Honoring Jack Berry

Last week, over 160 current and former Boy Scouts, plus parents and friends, gathered to honor Jack Berry.

Jack Berry

Jack Berry

The Troop 36 scoutmaster stepped down last month, after 30 years serving Scouts here. He has Stage 4 pancreatic cancer. The side effects of treatments forced him into one of the toughest decisions he’s ever made.

The room was filled with boys and men  eager to thank their former scoutmaster, and praise publicly the decades of volunteer work he’s done privately.

Here’s what a few of them said. Multiply their words thousands of times, and you’ll have a small measure of the giant man Jack Berry is.

Zach Effman was awed by his scoutmaster’s devotion.

His incredible ability to see and bring out the best in others and his joy in doing so has been an inspiration to me, while I have had the privilege of seeing him doing what he does best. Without any hesitation, I can say that Mr. Berry is the best person I have ever known. I know that his presence in the troop will be missed, but I also know that his effect on my life will never fade.

Marshall Knutson praised:

With over 50 years of scouting experience under his belt, Mr. Berry amounts to no less than a scouting God. His unwavering devotion to scouting and his inspirational charisma make him perfect at what he does. Under his guidance, Troop 36 recruits more new scouts and pumps out more Eagle Scouts than any other troop in Connecticut, solidifying Mr. Berry’s reputation as one of the greatest scoutmasters ever. His skill lies in his ability to observe a scout’s strengths and weaknesses, and provide them with the leadership opportunities they would most likely succeed at.

Jack gave Marshall many opportunities to lead — entrusting him most notably with a special needs Scout. That experience is no less important to Marshall than     earning his Eagle Scout.

A small group of the many Boy Scouts who honored Jack Berry.

A small group of the many Boy Scouts who honored Jack Berry.

Edward Hickson –another  Eagle, and a rising junior at Ithaca College — said:

Scouting turned out to be one of the highlights of high school for me, and I can say with complete conviction that it would not be the same if Mr. Berry had not been my scoutmaster….Mr. Berry was there every step of the way. His motivation and commitment to helping me advance in scouting and become a better person means he is an inspiration to me and to all the other scouts who have had the privilege of participating in his Troop 36.

Bruce Borner — the father of a Boy Scout — added in an email: “The recurring theme is Jack’s belief in each of the boys.” Bruce noted that Jack had encouraged a very shy boy with a good voice to take singing lessons. He then gently prodded the youngster to sing a solo at Jack’s celebration. He gave, Bruce said, a “remarkable” performance.

Bruce added:

Jack’s impact on all boys — including my son, who was dramatically transformed — is legendary. I’m not sure I’ve met anyone who has achieved as much as Jack in a leadership role, and yet remains so humble.

troop 36, Westport CT

Jack responded:

It really broke my heart to make the announcement that I had to leave the position of being your Scoutmaster. I know many of you felt I had an impact on your lives.  The part you may not understand is the impact that many of you had on me.  Over the years, you have given me an encyclopedia of memories that I cherish forever.

Thanks, Jack Berry, for all you’ve done for so many Westport boys and men.

And how nice to know that — whatever their age — they understand your enormous impact on their lives; appreciate it so gratefully, and express it so eloquently.

The inscription on Jack Berry's cake read, "The sport in scouting is to find the good in every boy, and develop it."

The inscription on Jack Berry’s cake read, “The sport in Scouting is to find the good in every boy, and develop it.”

4 responses to “Honoring Jack Berry

  1. It was a small token of our love and gratitude, true, but it could never measure up to the impact Jack Berry has made, and continues to make, on our family, our community and what it means to be a Boy Scout.

    Our Mikey became an Eagle Scout this past week. That probably wouldn’t have happened if it hadn’t been for Jack Berry. He and his family are in our prayers. So is Troop 36…Jack is a tough act to follow.

  2. Ruth Donohue

    As the mother of two grown up Eagle Scouts from troop 36, I can’t overstate what a phenomenal Scoutmaster Jack has been. It was a wonderful evening and as we went to say our goodbyes to Jack he was talking to a young Scout heading to Camp Yawgoog for the first time. Still working that Jack Berry magic, he made the boy’s eyes light up with his descriptions of all the fun he would have. Classic Jack. Class act.

  3. Kerry Foley

    Jack Berry’s retirement is not only a great loss to Troop 36, but to Scouts throughout Westport and well beyond. You would be hard pressed to find a Scout in the area who wasn’t the beneficiary of Jack’s commitment and enthusiasm. In both the quiet moments, such as patiently teaching a group of Cub Scouts the proper way to fold the oversized American flag after the Memorial Day parade, and the great adventures, such as their three week trip to Scotland, Jack was a central figure in the scouting career of our son, a Scout in Troop 100. We are so grateful to Jack for his many years of leadership. His family is in our thoughts and prayers.

  4. Very nice. Thanks for providing to us, Dan. While I do not know Jack it is wonderful to know there are people like him. I am reminded of words attributed to Emerson….”If one person has breathed easier because of what you have done then you are a success”. Jack Berry is clearly a success.