In 1962 — to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Girl Scouts of the USA — officials asked Stevan Dohanos to paint a portrait.
The noted illustrator — a Westport resident — chose the most typical Girl Scout in town he could find to model. Her name was Betsy Beardsley.
Twenty-five years later — in honor of the 75th anniversary — Judy Frey tracked down both Betsy (in Florida) and the picture (in storage at national headquarters).
Because Judy was a longtime Scout leader, active in both Westport and Connecticut activities, she arranged for a permanent loan to the state’s Southwest Council.
Right now — to celebrate the Girl Scouts’ 100th anniversary — it’s hanging in Westport Town Hall.
It’s hard to imagine any Westporter more associated with Girl Scouts than Judy Frey.
A Scout herself as a child in the 1950s — in many troops, because her father was in the military and moved often — “girls didn’t get to do a lot of things,” she says. That’s why the Scouts’ outdoor activities were so welcome.
When she moved to Westport from Minnesota in 1978, she’d already had experience leading her daughter’s troop. She called Scout leaders, met “wonderful” people (including another famed leader, Betty Roberts), and began her long involvement here.
When her daughter was in 7th grade, Judy met Nancy Peach. They began bringing troops to Camp Aspetuck, in Weston. “Some of the girls were scared to go out at night,” Judy recalls. “It was great to take them out of their comfort zone. Making girls stretch is so important.”
Then it was on to the Appalachian Trail. “Nancy taught me so much about the outdoors,” she marvels. Today, Judy takes adults on outdoor adventures, from the White Mountains to Corsica.
But she continued working with Girl Scouts, long after her daughter’s graduation from Staples in 1987. Judy was involved with the high school troop, 8 or 10 girls a year who enjoyed learning skills, camaraderie, and taking trips to places like London. The typical Girl Scout, she says, is “driven to achieve things.”
Judy also volunteered with the district office. A building at Camp Aspetuck now bears her name.
She calls the state of Girl Scouting in Westport “pretty good. There are some very enthusiastic people involved.” Earlier this month, 500 Scouts and adults met for a “Thinking Day” at Bedford Middle School.
Of course, she wishes more women were involved as leaders. “Not as many women stick around long-term as before,” she says. “We need help with camping events. There’s more to Scouting than just taking trips to the fire station.”
Over the years, Girl Scouts have changed. The cooking badge now emphasizes nutrition, and where service projects once were Westport-specific, now the Scouts make dresses for girls in Africa.
Today marks the actual 100th anniversary of the founding of Girl Scouts in America. A small display is set up at the Westport Library.There will be a low-key flag-raising at Town Hall. Second selectwoman Shelly Kassen will issue a proclamation.
No word on whether those delicious cookies will be served.