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