SOAR LIKE an Eagle. The town’s four newest Eagle Scouts, from left, Joseph Gonthier, Connor Gover, Thomas Lasdin and Scott Valenti, were honored during a special quadruple Eagle Court of Honor hosted by Boy Scout Troop 750 and their families Jan. 6. (Maureen Doherty Photo)

Published in the January 18, 2018 edition


NORTH READING — An impressive ceremony honoring four young men who have achieved the rank of Eagle Scout, the highest honor bestowed by the Boy Scouts of America, was held by North Reading’s Troop 750.

A full house of family, friends and dignitaries attended the ceremony and catered dinner held at St. Theresa Parish Hall Jan. 6 to honor Eagle Scouts Joseph Gonthier, Connor Gover, Thomas Lasdin and Scott Valenti. The parish serves as the chartering organization for Troop 750, a role it assumed last year after 50 years of sponsorship by the Knights of Columbus. During the ceremony, a show of appreciation was offered to Don Henchey, a member of the K of C who oversaw Troop 750 for 35 of those 50 years.

MENTOR PINS are presented to Kevin Spicer (left) and Tony O’Brien by Eagle Scout Tom Lasdin.(Photo by Maureen Doherty)

The Scout slogan is “Do a Good Turn Daily,” and it was evident from the impressive list of accomplishments of these scouts that they had lived up to that motto in pursuit of the rank of Eagle, which a mere four percent of all Boy Scouts achieve nationwide. Since 1912, more than 2 million Boy Scouts have earned their Eagle. 

All of the required merit badges and leadership roles, culminating with each boy’s Eagle service project, must be completed prior to his 18th birthday. It was pointed out that these service projects, for which he serves as the project manager – from securing financing through fund-raising by seeking charitable donations to mentoring younger scouts and other volunteers in achieving a goal that must benefit an organization within the community that is outside of scouting – offers boys the opportunity to earn lifelong skills as teenagers.

Joe Gonthier’s Eagle service project was the creation of an area of improvement, wildlife habitat development and erosion prevention at Martin’s Pond. He is a 2017 graduate of NRHS who attends Merrimack College and is the son of Mike and Dawn Gonthier.

SANDY VALENTI presents the Eagle Scout commemorative neckerchief to her son Scott as husband Steve looks on. (Photo by Maureen Doherty)

Tom Lasdin’s Eagle service project was the construction and installation of an information marquee for the Performing Arts Center on the grounds of NRHS. It is located near the playing fields and main access driveway leading to the new school. He is a 2017 graduate of NRHS who attends Virginia Polytechnic Institute and is the son of Rich and Mary Lasdin.

Connor Gover’s Eagle service project was the recognition of military veterans by leading the construction of U.S. flag presentation cases for a dozen veterans affiliated with the Lt. Norman Prince VFW Post in Melrose and Melrose Veterans’ Services. These veterans had served their country from World War II to the present. He conducted a ceremony last June 6 in their honor.

During the Eagle Court of Honor, Connor also surprised his grandfather, Korean War veteran John F. Gover, by presenting him with the 13th commemorative flag case made as part of his service project. His grandfather had served in the U.S. Marine Corps from 1953 to 1956. Connor is a senior at NRHS and the son of Brian and Kerry Gover.

STATE REP. Brad Jones presents commendations from the State House of Representatives to the four Eagle Scouts in the receiving line of the Court of Honor at St. Theresa’s. (Photo by Maureen Doherty)

Scott Valenti’s Eagle service project involved the construction and installation of wooden storage cubicles in the nurse’s office at NRHS. This space was designed to satisfy the need to store student medications by the school medical staff. Valenti was inspired to conduct this project last year after his younger sister was diagnosed with Type I diabetes. He said he subsequently learned that “there were a number of students in the Middle and High Schools that have Type I diabetes. The new building was completed but they did not have any storage area and bins for their supplies.” Because of his project, these students now have easy access to their necessary medicines. A 2017 graduate of NRHS, he attends Stonehill College and is the son of Steve and Sandy Valenti.

Offering gratitude

Being grateful is another Scouting motto and the Eagle Scouts bestowed ample thanks to those who had helped them along this journey. In addition to offering commemorative pins to their mothers and fathers as well as their grandparents, each Scout personally surprised their mentors with the presentation of mentor pin.

USMC Korean War veteran John F. Gover was surprised when his grandson Connor presented him with a commemorative flag case he built for his Eagle Scout project. (Photo by Maureen Doherty)

Gonthier offered his mentor pin to Ed McGrath who helped guide his environmental restoration project at Martin’s Pond. Gover presented his mentor pin to Assistant Scoutmaster Tony O’Brien. Lasdin chose two mentors, Tony O’Brien and Kevin Spicer. And Valenti offered his mentor pin to Assistant Scoutmaster Mike Gonthier, Joe’s dad, who also served as the Master of Ceremonies for the evening.

