By Sandy Ciupak
Special to The Gazette
On Feb. 15, Ken Dudas of Brunswick was one of 150 new Eagle Scouts honored by the Greater Cleveland Council of the Boy Scouts of America in a ceremony at Clevelandâ€™s Renaissance Hotel.
Unlike the other recipients of scoutingâ€™s highest honor, Dudas wasnâ€™t wearing his uniform. Even if he knew where it was, thereâ€™s a pretty good chance it wouldnâ€™t have fit quite the same way it did in 1976, when Dudas completed all the requirements to earn his Eagle Scout rank.
Most of the Eagle Scout honorees at the Renaissance Hotel were teenagers. Dudas was just a week shy of his 50th birthday.
Ken Dudas, 50, of Brunswick, finally received his Eagle Scout rank on Feb. 15. His troop disbanded in 1976, just as he was finishing the requirements for Boy Scoutsâ€™ highest honor. (Shirley Ware | Photo editor)
The story of how Dudas got his Eagle Scout medal almost 33 years late begins in inner-city Cleveland, where his mother, Dolores, raised Dudas and his five siblings.
With plenty of opportunities to run the streets, Dudas said, the local Boy Scout troop provided him and his brothers with stability and positive male role models.
â€œThere were so many things to get in trouble with â€” and Iâ€™m not saying we didnâ€™t get into some,â€ Dudas recalled. â€œBut it helped keep our noses clean.â€
Dudas and two of his brothers first joined Clevelandâ€™s Troop 515 in the early â€™70s.
When the scout meetings conflicted with their confirmation classes at St. Colman Parish, the boys switched to Troop 611, which met at the West 65th Street church.
Dudas stayed with Troop 611 until it disbanded in 1976, just as he was completing the requirements to earn his Eagle Scout rank.
Scrubbing the sanctuary
To fulfill his final Eagle Scout requirement, which required planning and executing a community project, Dudas had assembled a group of volunteers to clean the walls of the
St. Colman Parish Chapel, an 800-seat basement sanctuary that the church would eventually convert into a parish hall.
Dudas and his volunteers, many of them other scouts, raised funds for cleaning supplies and spent three weeks on scaffolding in the high-ceiling sanctuary.
He remembers the beauty of the sanctuaryâ€™s intriciate artwork and shrines when the project was complete.
â€œI wish I had a picture,â€ he said.
Even though Dudas had finished his project, he no longer had a troop.
His scoutmaster was leaving to start a family, and nobody was willing to take his place.
While Dudas was disappointed, he didnâ€™t pursue joining another troop.
At 17, he was a high school senior, and with a job and a girlfriend, his interests were shifting.
For the time being, he would let his Eagle Scout dream go.
Dudas went on to run his own business, first in Parma and now in Brunswick, where he does remodeling and renovation as â€œMr. Fix-It.â€
He and his wife, Donna, have two grown daughters, and life is busy.
It took a reunion of Troop 515 â€” his original troop â€” to respark Dudasâ€™ scouting goals.
In November 2007, Dudas and his twin brother, Dennis, were invited to join previous members of Troop 515 for a 50-year reunion in Cleveland.
One conversation led to another, and soon Scout Executive Kendrick Miller spoke to Dudas about the Eagle Scout honor he had never received.
Miller put the wheels in motion, and last October, Dudas appeared before a board of review at Boy Scout headquarters on Woodland Avenue in Cleveland.
He had gathered all his merit badges and project notes, which he had managed to save after all these years.
â€œI have OCD, I think,â€ Dudas said jokingly. â€œWith this, I actually found something positive about it.â€
One other requirement Dudas had to complete: getting a â€œletter of extension,â€ a necessary piece of paperwork for those cases when the Eagle Scout application is submitted more than six months after the scoutâ€™s 18th birthday â€” in this case, three decades later.
Instead of the questions the review board usually asks its teenage candidates (â€œWhat are your plans for the future?â€), the board asked Dudas to look back at his scouting days and share his memories.
Camping, sharing a tent with his brothers, camaraderie with other scouts â€” those are the memories Dudas still treasures.
Now Dudas has another esteemed scouting memory: that long-awaited moment on Feb. 15, when he finally received his Eagle Scout medal, witnessed by his wife, Donna; his mother, Dolores; twin brother, Dennis; and a roomful of other â€” somewhat younger â€” Eagle Scout honorees.
Ciupak may be reached at email@example.com.