Newtown Square resident named American Legion's national Eagle Scout of the year

Joseph Blaisse, 17, has been named the American Legion's national Eagle Scout of the year.
Joseph Blaisse, 17, has been named the American Legion's national Eagle Scout of the year. (PAUL FACENDA)
Posted: June 04, 2014

Joe Blaisse's rise to scouting stardom began with a simple idea: Help military veterans receive the recognition they deserve.

So, the 17-year-old Newtown Square resident connected local vets with Honor Flight Philadelphia, a corporate-sponsored program that hosts World War II veterans at a daylong tour of Washington monuments.

As a result of that and his many other scouting achievements, Blaisse was honored as the American Legion's national Eagle Scout of the year last month. With that came $10,000 toward his college education.

"Saying something like national Eagle Scout of the year doesn't mean best Eagle Scout," Blaisse said. "It means a better representation."

There is no denying that Blaisse has represented his Troop 315 well. He earned $1,500 for college for being named the American Legion's Pennsylvania Eagle Scout of the year, and $1,000 as the Pennsylvania Scout of the Year by the Veterans of Foreign Wars' Pennsylvania Department.

The Phillies offered him $10,000 for his academic success if he attends Cabrini College, and the Union League of Philadelphia honored him with its Good Citizenship Award.

The junior at Archbishop Carroll High School is also the junior assistant scout master for his troop. He has been a troop guide for new members, and was elected by other scouts to the Order of the Arrow, a national honor society for scouts.

"We take great pride in our scouts," said Frank Abate, the Pennsylvania American Legion's scouting committee chairman. "They are all tremendous."

Abate noted that Blaisse was the first Pennsylvania scout to win the national award since 1970. Usually, he added, the competition for the honor is close.

Not this year.

"In Joe's case," Abate said, "there was no tie."

When Blaisse first looked into Honor Flight Philadelphia, he learned the organizers had trouble locating vets and the required escorts needed to fill the available spots for each trip.

So he created his project - Be Prepared 2 Honor - and recruited 25 veterans, including his own grandfather, William Grogan of Brookhaven, for a trip last June.

Using mostly word of mouth, Blaisse has helped Honor Flight Philadelphia's attendance grow significantly. On its most recent trip, last November, 175 vets attended.

The next Honor Flight Philadelphia trip is scheduled to leave June 21 from St. Kevin Parish in Springfield, Delaware County, and about 150 vets are expected to go.

Such enthusiasm and success are nothing new, said Don Johnson, Blaisse's former scoutmaster at St. Anastasia Church in Newtown Square.

Blaisse was a "gung-ho type of kid" as a youngster who accomplished much of what he set out to do, Johnson said.

Johnson said Blaisse navigated his troop on hikes through Valley Forge National Historical Park, helped lead monthly camping trips and organized other complex projects.

So he was not shocked when Blaisse told him about his Be Prepared 2 Honor plans.

"He showed up one night with his notes and who he contacted," Johnson said. "He planned the whole thing more or less by himself."

Following in the footsteps of his older brother, John, Blaisse became a Cub Scout in the first grade. At first, Johnson said, Joe seemed worried about measuring up to John, who also had experienced scouting success.

But soon enough Joe was making his own mark.

The boys' father, Bob Blaisse, said scouting was always a top priority for his sons. And while Joe Blaisse's scouting career will end when he heads off to college in the fall of 2015, it won't end his commitment.

"It will always be in your life," Blaisse said. "That's what it means to take the pledge."


emccarthy@phillynews.com

610-313-8105

@erinmcpsu

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