John B. Westfall, author of the Philmont Hymn, passed away last night [Friday, May 8th]. The longtime Scouter from Bartlesville, OK was 81. Services are scheduled for 2pm Tuesday, May 12, at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Bartlesville (210 E 9th St). John would be honored if Scouters are able to wear dress uniform. In lieu of flowers or cards, the family requests donations to the Cherokee Area Council BSA, or the Philmont Staff Association.
Almost everyone has someone in Scouting who made the program come alive. John was that person for me. I met him when he was a substitute teacher at my high school in Dewey, OK. Our talks were filled with stories of friends across the decades, and the impact Scouting experiences can have on a life. As a student at Pitt State in Pittsburg, KS, he was student body president and founded the Alpha Phi Omega chapter on campus. He was the lone staffer at Philmont’s Cimarron Bench camp in 1947, and later renamed the camp Vista Grande. The grand view of that camp was an influence as he wrote the Philmont Hymn, and came up with the music on the train home (the cadence is influenced by the “click-click, click-click” of the tracks). In the late 1940s and 1950s he was a professional Scouter in Iowa, Kansas, and Oklahoma. Washita Lodge 288 owes many of their traditions to John and his passion for how the Order of the Arrow can build young leaders. Later he built a successful sales career at Phillips Petroleum after his District Chairman recruited him away from Cherokee Area Council. Outside of Scouting, John was deeply involved in his church, many other youth-focused advocate groups, and world travel. His favorite travels were in the U.K. retracing the life of Shakespeare, and the holy lands retracing the life of Jesus Christ.
I’ll pass on the official obituary when the Bartlesville Examiner Enterprise publishes it. Please cross-post to SCOUTS-L and other Scouting news sources as you see fit.
Yours in Scouting,
Bob Crume [via email]
Cherokee Area Eagle ’97
Washita Lodge Chief ’99
Philmont Ranger ’04