HERE’S A NIFTY PIECE of trivia to spice up the conversation at the next Thin Mints Anonymous meeting: The Girl Scouts of America turns 100 this month. Even better, there’s this one: The oldest living Girl Scout—not to mention Washingtonian—makes her home just west of Seattle, in Poulsbo. And she’s 110.
Emma Otis was a few years removed from being a girl when she joined the Scouts in the late 1920s. She was approaching 30, so she started as a troop leader, helping her charges earn merit badges for things like learning to make a bed or set a table. Time has stolen many of her memories of those days, but she’s clung tightly to ones from St. Albans, the 400-acre camp in South Puget Sound that she helped design and organize more than 75 years ago. “We had some really fine girls at that camp,” she says now. “They learned a lot that was good for them.”
Those young girls grew up to be women, but they never lost touch with “Mama O,” sending her wedding and birth announcements over the years. In fact, her granddaughter, Nancy Pugh, found hundreds of those little dispatches from former scouts when Otis moved into an assisted living community four years ago—that’s right, she lived on her own until she was 106. And her daughter, Doris Davies, keeps Otis’s old uniform tucked away in a closet. “I bet she could still fit in it today,” Davies says.
But Otis’s most cherished memento from those days is a nine-inch doll decked out in an authentic Kelly-green Girl Scout uniform. It sits on her nightstand, an ever-present reminder of the girl she used to be.