The Court of Honor also included quite a bit of ceremony with the Presentation of the Colors and Pledge of Allegiance as well as the Opening and Closing ceremonial candle lighting led by Troop 750 Senior Patrol Leader Sam Regan. This was followed by the invocation led by Rev. Thomas J. Reilly, Parochial Vicar of St. Theresa Parish and himself an Eagle Scout, and a speech on the societal benefits offered by Scouting based on facts and figures presented by Assistant Scoutmaster Tony O’Brien. 

Among noteworthy Eagles, O’Brien point out, have been astronaut Neil Armstrong, movie director Stephen Spielberg and his personal favorite, Mike Rowe, host of “Dirty Jobs,” which got a laugh from the audience.

Life Scout Owen DeCleene impressed everyone with his dramatic “Voice of the Eagle” personification, his booming voice emanating from behind the stage detailing the journey to the Eagle rank while acknowledging current accomplishments of the younger scouts. The Eagle Charge was led by Troop 750 Eagle Scout Eli Spicer.

Each Eagle Scout was presented with a commemorative Eagle neckerchief by his mother and his Eagle pin by his father. Both Rich Lasdin, the Chartered Organization Representative and Bishop Mark O’Connell, North Region Bishop of the Archdiocese of Boston and Pastor of St. Theresa Parish, presented each scout with a red Eagle Scout dress coat from Troop 750.

The mothers presented their sons with commemorative walking sticks affixed with an emblem representing each of the merit badges the scout achieved en route to earning the Eagle rank. Scouts must complete a minimum of 21 merit badges, 13 of which are required (first aid, citizenship in the community, citizenship in the nation, citizenship in the world, communication, cooking, personal fitness, emergency preparedness or lifesaving, environmental science or sustainability, personal management, swimming or hiking or cycling, camping, and family life. The balance of the merit badges may be selected from the dozens of options that reflect each scout’s interests.

Lasdin earned 31 merit badges. His optional merit badges were wood carving, leatherwork, snow sports, photography, weather, electricity, orienteering, computers, medicine, crime prevention, archery, geology, wilderness survival, aviation, search and rescue, metalwork, art and music. He also logged 46 camping nights.

Gover earned 27 merit badges, with optional badges in dog care, snow sports, traffic safety, crime prevention, disability awareness, salesmanship, mammal study, Indian lore, American heritage, American cultures, electricity, canoeing, small boat sailing and camping. He logged 37 camping nights.

Gonthier earned 26 merit badges with optional badges in American cultures, aviation, collections, Indian lore, leatherwork, photography, pulp and paper, small boat sailing, snow sports, traffic safety, water sports, weather and wood carving. He logged 117 service hours, 27 camping nights, and completed 35 hiking miles, 10 backpacking miles, 12 cycling miles and 50 paddling miles.

Valenti earned 23 merit badges with optional badges earned in fishing, snow sports, archery, small boat sailing, Indian lore, fingerprinting, pottery, art, and theater and he logged 35 camping nights.

Both Lasdin and Gonthier also earned a religious scouting award, Ad Altare Dei and Gonthier additionally completed the mile swim BSA award.

Several citations were also presented personally to each scout by State Rep. Brad Jones, House Minority Leader; Selectman Andrew Schultz, representing the Board of Selectmen; and Richard Curran representing the office of State Sen. Bruce Tarr. Congressman Seth Moulton also sent citations to the boys from the U.S. House of Representatives.

Each scout also offered personal remarks and thanks to those present prior to the benediction by Bishop O’Connell and grace led by Rev. William Coughlin, who is pastor of Most Blessed Sacred in Greenwood, a mentor to Bishop O’Connell and a personal friend of the Gonthier family.

Gonthier left the younger scouts with words of encouragement, telling them “believe you can and you’re halfway there.” 

He added, “While some of you are currently working on becoming Eagle Scouts, you’re probably thinking ‘How am I going to finish this by my 18th birthday?’ It starts by believing in yourself. While the trail to Eagle is hard, it is certainly not impossible. As Navy Seal Rob O’Neill once said, ‘Nothing is impossible, it’s just very, very difficult.’”

Lasdin echoed similar words of encouragement. Pointing out that scouting is “where I have met some of my closest friends” and “where I learned many life lessons that you can’t learn in school,” he said he couldn’t have earned his Eagle alone. He especially thanked his family for their support, in particular, his older sister Katherine who prodded him even while she was “10,000 miles away” as a college exchange student in Australia, as well as the adult leaders who consistently ensure the troop offers “quality programming.”

“I need to thank Caleb; I don’t know if I ever would have had the confidence to be SPL if it wasn’t forced on to me when he jumped out of a tree and broke his foot while on a campout. The Spicer family taught me many lessons in my life, some of which might even help me be a useful member of society,” Lasdin quipped. 

“To all scouts in the audience, I encourage you to stick with the program and I hope that it will offer you all that it has offered me. To the current members of Troop 750, recognize how lucky you are to be in such a great troop. Please treat it well, help it grow, and make sure that it is a place where anyone can come to make friends, learn skills, and have the time of their life,” Lasdin concluded.