Scouts, past and present, gathered at First Church Congregational Saturday afternoon to celebrate the proud tradition of Eagle Scouts in the ranks of Boy Scout Troop 82 -- more than 100 troop members have attained Scouting's highest honor over the course of nearly nine decades.
Among the attendees was 101-year-old Dr. Bernie Queneau, thought to be America's oldest living Eagle Scout, who was invited to the ceremony as an honored guest. Queneau, a resident of Pittsburgh, Pa., who drove himself to the event, reached the Eagle rank at age 15, in 1928.
Troop 82 Scoutmaster Brian LeClerc noted nearly 50 Eagle Scouts were on hand for the event, ranging from age 15 to 101. The first Troop 82 Eagle Scout was Edward Pratt, who joined the group in 1926 and achieved the rank in 1928. He served in the U.S. Army and Air Force, received a Silver Star and Purple Heart at Pearl Harbor, and contributed to a scouting book, "The Scout Jamboree Book".
The ceremony was originally planned as a celebration of the 100th Eagle in the troop, but research revealed that the troop has actually awarded 110 Eagle badges. "They are part of the 2 percent in the country who have been Boy Scouts that have been able to reach the rank," said LeClerc. "The Eagle rank is the pinnacle at the end of the scouting trail that many strive for but few ever achieve."
First Selectman Michael Tetreau was among the officials on hand for the ceremony. He observed that half of Troop 82's Eagle Scouts had attained the rank after the year 2000. "This gives me faith in the future and that they're part of the next generation of leadership of our town and country," he said.
Probate Judge Daniel Caruso, himself an Eagle Scout, also offer his thoughts. "Leaders here grow leaders and we're most grateful for that," he said. "We're thankful for the dedication of parents and the congregation for making this possible."
U.S. Rep. Jim Himes made an appearance as well, contributing that "many leaders in the government and top companies are Eagle Scouts," and that, "without exception, they represent integrity."
Queneau recounted his Scouting experiences for the gathering, which he said included a six-week cross-country trip from New York to San Francisco to promote travel by car and demonstrate Boy Scout skills, like making fire by friction. "I owe an awful lot to Scouting," he said. "It kept me busy as a teenager, and in good health with bicycling."
Queneau went on to become a successful engineer and, remarried 11 years ago after the death of his first wife. The troop honored him with a vintage kerchief and Scout hat.