Rau earns Girl Scout Gold Award
By Sandy Bond
In the process of earning the Girl Scout Gold Award, Megan Rau surprisingly unearthed nearly as many questions as she did answers. In addition to giving to the betterment of the community, the project gave Megan a new appreciation for her community, its residents, and its pioneers.
In selecting a project, Megan learned from Eureka resident Robert Billotto that the town cemetery was badly in need of updating its plots.
“The cemetery, established in 1899, is really important to our community,” Megan said, “I felt that updating it would be particularly important in time for Eureka’s 125th Anniversary or ‘Quasqui’ (quasquicentennial) that will be observed this summer. Many people may use the cemetery in researching their genealogy.”
From identifying a worthwhile project to educating and inspiring others, the project required at least 65 hours of intensive work. Megan believes she spent more than 83 hours on her project.
One of the criteria for the award is the supervision of others, enhancing leadership skills. Megan found her friends and Girl Scout members Amy Beck, Abby Ottenbacher, Tasha Imberi, Karlie Hinton, and Sierra Lutz, very willing to offer any help they could and it made the project more fun as well.
Her parents, Connie and Craig, elder sister Kaitlyn (Martinez), fellow troop members, and her community are proud of her. In fact, her mom is co-leader with Lori Lutz. The Rau family raises registered Red Angus cattle and small grains. Megan is a senior at Eureka High School where she is extremely active in FCCLA, theatre, yearbook staff, as a football cheerleader, and a member of the newly formed 4-H Council. She is employed as a C.N.A. at the Eureka Health Care Center.
Beginning as a Daisy, Megan has been a Girl Scout since the age of six, and has pursued each badge with enthusiasm that is positively contagious. She and best friend Sierra Lutz earned the Silver Award for painting park benches and traffic signage for the town of Java. The family’s rural residence is halfway between Java and Eureka.
In choosing between Eureka and Java, she made her decision based on the population of each town. Eureka has nearly 1,000 people, where Java has only about 100.
Rene Schwingler, a member of the town’s cemetery board, provided the death certificates of more than 1,500 individuals. These were entered into an Excel spreadsheet. This and old plot maps helped her locate each gravesite.
“There are believed to be many infants and small children buried in the perimeter of the caretaker’s shed,” she said. “It is believed they died during the 1930s of diseases like scarlet fever, flu, or polio-diseases that could be cured or prevented today. Because of the Great Depression, many families were so broke that they could not afford a marker for the gravesite.”
There were some individuals who died of auto accidents before vehicles had the safety features they have today, she said.
Some of the gravestones were a challenge to decipher, she said. Eureka was settled by Germans from Russia, and many of names and epitaphs are in German.
Megan had chosen to take Spanish as a foreign language in high school-not German. So she asked elderly friends and relatives who might have grown up speaking German, including her grandfather, Stanley Rau. However, the most help came from “Google-ing” German to English on her laptop.
Some of the older stones bear unfamiliar names, she said. No one of that name has lived in the town for many years.
“Fewer than six percent of the 2.3 million Girl Scouts nationwide will earn the Gold Award,” said Kristi Thunker, Program Director for Girl Scouts Dakota Horizons.
There are scholarships available for Gold Award winners that may help Megan when she attends Mitchell Technical Institute in the pursuit of a career in radiologic technology.