By Lou Baldwin
Special to The CS&T
According to statistics, roughly one boy in 50 who joins the Boy Scouts of America perseveres through the highest rank, Eagle Scout.
“Other things take precedence,” said Peter Houdek, 22, who the earned Eagle ranking in 2006. “Some say its ‘fumes and perfume’ (cars and girls).”
Peter, who just graduated from Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, was the first of three Houdek brothers who joined Cub Scouts at St. Isidore Parish in Quakertown and stuck with it all the way to Eagle Scout.
That is not unprecedented but it is certainly rare. Dan, 20, who is a sophomore at Duquesne, achieved Eagle two years ago, and Brian, 18, a freshman at Mount St. Mary College in Emmitsburg, Md., was inducted Dec. 30.
The boys’ sister, Nancy Zoller, even got in on the family tradition. She married an Eagle Scout, Ben Zoller.
Peter, Dan and Brian agree they were initially placed in scouting by their parents, Michael and Joanne Houdek, but absolutely loved it. As a result, they gained skills that will carry them through life.
Michael Houdek, whose own mother was a long-time den mother, is a former cub leader and scoutmaster of St. Isidore’s Troop 185. Still the liaison between the St. Isidore program and the local district, he is convinced scouting teaches good core values, especially leadership skills, and that’s where the Eagle Scouts come in.
Peter Houdek was really involved in sports at Bethlehem Catholic High School. He considered dropping out of scouts but ultimately stayed with it, as did Nick Lynch, a friend who started Tiger Scouts with him.
For his Eagle project, Peter oversaw the restoration of a playground in the development where his family lives.
“I busted my butt a little and it was worth it,” he said. “I organized a group of scouts and we pulled weeds, cut down trees and put in new wood chips.”
Looking back, Peter said, “it was originally the camping and hiking I liked, but it set me up to handle numerous situations I would experience in the real world. I would absolutely recommend it.”
Now with his degree in sports management, Peter has just landed a position with the Los Angeles Dodgers farm system.
Dan Houdek, a graduate of Allentown Central Catholic High School, is in the Naval ROTC program at Duquesne and is certain that the scouting experience helped him obtain a scholarship for that.
“I loved the outdoors, the camping and the backpacking,” he said. “I was a patrol leader for a while and that helped me with leadership skills, and there is a good, spiritual effect.”
His Eagle project was transforming a store room in the basement of St. Isidore’s old church into an art room. It involved moving out the stored material and cabinets, tearing down a wall and painting by himself and with his scout crew. He also had assistance from a scout father with the laying of floor tile.
His future goal after graduation is to be an officer with the U.S. Marines. And again, his scout leadership training will be a big help.
Brian Houdek, who is also an Allentown Central Catholic grad, said he never seriously considered quitting the scouts after joining Tiger Scouts in first grade.
“My brothers seemed to enjoy it so much I chose to continue. I liked the camaraderie and how we all worked together learning different skills. A big thing I learned was time management. I would most definitely recommend scouting. I think it helps me in every aspect of life.”
Brian’s Eagle project was the construction of a meditation garden at St. Isidore. “Eventually they will put Stations of the Cross there,” he said.
At Mount St. Mary he is majoring in theology for a possible future as a lay missionary.
Brian Houdek is one of four Eagle Scouts from Troop 185 this year. William Witkoski’s Eagle project was organizing a group to refurbish the town softball park; John Miller organized the brick paving of a path to the outdoor Pieta at St. Isidore; and Anthony Boccardi organized a crew to refurbish the bike path in Nockamixon State Park.
Lou Baldwin is a member of St. Leo Parish and a freelance writer.
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