A phone rang. Pete Scrougham answered it.
On the line was his partner — a woman he regularly volunteered with to visit older adults to give them company, make them feel safe.
One of the men they visited said he was contemplating suicide.
“I’ll be over,” Schrougham answered.
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This was his life as a TRIAD volunteer in the early 2000s: a willingness to “be there” and do what needed to be done.
This motivation, he said, came from his father.
“He said, ‘Son, if you can help anyone, do it,’” Scrougham said.
So he did.
Scrougham’s life is a picture of service, beginning with military service during the Korean War.
Scrougham enlisted in the Army and was deployed after 16 weeks of basic training. While in Korea, he received a head injury from shrapnel that flew from gunfire.
He was paralyzed from the neck down.
“You don’t usually come back from something like that,” Scrougham said.
He did come back — all of him.
He was walking, living, working and raising children.
Not that it was easy.
His daughter, Pam Jackson, remembers how “on their own” the family was.
“They didn’t have therapy back in those days,” Jackson said. “They didn’t diagnose post-traumatic stress disorder. You just had to work through it.”
So work he did.
And when he was done raising children, he looked toward Brown County to help.
More specifically, he looked down.
In 1995, he and a friend were troubled at the lack of commemorative material surrounding the graves of veterans. Graves of those who weren’t identified as belonging to veterans wouldn’t receive flags on Memorial Day.
Before Scrougham and his friend documented them all, there were 823 unmarked veteran graves in 63 cemeteries across the county.
“We’d go out and spend all day looking,” Scrougham said. “Sometimes you’d walk a cemetery two or three times.”
He said he and his friend found veterans from nearly every war dating back to the American Revolution.
“Every war, just about, except this war,” Scrougham said.
Only after they believed they were done did they quit.
“We had people call to thank us,” Scrougham said. “We had people bawl us out, too, if we forgot a member of their families.”
Mostly, he was thanked, and mostly today, he is proud of the work they did.
Somehow, he found himself involved with another large county project.
When two private companies operating the 9-1-1 services were relieved of their jobs, the county was at a loss for what to do next.
Jackson said he stood up in one of the commissioners meetings and volunteered to redo the address system that was already in place.
It wasn’t unusual for him to be at that kind of meeting, either.
“He went to all the council meetings — he loved that, he loved the sheriff, he’s always loved government,” Jackson said.
Scrougham got in touch with another friend — this time, Denzel Ford — who was familiar with IBM computers. Ford agreed to work on the project and even promised the commissioners that it would be finished in a year.
They began mapping out the county, driving all of the roads and giving residents new addresses. Previously, emergency services had been looking for addresses like “Rural Route 3, Box 2.”
With the way that Scrougham and Ford were doing it, people were getting new addresses that were much more specific than before.
“Some people didn’t like that they were getting new addresses,” Scrougham said.
Some of the post offices didn’t like that either. With new addresses, the post office maps would have to change as well.
Scrougham said the work was often tedious, and he wondered how he had gotten himself into such a situation.
But quitting never crossed his mind.
“Denzel said he’d have the paperwork done in a year, and I was right there with him through it all,” Scrougham said. “I’m proud of what we did.”
Jackson said the extent of her father’s work wasn’t something she realized until she got a job at the Brown County recorder’s office.
“I realized how much he was really doing,” Jackson said. Sometimes, when people didn’t know where things were located in the county, Jackson would call her father because she knew he would know.
“People in there would go, ‘Well, how come this hasn’t been updated since 2005?’ And I’d be like, ‘Do you have any idea the time and the energy and the dedication it took to do a map?’”
Their system of address listing and mapping remains in place today.
Of further service
In 1999, Scrougham took on his next large project. He said he received a call from the sheriff’s department, asking him if he was interested in volunteering with TRIAD — a service benefiting the elderly and shut-ins of Brown County by sending them visitors.
Scrougham didn’t start TRIAD but was one of the first to get the program off the ground. He said he was taking over for a couple who were wanting to quit the program.
TRIAD works by swearing in volunteers as reserve deputies. With this title, they have access to county vehicles that they can drive wherever they need to go.
“We didn’t have arresting power,” Scrougham said. “I didn’t want that.”
TRIAD volunteers work in pairs — one man, one woman. His partner was the one who called him the night that he intervened with a man contemplating suicide.
That night, when Scrougham arrived at the scene, things were more tense than usual.
With a loaded gun present in the house and Scrougham suspecting the man was drunk, he had to act quickly. He found the gun and emptied it of bullets.
When he rejoined the man, he asked him to speak to a minister.
The man didn’t want to.
Years later, they reconnected. The man had, indeed, chosen to speak with the minister.
“You changed my life that night,” Scrougham remembered the man saying.
Not all of the volunteering was that hard.
“Some people you could joke with,” Scrougham said.
He continued to volunteer for 12 years, until it became too difficult for him to climb stairs.
Now fully retired, Scrougham said he couldn’t imagine doing anything differently.
“Wouldn’t want to live anyplace else,” he said.
He didn’t care for Korea, he said, and even though he’d been to Hawaii, he said he wouldn’t even live there.
Across the street from him is Larry Hawkins, the owner of That Sandwich Place. On Saturdays, he and Scrougham drive up to his restaurant and eat.
“I told him, I said, ‘I’d come eat at your place more, but not unless you charge me,’” Scrougham said.
He is still never charged.
Occasionally, some TRIAD volunteers stop by to visit him.
“I always tell them to go visit someone else, someone who needs it,” Scrougham said.
He appreciates the thought though; and most importantly, he values the friends he’s picked up over the years.
“I have some friends that if I called, they’d be here right now if I needed it,” Scrougham said.
“Some people think they can do this life without friends,” he said. “You can’t.
Place of birth: Brown County
Parents: Omar and Alta Scrougham
Spouse: Doris Scrougham
Siblings: Ralph Scrougham, Clovis Scrougham, Raymond Scrougham, Warren Scrougham, Merril Scrougham, Eva Ford
Hobbies: Woodworking, rabbit and squirrel hunting, volunteer work