85-year-old sisters prove Girl Scouts is not just a hobby, but a way of life

By Catherine Amoriello

“Oh my goodness, how much time do you have?”

This was Virginia “Ginny” John’s response after being asked to share her favorite Girl Scouting memories. It’s appropriate given that Ginny and her sister Barbara “Barb” John have many years of Girl Scout memories. Seventy-five to be exact.

“This being the 75th year for both of us, that has to be very unusual. I think we are probably the only sisters in the world who are in their 75th year [of Girl Scouts],” Ginny said.

Barb and Ginny joined Girl Scouts in 1947 when their mother started a troop in Bucks County. From the start, both sisters loved the outdoors aspect of Girl Scouting, which led to many camping trips and outdoor excursions. Together, Barb and Ginny have hiked part of the Appalachian Trail twice, took a camping trip to New England and went on a 30-day jaunt out west, camping at friendly Girl Scout camps along the way. During this trip, the sisters and their troop mates traveled places such as the Grand Canyon and Bryce Canyon and Yellowstone national parks. They also got a taste of western wildlife.

“I’ll never forget Barb saying, ‘Look at that huge tarantula going across the road!’ Then I drove past and saw it. Holy mackerel were they large!” Ginny said.

The sisters continued their Girl Scout involvement into adulthood, serving as troop leaders to the next generation of Girl Scouts. They even attended Girl Scout Roundups in the 1960s, an event that brought thousands of Girl Scouts together for two weeks of activities, fun and friendship. The John sisters acted as supervisors during these events, and provided guidance to the visiting troops.

There came a point in time when Barb and Ginny went their separate ways in life, but the split did not sever their familial or Girl Scout sisterhood.

Ginny John with Jess Mislinski, GSHPA’s former regional director of the northeast, at her 75-year pinning ceremony at Camp Archbald.

Barb began volunteering at Camp Furnace Hills in 1958 and Ginny found her place at Camp Archbald in 1964. For the next several decades, the John sisters continued to work alongside other volunteers to bring the Girl Scout Leadership Experience (GSLE) to life for girls.

“I think adults who are in Girl Scouting are generally a special breed of people and they’re exciting to be with. It’s exciting to know that they are continuing on Girl Scouting and it keeps going,” Barb said.

Currently, Barb spends majority of her time at Camp Furnace Hills as a member of the Foxfire House team. In her volunteer role, she teaches toy making to girls of all ages. From humdingers to ring toss, Barb takes participants back in time to enjoy leisure activities of the 1800s.

“Our goal is to be a living museum for them to be a part of,” Barb said.

As for Ginny, she stays current on Camp Archbald activities and remains vigilant of any maintenance the camp may need. She is determined to keep the second-oldest Girl Scout Camp in the United States running, and she even established the Ginny John Camp Archbald Fund in 2005 to preserve the camp.

Barb (left) and Ginny (right) with Lutricia Eberly, GSHPA Director of Outdoor and Program Experience, at a Foxfire House meeting where Barb received her 75-year pin.

These days, Barb and Ginny do not stray far from Lancaster and Susquehanna counties, respectively. But they still make time to connect with their former troop mates over lunch. They also made a trip to Harrisburg in 2012 to be recognized for their lifetime commitment to Girl Scouts for the 100th anniversary at the annual meeting.

Seventy-five years later, the John sisters show no signs of slowing down when it comes to supporting Girl Scouts. They both recently received their 75-year membership pins, a testament to their dedication to live out the Girl Scout Promise and Law. For them, if there are girls to lead, there is still work to be done.

“I just can’t speak enough about what Girl Scouts has done for me and us,” Ginny said. “I have no idea what I’d be like without Girl Scouting. I think most Girl Scouts would tell you that.”

“People when they know my age almost collapse when they learn I’m still in Girl Scouts,” Barb said. “My goal for them is that they stay in Girl Scouts like I have and they bring about the changes the world needs because if they’re Girl Scouts, they’ll do that.”

Catherine Amoriello is a Marketing and Communications Coordinator specializing in writing and editing for Girl Scouts in the Heart of Pennsylvania. Reach her by email at camoriello@gshpa.org.

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