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LARSON: Becoming an Eagle a Boy Scout family tradition

Susan Larson

Susan Larson

For their 100th anniversary, Boy Scouts of America introduced Generation Connection, an activity to encourage Scouts to dig into their family history for past relatives who'd been involved in Scouting and then share their findings on the BSA Web site.

This is one project for which some Scouts were not prepared. They found themselves looking up phone numbers and addresses and cold calling and snail mailing elderly relatives they hardly knew.

But that was not the case with Dr. Jesse Vics of Duluth. He already had his entire family's Scouting history — all four generations of it — neatly tucked away in one box.

Among the stack of newspaper clippings is a framed collection of memorabilia documenting the Scouting life of his father, Dr. I. Irving Vics, born in 1907, three years before BSA started. The display includes everything from his Cub Scout pin to his adult honors. But standing out among them all is the Eagle he earned in 1924.

All Scouts know that once an Eagle, always an Eagle, and the elder Vics exemplified that. After becoming the first Sea Scout Skipper in the USA in the late 1930s, he became a doctor of optometry with many publications and inventions to his credit, including eyeglasses for the near blind. But he still had time for Scouting and garnered even more awards including the Ner Tamid (Hebrew for eternal light) and the Silver Beaver, adult Scouting's highest distinction. And maybe most importantly, in 1947 he started Troop 43 in Albany New York and got his son Jesse hooked on scouting.

Jesse Vics followed his father's footsteps into the field of optometry. He also followed his father down the trail to his Eagle, which became official in 1950 when President Truman signed his certificate.

Three decades later, the tradition continued with both of Vics' sons. His older son, Howard earned his Eagle in 1977 and his younger son, David followed in 1982.

Now we fast-forward to 2010. Dr.Vics and his wife Renie will soon travel to New York to witness their grandson, Joshua (son of Howard) become the fourth generation of Eagles in the Vics family.

Of course Dr. Vics may have to juggle his schedule a wee bit for this trip. As he continues to follow that lifelong trail of an Eagle, he fills up his life with numerous volunteer activities.

"I'm on the Board of Directors of Sentinels of Freedom-Gwinnett dedicated to bringing severely wounded warriors from Iraq and Afghanistan, and helping them get back on the trail to a productive civilian life," Vics said.

Through the Kiwanis Club he mentors children in math and science at Duluth Middle School. He also works with the Georgia Commission on the Holocaust as a docent at the "Anne Frank in the World" Exhibit in Sandy Springs and is helping with the Day of Remembrance on April 11 at the Georgia State Capitol.

While he continues on this Eagle trail, he looks forward to the day when his son David can help his pre-schooler Carson carry on the family tradition. But this optometrist's vision doesn't stop there.

"I'd like to see all young men espouse the ideals and the commitment that Scouting presents."

Susan Larson is a Lilburn resident. E-mail her at susanlarson4@yahoo.com.