He has been described as a “pillar,” “great friend” and “mentor” by those who knew and loved him, and his death after battling cancer has left a deep void in the hearts of many.
Longtime Center Moriches resident and Boy Scout leader Louis Vlismas died on Jan. 14 at the age of 80. He is survived by his wife Dolores of 54 years, and sons Kevin and Keith. Sadly, his son Kenneth died from COVID-19 just two weeks after his father’s death.
Born in New York City, on May 5, 1941, Vlismas attended Coindre Hall Boarding School in Huntington, and later enjoyed a 35-year career as an electrical engineer at Leviton in Great Neck. He moved to Center Moriches in 1973, where he and Dolores raised their children.
It was when his son Kenneth was a Webelo, that Vlismas got his first introduction to scouting. Despite the fact that he was a huge fan of the great outdoors and always wanted to become a scout, Vlismas didn’t seem to have the chance when growing up, so when the opportunity arose to help out in his son’s troop, Vlismas jumped, said his son Kevin.
Soon after, Vlismas became scoutmaster of Troop 414 of Center Moriches, a position he held for 22 years. In fact, each of Vlismas’s sons had their father for a scoutmaster at some point during their scouting careers, noted Kevin.
“It was great to have my Dad around all the time,” said Kevin. “We always called him Mr. V in public, as to not show favoritism. We never called him Dad.”
During his time with Troop 414, Vlismas was successful in helping 44 boys achieve the rank of Eagle Scout, the highest accomplishment in the world of scouting, his three sons included. Scouts and colleagues who know Vlismas said his ability to tell a good story and “lighten things up” in a tense situation were key in his ability to connect with scouts.
Center Moriches resident and for- mer troop leader Art Gerhauser fondly remembers spending time with Vlismas during his years in scouting, especially while camping.
“Spending time around a campfire with someone is when you really get to know them,” Gerhauser said. “Lou always had a talent for telling stories and had good stories to tell. Growing up in Colorado, Lou had different life experiences than those of us that grew up on Long Island. He would tell us how as winter neared, they would move the cattle down the mountain into a lower pasture in the valley. The snow would become so deep that they could not get to the cattle over land, and so his uncle, with whom he lived, had a plane they would use to get to the pasture, and by the time Lou was 14, he had his own plane! He would fly down to the pasture and push bales of hay out of the plane to feed the cattle.”
Gerhauser continued, “The deep snow also meant he couldn’t get to school during the winter or visit his friends. When he and his friends were young, they didn’t have radios that allowed them to transmit voice, but they could send and receive Morse code and this is how they communicated during the winter. He would say that knowing Morse code was like riding a bike, you never forget it, and he could still send and receive quickly. A very knowledgeable man, he could point out what seemed like every constellation in the night sky. Looking up at the night sky with Lou was like going to a planetarium show.”
Boy Scout trips and outings were especially important to Vlismas, said family, former colleagues, and scouts. One of his favorite excursions was Camp Yawgoog in Rhode Island, where he looked forward to going every summer with his scouts. “We had the best of times there,” said Kevin.
As time went on, Vlismas got moreinvolved than on just a local level, serving as commissioner, advancement chairman, and merit badge counselor for Suffolk County Boy Scouts, as well as serving as a member of the District Advancement Committee, in which capacity he was part of hundreds of Eagle Scout boards of review.
“Lou was a very dedicated scouter and even despite some hardships, never missed a meeting,” remembered Peter Scavo, of the Suffolk County Boy Scout Council, who worked with Vlismas on the Trailblazer District Advancement Committee.
Whether you were a fellow scout leader or a scout, all who knew Vlismas said he had a profound impact on them. George Keller, who served as Vlismas’s assistant scoutmaster, said “Lou taught me a lot about scouting. He was always going the extra mile for scouts to make sure they had a great experience.”
“What Lou gave to the boys that came through his troop was the Boy Scouting experience, where they learned to take responsibility, to work with and lead others, learned how to resolve a problem, and how to live the Scout Oath and bring the ideals of the Scout Law into their daily lives,” said Gerhauser.
It is clear that Vlismas had a profound impact on the many boys he mentored over the years, confirmed by the message board created in his memory by Moloney-Sinnickson Funeral Home.
Each post bears witness to Vlismas’s dedication to scouting and his commitment to the scouts he served.
“If the large number of friends and Eagle Scouts that came to his wake is any indication of the positive contribution he had on his community, I find comfort in knowing that he was always looking out for others; this devotion to community service is rarely seen. He was a great man with a great heart,” Kevin added.