has spent 16 years with Boy Scouts, 11 of them with Ward as Troop 402’s scoutmaster.

“All three of my boys made Eagle Scout, which I’m very proud of,” Ward said. During his tenure as head of Troop 402, 28 of his charges made Eagle Scout.

Troops “402 and 407 both really have a longstanding history in Claremont. Both troops have been around over 50 years [402 since 1955 and 407 since 1959], and both have over 140 Eagle Scouts. They do a really good job of supporting scouts on that journey.”

Ward retired as scoutmaster in 2023 and now serves as the troop’s advancement chair and treasurer.

His biggest takeaway from scouting “was definitely the leadership development. And that’s one thing I think scouting really has to offer. The leadership program, the way that the scouts structure it, I think is second to none.”

Both Martin and Ward both touted the self-reliance and leadership qualities scouting offers.

“When scouting’s done well, the troop is really run by the scouts,” Ward said. “The adults mentor, help structure, provide resources and support and money. Both 402 and 407 are run that way. And the scouts over those years learn some really good quality leadership.”

Ward still taps into the lessons he learned through scouting’s yearslong journey into self-reliance.

“It gave me some good strategies to take into the world,” Ward said. “And taking my boys through that same program that was always my goal for them.

And it was always about having fun too. And 402 has really done that, from hiking to canoeing, river rafting, rock climbing. You name it, that troop has done it.”

Ward, like Martin, touted the valuable outdoor skills scouting teaches.

“All my boys are very proficient campers, very secure, and love the outdoors,” he said. So much so that his middle son, Joshua, is currently in his second summer working at Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico, the largest youth camping program in the world, with some 20,000 attendees.

And like Martin, Ward is pleased with BSA’s recent move toward inclusivity.

“It was interesting watching the organization go through that process, and it was pretty bumpy,” Ward said of the yearslong process of amending Boy Scouts’ rules to accept girls. “In retrospect I don’t necessarily know if the steps they took were the steps I would have taken had I been in a leadership role there, but they made it. And the same thing with LGBTQ” scouts and leaders. “I’m proud where they ended up and I think for the organization it’s best going forward.”


Honored citizens
Ward said he has deep respect for past Claremont Honored Citizens, making his upcoming Fourth of July Parade appearance all the more sweeter.

“Being involved in the school district and the city for so many years, I know the people that are on that list, and they provided tremendous service to the community,” Ward said. “So, being part of that list is very humbling. I’m very thankful. And I’m looking forward to spending the day celebrating it.”

Martin’s take on the honor was similar, but since he admits he’s not one to “put myself out there,” it was unexpected.

“I was very surprised when I got the call,” Martin said. “I’ve of course watched Claremont Fourth of July parades since 1968. But I’m very excited about. I’m very honored.”

Claremont’s annual Fourth of July Parade starts at 10 a.m. at 10th Street and Indian Hill Boulevard. Along with honored citizens Martin and Ward, this year’s grand marshal is Brett O’Connor, and the honored community group is the Claremont Kiwanis Club. All the honorees will be presented with certificates at the flag raising ceremony prior to the parade. More info is at claremont4th.org.


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