By Stephen J. Kotz
Sag Harbor Boy Scout Troop 455, which has produced Eagle Scouts at an amazing clip the past decade, honored two more members who have achieved scouting’s highest rank at a court of honor on Monday.
Harrison Yardley, the son of Ken and Mimi Yardley, and Aris Witty, the son of Patrick and Christiana Witty, are the latest scouts to achieve Eagle.
The two honorees share more than a dedication to scouting: They are cousins — their mothers are sisters. Aris’s father also serves as the troop’s scoutmaster and quipped that he was in the unusual position of being a “father, uncle and godfather” to Eagle Scouts. Both scouts are also freshmen at Purdue University, where Harrison is studying industrial engineering and Aris is studying nuclear engineering.
Four recent Sag Harbor Eagles attended Monday’s court of honor including U.S. Army Sgt. Max Yardley, Addison Cook, Dana Harvey and James Froehlich. The troop has also produced three other Eagles in recent years: Kevin Heine, Brendan Schiel and Leftheri Syrianos.
“The road to Eagle is rough. It challenges the scout, their families and scout leaders,” said assistant scoutmaster Chris Remkus, the master of ceremonies. “A scout who completes the journey has labored long and hard to reach this point.”
To attain Eagle, a scout must earn a minimum of 24 merit badges as well as produce a project that will benefit the community. Aris oversaw the construction of two kiosks directing people to the trails of the Long Pond Greenbelt. One is located on the Bridgehampton-Sag Harbor Turnpike in front of the Children’s Museum of the East End, the other at the trailhead behind the South Fork Natural History Museum across the street. For his project, Harrison oversaw the construction of a system that holds and distributes fresh saltwater at the Conscience Point oyster hatchery in North Sea.
Mr. Witty said he had no ready answer for why so many Sag Harbor scouts have taken on the challenge. Successful candidates “realize very early on, once they cross over from Cub Scouts that they have to start working on it. Otherwise they don’t have enough time,” he said.
Sgt. Yardley, who is home on leave from Fort Bragg, welcomed his younger brother and cousin into the fold. “Only about 4 percent of boys who enter scouting achieve what you are being recognized for this afternoon,” he said. “I received my Eagle award three years ago, and it has continually enriched my life.”
The scouts received proclamations from New York State Senator Kenneth P. LaValle, Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr., Suffolk County Legislator Bridget Fleming, Mayor Sandra Schroeder and Southampton Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman. They were also honored by the Sag Harbor Fire Department, the American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars, the Sag Harbor Lions Club and the Friends of the Long Pond Greenbelt.
Mr. Thiele pointed out that the Assembly proclamation was stamped with the state seal, which has an eagle at the top, the Latin word, “excelsior,” which means ever higher, at the bottom.
“As Eagles, you have reached the highest rung of scouting,” he said, “but the motto of the State of New York symbolizes that you are only at the beginning of your journey.”