West Orange Troop 2 celebrates 100 years

Township Boy Scouts from past century gather to commemorate Troop 2, attend centennial party

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WEST ORANGE, NJ — West Orange’s Boy Scout Troop 2 celebrated its 100th anniversary with a gathering at Mayfair Farms on April 3, uniting Scouts past and present to pay tribute to the troop’s century of service to the community’s young men.

More than 150 former Scouts attended the event, with some traveling from as far away as Hawaii to catch up with old friends and troop leaders. The 38 current members of Troop 2 were also present to witness their group’s legacy, either by talking with their predecessors or exploring the hundreds of old photographs and awards collected in the memorabilia room. The significance of the centennial anniversary extended outside of West Orange, with Committee Chairman Vincent Gonnella announcing that Troop 2 had received commendations from President Barack Obama, Gov. Chris Christie and several other notable dignitaries.

The fact that so many people made the effort to recognize Troop 2 demonstrates just how special it has been to generations of the township’s boys, event Chairman Doug Perry said. Ever since the Rev. Karl Quimby launched the group out of the First Methodist Church at High Street and Ridge Avenue in 1916, the troop has guided thousands into adulthood by instilling in them the moral values of serving God and country while helping others, Perry said. In doing so, he said the troop allows the boys to build relationships that last a lifetime — something he knows firsthand.

“I’m still friends with the kids that I was in Scouts with in the ’60s,” Perry, who has been involved with Troop 2 either as a Scout or leader for 50 years, told the West Orange Chronicle in a March 31 phone interview. “We spend summers together fishing and everything else. The friendship is there, and it’s a great thing.

“This is how the troop is,” he said.

No matter how much time has passed, Perry added that he is sure his fellow former Scouts have memories from their time in the troop that feel like yesterday. And Troop 2 indeed has been providing memorable experiences since its inception, he said, from selling war bonds during World War I to white-water rafting on Pennsylvania’s Lehigh River to the countless camping and canoeing trips through the years. The Scouts have even been given a special tour of the White House arranged by Troop 2 alumnus and retired Secret Service Agent Jan Gilhooly, who served as the anniversary event’s guest speaker.

John T. McCann still has fond memories of participating in Troop 2 during the 1940s. He recalled going on frequent hunting trips in Camp Taylor — a wooded area that is now home to Redwood Elementary School — and trapping muskrats, later selling the pelts to Sears and Roebuck. He also said the Scouts would often go on treasure hunts Friday nights, finding items throughout town before meeting back up with their Scoutmasters for a marshmallow roast. At one point, he proudly remembered, he even won a free week at Boy Scout camp after passing more tests than any of the other troop members.

John T. McCann acknowledged that it was a much different time back then — he said he used ride the bus with his shotgun, and it was not uncommon to see deer carcasses hanging along Eagle Rock Avenue — but the life skills and lessons Troop 2 taught him and continue to teach boys are useful to this very day. In fact, he said he was able to apply what he learned from Scouting later during his service in the military and career as West Orange’s director of public works.

“It’s a good experience,” John T. McCann told the Chronicle at the event. “When the boys get together they learn they have to cooperate together. If they want to eat, they have to cook their own meals. If they’re all sleeping in a tent together, they have to clean up after themselves. They have to learn to take care of themselves really, because they can’t bring their mother with them when they go out camping.”

His son, John McCann, also knows the benefits of being part of Troop 2, even obtaining the rank of Eagle Scout in 1978. At the time, he said he did not realize the impact the troop had on his life. But looking back on all he has accomplished, including winning the Good Scout Award in 2009 and becoming the youngest chairman of the board for a college in the history of New Jersey, he told the Chronicle that there is no doubt that his success is a direct result of the values he learned in the Scouts.

“A Scout is trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean and reverent,” John McCann said, reciting Scout Law. “If you live your life that way, you can be anything you want. That’s what I attribute my success to.”

Jim Michael and Ron Panuska certainly know the effect Troop 2 can have on a boy, having served either as Scouts or troop leaders over the past several decades. In fact, Michael currently has the longest tenure of anyone involved with the troop with a collective 63 years, while Panuska also has more than 60 years to his name. Both said it has been a joy working with West Orange’s young men and seeing them learn and bond with one another.

Seeing them again at the anniversary celebration for the first time in years was an “emotional” experience, Michael said.

“Dealing with each group of kids was totally different because everybody’s different,” Michael, who is now Troop 2’s treasurer, told the Chronicle. “But when you meet (a Scout) again, then you remember.”

Scoutmaster Tim Brennan also enjoyed catching up with the former Troop 2 Scouts he had led during his 10 years in charge of the group. Speaking with the Chronicle during the event, Brennan said he loved talking with them and seeing their continued commitment to the troop. That loyalty shows how significant Troop 2 was in their lives, he said.

Now Brennan, Assistant Scoutmaster Jack Dean and the other assistants and committee members are at work on building the next generation of dedicated Scouts. According to Dean, Troop 2 currently has plenty.

“It’s really a privilege to be working with these boys,” Dean told the Chronicle at the celebration. “They’re really just terrific kids. They really are the best of West Orange.”

Tyler Eatman is one such Scout of whom Brennan and Dean are proud. The 15-year-old, who was elected senior patrol leader of Troop 2, said he has been involved with Scouting since he was 7years old and has appreciated every moment of the experience. In particular, he said has really enjoyed meeting friends and having the opportunity to develop leadership skills.

And Eatman knows those skills will come in handy down the road.

“It will help me with getting a job, having all those positive skills like communicating well with others and building a team,” Eatman told the Chronicle during the celebration.

Even the newest members of Troop 2 know how beneficial being part of the group is. Though they were just promoted from Cub Scouts two weeks ago, Mehai Graves, Peter Teixeira and Harold Ross said they are enjoying the experience of getting to know the other boys and look forward to earning merit badges after learning the life skills that go along with them.

Above all, Harold said it is nice just being part of a fun activity.

“At school we have troubles and things we have to get done,” Harold told the Chronicle during the event. “But Boys Scouts makes everything soothing because you get to see your friends and be with them to do teamwork.”

Photos by Sean Quinn