OAKLAND -- Members of Montclair-based Boy Scout Troop 206, using skills learned under the direction of beloved and respected Scoutmaster Stanley Graham McPherson, once carried a woman in the Sierras to safety using a makeshift stretcher fashioned from a tent and hiking poles.
This rescue is one of many stories surrounding McPherson, who led Troop 206 for 25 years before retiring in 1991. Those who knew McPherson describe him as an avid hiker, backpacker, adventurer and fly fisherman. He also had a reputation as a skilled sailor and riveting storyteller.
McPherson, known simply as Mac, Mr. Mac or Stan to his numerous former Scouts and their families, died of natural causes in Davis on Jan. 16 at age 92.
A memorial service already has taken place in Davis, but local friends can pay their respects at 2 p.m. on Saturday -- what would have been McPherson's 93rd birthday -- at a celebration of his life at the Club House, 1223 Brickyard Cove Lane in Point Richmond.
"I can't say enough about him," said John Eckhouse, who was looking for a Scout group for his oldest son when he first came across Troop 206 and McPherson in the 1980s.
"He really had a presence," Eckhouse said. "He was tall -- about 6-2 -- and broad. He really had a commanding presence, but at the same time he was loved by the Scouts. If something went wrong, all he had to yell was, 'Hey!' But the kids loved him because of the backpacking trips."
Those annual weeklong trips involving as many as 60 Scouts could have been the subject of many an outdoors book or documentary. And both McPherson and his charges found the 50-mile hikes both challenging and fulfilling.
In odd-numbered years, members of Troop 206 would hike the Sierra Nevada. Even-numbered years meant treks to more distant destinations.
These included the Bridger Wilderness in the Wind River Range of Wyoming, the Sawtooth Wilderness in Idaho's Sawtooth Mountains, the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness in Montana and Oregon's Sky Lakes Wilderness.
"Stan, while a fun-loving guy, also took seriously his responsibility for grooming Scouts for leadership," said Oakland's Dick Roisman, who had known McPherson since the late 1980s.
"An unusually high number of his Scout charges became Eagle Scouts and have gone on to leadership in their fields of endeavor. Stan was very hands-off -- he let people grow and bloom."
McPherson developed a love for the outdoors long before becoming a Scoutmaster. Born to Stanley Sr. and Beatrice McPherson in San Francisco on April 19, 1921, the younger McPherson attended public schools in Oakland and graduated from University High School. From there, he went on to Cal, where here received a bachelor of science degree in forestry in 1942.
As a youth he became an Eagle Scout, the organization's highest rank.
Professionally, he became an insurance broker, and served as vice president of McConaughy, Krieger and McPherson in Moraga. But he never lost his love for the outdoors, earning the BSA's Silver Beaver Award in 1990 for his years of adult leadership.
McPherson also developed into a skilled sailboat racer, winning the Pelican Race on one occasion. He also enjoyed a reputation as one of the most adept fly fishermen in the East Bay.
And there was more.
"He was a great storyteller," Eckhouse said. "He would tell stories around the campfire that would go on for a long time, and people would say 'Tell us more.'"
Former Montclair resident and Troop 206 member Jon Ingenthron first met McPherson in 1980, quickly developing a friendship.
"He was gregarious, held positive thoughts for almost everyone and everything, was a natural leader, an adventurer, a successful businessman and a learned naturalist," Ingenthron said.
"He seldom, if ever, burned bridges with people. Perhaps negative folks simply went away as they could find few allies within his circles of friends." McPherson later moved to Davis, where he is survived by his wife, Dorothy Rix McPherson.
He also leaves behind his children Cheryl Votaw and her husband, David, of Madera, Stuart and wife Sue McPherson of Castle Rock, Dana and husband John Richards of Winters, Rixanna Petzoldt of Rochester, N.Y., eight grandchildren and sister Lois Nelson of Moraga.
McPherson also left this world with scores of friends and many memories.
"He loved the outdoors, he loved to hike, he loved to backpack and he was a fantastic fly fisherman," Eckhouse said.
"And he loved to share his skills." Contributions can be made in McPherson's memory to BSA Troop 206. Checks made out to BSA Troop 206 should be sent to troop committee chair Amy Stewart, c/o Pyatok Architects, 1611 Telegraph Avenue, Suite 200, Oakland, CA 94612.
Friends can pay their respects at 2 p.m. on Saturday, April 19 -- what would have been McPherson's 93rd birthday -- at a celebration of his life at the Club House, 1223 Brickyard Cove Lane in Point Richmond.