Maxie Dunning: A small-town leader

Posted: Nov 17, 2011

On March 8, 1888 in the town of Sennett, New York, Maxie Dunning came into the world during a fierce blizzard. Despite the audacity of her arrival, her early years read like a storybook.  She grew up on a small farm in Central New York, attended school, and went onto Mt. Holyoke College before marrying her gentleman, Charles Dunning in 1910.  Details of her childhood are few and far between, however, records during her adult years reflect an adventurous, tenacious personality and a love of the outdoors.

Her courageous spirit took Maxie across the country with her husband.  As newlyweds, they honeymooned in the Adirondacks, then traveled to New York, New Orleans, and finally boarded a train to Phoenix.  The last leg of their journey brought them to Prescott, Arizona by wagon, where Charles was the manager of Big Pine Mine on Mt. Tritle in the Bradshaw Mountains. It was here that they laid down their roots and started a family in 1912. In a humble home, Maxie and Charles raised four children (David, Mary Max, Charles and Richard).  

When Maxie heard about the Girl Scouting program in 1916, she wrote to national headquarters to inquire about becoming a leader (then called “captain”).  Until her request was granted, however, Maxie acquired a Girl Scouts handbook, and began providing programming to girls in Prescott.  In 1918, her troop became official, and she continued as a Girl Scouts leader for years to come.  In a vignette written by a former troop member, Maxie was described as “gay and energetic, laughed a lot and was brimming with great ideas.”

Maxie remained committed to Scouting, even after moving to Phoenix in 1927. Upon her arrival, she participated in and promoted camp, and even served on the first board for building Girl Scout Camps.  For her efforts, she was awarded the Thanks Badge in 1937. In 1940, she was elected Camp Chairman, and under her guidance, the Girl Scouts secured several properties, including our own Camp Maripai and Shadow Rim. 

Even as Maxie ascended the ranks at our council as a professional Girl Scout, she continued to work with girls directly.  In 1947, at age 59, she hiked the Grand Canyon with Girl Scouts, and at the age of 65, worked as program staff during a summer at Camp Maripai. At camp, Maxie was endearingly nicknamed “Packrat” for her admitted tendency to “pick things up at one place and take them to another.”  In a Listening Post Magazine entry from January 1985, the author wrote about how this inclination strengthened her ability to lead: “She moved good ideas around, as well as material things” and added she was “a woman whose very life personified the Girl Scout Promise and Law.”

In 1948, Maxie became the President of our council, and received her 50 year pin in 1977.

Maxie passed away on December 8th, 1984 at age 96. 

Maxie once said “Life is too elaborate. Girls need a taste of the simple things. They can get it through Scouting.”

Thanks, Maxie for bringing the “simple things” to the girls in Prescott. You were the original Arizona small town leader, and are a true inspiration.