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Eagle Scout fulfills promise to dying grandmother

| Tuesday, Jan. 1, 2013, 8:45 p.m.
Boy Scouts of America Troop 304 member John Edward Leonard, (right) 18, of Latrobe, is congratulated by William Kemerer, Scout Master emeritus after receiving the Eagle Badge on Saturday, Dec. 8, 2012, at St. John the Evangelist Parish Hall in Latrobe. Rebecca Emanuele | for the Tribune Review
Kevin Leonard of Latrobe (right) speaks fondly about his son, Boy Scouts of America Troop 304 member John Edward Leonard, 18, as he becomes an Eagle Scout on Saturday, Dec. 8, 2012, at St. John the Evangelist Parish Hall, Latrobe. Rebecca Emanuele | for the Tribune Review

When John E. Leonard of Latrobe achieved the rank of Eagle Scout in August, he was keeping a promise made to his dying grandmother three years ago.

Leonard told his maternal grandmother, Ruth L. Cline of Latrobe, in June 2009 that he would remain in Boy Scouts and would become an Eagle Scout one day.

Cline was a patient in UMPC Shadyside hospital in Pittsburgh when he made that pledge.

“He made a deathbed promise to her he would become an Eagle Scout. She literally passed away within an hour,” said John's father, Kevin Leonard.

“She was a really big supporter” of his participation in Boy Scouts, said Leonard, 18, a member of Boy Scout Troop 304, which is sponsored by St. John the Evangelist and Holy Family parishes in Latrobe.

At the time of his promise, Leonard held the rank of First Class, meaning he still had to earn the ranks of Star and Life scout before tackling the Eagle Scout requirements. Leonard, a junior at Greensburg Central Catholic High School, persevered and earned the rank of Eagle Scout on Aug. 17, about three weeks short of his 18th birthday. Only 5 percent of those in Boy Scouts earn the rank of Eagle Scout each year, according to the Boy Scouts of America.

Leonard received his Eagle neckerchief from his father on Dec. 2 during an Eagle Court of Honor ceremony held at St. John the Evangelist Parish.

For his leadership service project, which is required to earn the rank of Eagle Scout, Leonard initially wanted to build a bridge on the John Ache Trail that is connected to the Bureau of Forestry office along Route 30 in Laughlintown.

The forestry bureau had other priorities for Leonard. A bridge on Brant Trail over Linn Run near Linn Run State Park in Ligonier Township had been destroyed when a tree fell on it, blocking access to the trail and the use of emergency vehicles in that section of the state forest land, said Michael DiRinaldo, the Bureau of Forestry's service forester for Allegheny, Washington and Westmoreland counties.

The 34-foot-long bridge was constructed on June 18 and 19, thanks to the assistance of some 30 fellow Scouts, Kevin Leonard said.

The location of the bridge posed some challenges because it was in the woods, about 50 feet from Linn Run Road, the elder Leonard said. That meant hauling supplies and materials from the road to the worksite.

“There was lots of boy power and manpower,” he said.

The bridge is strong enough and wide enough – at 5 12 feet – to be used by horses and a utility cart that can be used as a rescue vehicle. It is supported by two steel I-beams, which were laid in place by the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, Leonard said.

Joe Napsha is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-836-5252 or

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