RUSKIN — Karl Bordner, a retired cabinetmaker with a gift for his craft, was happiest among Boy Scouts. He led troops and trained adult leaders. He preached character and responsibility with a smile, and preferred handing out wooden toys to giving lectures.
He believed in the Boy Scout Oath, and gave a popular talk focusing on the first eight words: "On my honor, I will do my best..."
Mr. Bordner, a Boy Scout leader for 47 years, died Monday. He was 88.
"He had a bigger impact on scouting in the Tampa Bay area than any other individual over the years, and I don't think anybody would deny that," said scout leader Earl Richardson, 57.
Mr. Bordner grew up in Ohio. In 1937, he attended the Boy Scouts of America's first national jamboree, or convention, in Washington, D.C. As he and other scouts crossed the Potomac, the presidential limousine of Franklin D. Roosevelt pulled to a stop beside. FDR wanted to chat and shake hands.
Mr. Bordner made Eagle Scout the next year.
He fought in Europe in World War II, winning decorations for sharpshooting. He would say later that the Army felt too regimented for his tastes.
In 1963, Mr. Bordner and his family moved to Ruskin. He set up Ruskin Cabinet Shop by his house, and joined Scout Troop 86 as an assistant scoutmaster.
"He always had a very gentle nature," said scout leader Ken Stanton, 71. "He never talked harshly. And he always had that smile on his face."
Kids found him approachable. One of those teens found Mr. Bordner in the late 1960s, just after the boy's parents had split up.
Mr. Bordner took the boy, Paul Scott, into his woodworking shop and taught him cabinetmaking.
Mr. Bordner — known as "Papa Beaver" to members of the Gulf Ridge Council of the Boy Scouts, which includes the Tampa Bay area — excelled at training adults for the Scouts' Wood Badge, an outdoor immersion program in scouting skills and leadership.
Rewards flowed back to him. The council presented Mr. Bordner with its Silver Beaver leadership award, and will nominate him for a national award within the Boy Scouts, which celebrates its 100th anniversary this year.
As his health declined (in part from the effects of inhaled sawdust) and finances dwindled to nothing, a former scout came to his aid. Scott, now 57 and a structural engineer in Phoenix, quietly kept his former mentor afloat for years.
"When I was a boy, he treated me like a son," Scott said. "I treated him like a father. I felt privileged to take care of my father the best way I could."
Andrew Meacham can be reached at (727) 892-2248 or firstname.lastname@example.org.