Veterans’ wall – Eagle Scout project led by Evan Valentine – dedicated in Holley

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 5 June 2021 at 5:42 pm

Scout organized crew for the project, earned final merit badge while he was hospitalized with leukemia

Photos by Tom Rivers: Penny Cole, a secretary at Holley Junior-Senior High School, speaks during the dedication today for Evan Valentine’s Eagle Scout project, which is the stone wall around the veterans’ monument. “You all know he was a special boy,” Cole told the crowd. “I know how happy and proud he is right now.”

HOLLEY – While Evan Valentine’s body was being ravaged by leukemia this past winter, he pushed to complete the final requirements for his Eagle Scout rank.

Valentine in December finished the last of the 21 badges he needed for the Eagle. He also had Scouts and volunteers lined up to build a veterans’ wall around the monument in Holley by the Post Office and Jewell Buckman Post for the American Legion.

He was presented the Eagle Scout badge while in the hospital in February.

Today, the Holley and Boy Scout community dedicated Valentine’s Eagle Scout project. