Ed Keller underestimated the fuss that would come with getting his long overdue Eagle Scout award.
The 80-year-old assumed he would pick up the medal at the local Boy Scout office, but he became the focus of an Eagle Scout Court of Honor instead.
“It's quite an honor,” Keller said Sunday afternoon to an audience of family, friends and uniformed Scouts at St. Vincent de Paul Catholic Church. “I didn't expect it.”
Perhaps with good reason.
Keller, who joined Troop 5 at age 11, completed the requirements for Eagle Scout, but life intervened before the process was finalized. Decades later, a sibling discovered the original, approved and signed application among their deceased mother's belongings, but Keller assumed it was too late to act. It was 2003.
He would later mention the application to a longtime friend and fellow Scout, who repeatedly encouraged him to bring the paperwork to the Anthony Wayne Area Council service center to ask whether it could be considered, said Ken Wells, a Scoutmaster who summarized Keller's biography during the half-hour ceremony.
Keller began the process of receiving his Eagle Scout award last year, according to the ceremony's program.
His application was accepted after some back-and-forth with national representatives, Wells said, and a board of review was scheduled. He became an Eagle Scout on June 23, an honor delayed by almost 64 years, Wells said.
Sunday's ceremony was tweaked to reflect the unusual honoree.
For instance, the Eagle Scout challenge was instead directed at the Scouts in the socially distanced, masked audience.
“This part of the program is usually a challenge to the recipient to go forward and make the world a better place,” said Tim Kearney of the Anthony Wayne Area Council. “But this is a rather different situation. We haven't found records that indicate this has ever happened in the over 100 years of our council – presenting the Eagle Scout award to an 80-year-old Scout.”
Kearney recognized Keller's service in the Air Guard, his deployment overseas and his career with the Fort Wayne Fire Department, from which he retired with the rank of captain.
“The challenge then is for all Scouts to follow in Ed Keller's footsteps,” Kearney said. “Lift up everyone you meet to a high level of service to God and to your fellow man. Help build America on the solid foundations of clean living, honest work, unselfish citizenship and reverence for God. In short, be like Ed Keller.”
1951: Ed Keller joins Troop 5, Franklin School, Fort Wayne.
1958: Keller graduates from North Side High School, joins the Air National Guard and reports for training at Lackland Air Force Base.
1961-62: Deploys to France in support of the Berlin crisis of 1961, which resulted in the construction of the Berlin Wall.
1968: Begins a career with the Fort Wayne Fire Department, from which he retired in 1996.
2019: Begins the process of receiving his Eagle Scout award.
Source: Eagle Scout Court of Honor program