Deason retires from more than 50 years of volunteer work

By Allen Fennewald
Ledger Staff Writer
Mexicoan Bob Deason could be called many things, including a volunteer, a civil servant, a public servicemen and Scout troop leader, among many others. Probably the most efficient way to describe the man who dedicated more than 50 years of service to the community's well-being is that of self-appointed factotum to the City of Mexico's residents.
Deason has recently retired from 21 years of volunteer service at the Senior Center, which took up the majority of his efforts after retiring from A.B. Chance of Centralia in 1991. He found the Senior Center to be a very rewarding learning experience, and the food was good too.
Before A.B. Chance, Deason owned and operated a Mexico barbershop, Deason and Crabtree, for 21 years and retired from the business in 1977. Frank Crabtree continued to operate the shop after he left.
"I'm a poor sitter," Deason said. "I like to stay active."
Born in Hannibal, in 1924, Deason was raised with three siblings in a nice community in a house atop a hill. His mother stayed at home and his father sold insurance throughout the Great Depression. His father was also part of the 1943-1944 constitutional convention and helped to establish the Missouri constitution. He was appointed to organize public speeches to promote the pending constitution to the public.
"My father was successful, because he never forgot a name or a face. That's why he was on the constitutional convention. There wasn't a Missouri county he didn't know somebody in. He used to tell me, 'Always do the right thing when no one's looking,'" Deason said.
Volunteering has been a major part of Deason's life since he began in 1963. When his wife became sick, he took over as Den Mother for his son's Cub Scout pack. From there he would go on to stay 12 years as the Webelo Scout Leader. He shared leadership of up to 24 boys. "I like to work with kids," he said. "You can learn so much from them that it's amazing."
Deason founded Boy Scout Troop 58 in 1966. As Assistant Cub Master, Deason ran 62 Pine Wood Derbies in 25 years and three districts races with more than 90 derby cars each. He traveled with his troop's portable derby track to smaller districts which couldn't afford their own.
The Boy Scout district also placed him in charge of training new Den Mothers. He served as the "trouble shooter" for the district. When the McMillian troop folded, the Scouts depended on him to get the program rebooted. "I told the Scout's parents, 'When your son comes to you and asks, why can't we have Scouts anymore, you can tell them, because I didn't want to get involved,' and that troop was soon up and going again," he said.
Fifteen troops can attribute their recharters to Deason's efforts. These efforts led him to be bestowed with the Silver Beaver Award, the highest honor a volunteer can receive in the Scouts. The recipient must be nominated secretly by someone else to be considered. After receiving his award, Deason nominated and saw that two other men received the reward, who he thought, "should have had it before I did."
The Scouts relied on Deason to travel and give speeches to Scouts and parents on special occasions. All of these speeches were delivered from memory, because he finds notes distracting. His favorite speech to give to young Scouts, paraphrased, went, "Success is made up of three things: a sphere with success inside, a lock and a key. You are the key to your own success."
For 17 years Deason taught Sunday School at the Mexico United Methodist church. Though he only has use of one vocal chord, he also sang baritone for the choir 47 years and served on the church board.
He has helped with "Up With People Sing Out Mexico" singing group performances with high school students.
For 50 years he has been a member of the Masonic Lodge, a unit of Freemasonry.
Deason functioned as a mentor to several boys throughout 25 years, in the same vein as the Big Brother program. This began when the mother of a boy with hyperactivity asked for help improving her son's spelling abilities. Deason worked with him for a long time, before realizing that if he put letters on scraps of paper, the boy could learn to spell words by fitting the letters together like he was playing Scrabble.
He would go on to mentor boys who were psychoactive, deaf and whose fathers were in the penitentiary. One Scout asked Deason to write a letter of recommendation to West Point Military Academy, where the young man would be accepted and graduate.
Currently, Deason stays active by collecting and building 3-D puzzles, of which he has 27, repairing clocks, of which he has 48, and fixing golf clubs.
An avid golfer, he played 373 rounds in 2006. "I like to play fast," he said. His fastest round of 18 holes took an hour and fifteen minutes. He has four holes in one under his belt so far, and enjoys playing year round, having played 17 rounds in January of last year.
His only stipulation is he won't go out if the temperature doesn't surpass 40 degrees. This tempterature limitation has also limited his playing during the present winter. Deason said, "I love golf. If I shoot bad, I shoot bad. If I shoot good, I shoot good. I'd be playing right now if it wasn't for the weather."
Deason has been looking forward to old age throughout his life and now that it's arrived he's found it has its problems, but he remains inventive. To help relieve his restless leg syndrome, which caused sharp pains in his heels, he developed firm fabric pouches to insulate his heels as he sleeps. He formulated the design after realizing that the pain in his heels increased when he switched from a firm to softer mattress. "That's about cured it," he said.
He also puts his inventive abilities to work by doing odd jobs like putting together trellis for his daughter-in-law's flower pots and constructing work benches for one of his friends. It seems there is nothing Deason won't do.
Looking into the face of one of his hand-made grandfather clocks, fingers flipping through pictures of his adult children, Deason said with a smile, "I've had a great life with the right woman, married 63 years. She's the perfect wife and we've found the key to a loving marriage. It's give and take. She gives by spoiling me and I take by letting her. We never stop hugging."