Earl Syler’s death has left a void in multiple facets of the Beverly/Morgan Park community.
That’s especially true with Boy Scout Troop 607, where he was Scoutmaster for 27 years, and at Bethany Union Church (BUC) in Beverly, where he was a member for 46 years and where Troop 607 is based.
Syler, a longtime Beverly resident and Chicago native, died on May 24 at the University of Chicago Medical Center at age 76.
Known for his easygoing, selfless attitude, Syler was a teacher for over three decades and beloved for his skills as a craftsman.
His fellow Scout leaders, including current Scoutmaster Michael G. Rudd, know they have big shoes to fill.
“He loved Scouting,” Rudd said. “He loved being out with the boys. He did not see the bad in any boy. It was always the good. And he brought that out in them.”
A celebration of life for Syler will be held on Saturday, June 15, at 1 p.m. at BUC, 1750 W. 103rd St. Interment will be held at Constant Cemetery in Buffalo Hart, Ill. Donnellan Funeral Home is handling the arrangements.
Syler and his wife, Dorothy (Burrus), married on Aug. 17, 1968, and they moved to Beverly in 1970.
Syler joined BUC in 1973, and he was baptized on the couple’s 25th wedding anniversary.
In leading Troop 607, he helped 34 young men become Eagle Scouts, a rank earned after completing a major service project in which a Scout recruits others to help him.
Syler enjoyed numerous camping trips with the troop, fellow Scout leaders said, including at Owasippe Scout Reservation in Twin Lake, Mich., and Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness in Duluth, Minn.
He still made the trips as recently as a year ago, even as his health was fading. Scouts marveled as he slept on a cot, pulled a canopy over himself and avoided mosquito bites. He would quip that he was “too ornery” for the bugs to bother him, although friends said that was far from the truth.
He made long hikes with his Scouts, including a four-day, 50-mile trek through Manistee National Forest near Owasippe, and still hiked them in recent years, only taking a small break for lunch.
Syler watched over campfires late at night, his friends said, and had a remarkable sense of composure, even while surrounded by active, if not mischievous, boys.
If he ever grew irritated, the Scouts knew to stop their mischief.
“He had the respect of the boys,” said Chuck Diddia, who also led the troop. “They always respected him and followed his lead.”
Rudd smiled while recalling photos of one outing in which the Scouts were especially rambunctious, he said, and looked like characters in “Lord of the Flies,” in which children cast away on an island are left to fend for themselves.
Having a long leash, Rudd said, was fine with Syler.
“He let boys be boys at camp,” Rudd said.
At BUC, Syler was a deacon, trustee, treasurer and house chairperson—to go with reliable handyman.
He designed the sets for theater groups at the church, and he supervised the installation of a new boiler in the sanctuary.
His extended his skills to friends, helping build porches and other home improvements.
Syler taught in the Calumet Park school district for 36 years, teaching shop classes and eventually specializing in industrial arts and computers.
Dave Nagel, a close friend who joined Syler at BUC and in leading Scouts, marveled as Syler once built shelving for the church that was “absolutely gorgeous” and matched surrounding woodwork.
“He could design anything,” Nagel said.
Syler was a man of deep faith, friends said, who “hit the street running” once he joined BUC.
He once wore a WWJD bracelet, meaning “What Would Jesus Do?” After Nagel inquired about the bracelet’s meaning, Syler purchased a pack of them for his Scouts.
They became a part of their standard uniform.
“We wore them for about a year,” Nagel said. “That’s the type of person he was.”
In his final days, friends said, Syler was at peace and said he was “ready to go meet my Father.”
Rudd, Diddia and Nagel said they consider Syler a best friend—and they were honored he felt the same way.
They described Syler as “always a willing helper.”
“He was just such a gentle person,” Nagel said, “ who would do anything for anyone.”
Syler is survived by his wife, Dorothy; his children, Jennifer (Kent), Taylor, Bradley (Jennifer) Syler and Gregory (Iman) Syler; his grandchildren, Weston, Grant, Margaret, Carter, Walter and Shamar; and his brothers, Roy (Cathy) and Don (Lynne).
Flowers are welcome, and memorials may be sent to the Polycystic Kidney Disease Foundation, 1001 E. 101st Terrace, Suite 220, Kansas City, MO 64131, or Boy Scout Troop 607, 1750 W. 103rd St., Chicago, IL 60643.