I have the privilege of being the next scoutmaster of Troop 719, which is sponsored by Faith United Methodist Church. It is a huge challenge that I hope I am worthy of undertaking.

I really wanted my son to join this troop because of its 50-plus years of tradition and what it stands for.

I was a third-generation JA San Franciscan. My father was in Troop 12 in S.F. and I was in the troop as well. They had celebrated their 90th anniversary. The troop was sponsored by three churches — Christ Episcopal, Christ United Presbyterian, and Pine United Methodist. We were a really good troop surrounded by some equally good ones like Troops 58 and 29, which were sponsored by Buddhist and Shinto temples.

What I like about 719 is that even though we are sponsored by Faith, we have many scouts from different faiths and religions.

For over 30 years, I have heard sociologists warn of something called “social lag.” Our lives are so consumed by improving our technology, our jobs, and our lifestyle that we have lost our humanity in the meantime. Troop 719 is one of many scouting organizations to get things like character and integrity back in our lives.

Jerry Tondo (standing, right) with members and leaders of Troop 719 on a Mt. Whitney hike.

We are not the only Asian American troop that is up to this challenge. Troop 683 from JCI, Troop 738 from Nishi Hongwanji, Troop 379 from Koyasan, and Troop 538 from OCBC all have long traditions in scouting. I like the fact that we have many troops that are trying to raise the bar set by the Boy Scouts of America. It is a fun, healthy and respectful competition.

Becoming the scoutmaster will probably be the third and last thing on my bucket list that I will have done to link traditions from Northern Cal to Southern Cal.

I spent five years with the Asian American Theater Company in S.F. (originally Asian American Theater Workshop) as an actor and on the Board of Directors as well. In 1979 I was invited by Mako of East West Players to come to study acting. I became a company member and served on their Board of Directors too.

The two theater groups actually gave me some valuable tools to help me be a better scoutmaster. The difference between an actor and a scout is that an actor needs to identify his weaknesses in order to work and manipulate them. A scout needs to identify his weaknesses to overcome them.

The other link was with the churches. Our family went to Sei Ko Kai (Christ Episcopal Church), which was one of the sponsors of Troop 12. My dad was head of the administrative arm of the church for over 20 years and was around to celebrate its 100 anniversary. I used to tell my dad that I would never get involved with the church like he did because it was a big headache.

When we had kids. my wife made it a priority that we needed to go to church. We started going to Faith UMC and I ended up spending eight wonderful and rewarding years on the Board of Trustees. I just got off the board to focus my time and energy on the troop.

I am so grateful to my wife and kids for letting me do something that my dad and my uncle would be proud of. My Uncle Louie was a scoutmaster in Michigan for over 20 years, and there was one thing that stuck with me.

I was on location working on a film, “Gung Ho,” that was directed by Ron Howard and he needed older Japanese looking-businessmen for a scene. I called him to tell him that they were going to fly him to Pittsburgh, Pa. to be in a movie for two days. He said he would only do it if he could be back by the next day.

He wouldn’t do it if he had to miss his Boy Scout meeting. Ron used him in a shot and got him back in time for his meeting.

(I thought that I was doing a pretty good job of making a difference until I talked to my cousin Diane Matsuda. She gets all the attention.)


Jerry Tondo’s recent acting credits include voice work in the TV series “The Secret Saturdays,” the movies “Mulan” and “Mulan II” and the video games “The Matrix: Path of Neo” and “Kingdom Hearts II.” Opinions expressed in this column are not necessarily those of The Rafu Shimpo.

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  1. You probably wouldn’t remember me. I met you at your Dad’s gas station. My Uncle is Nelson Kobayashi. I e-mailed him a copy of your story..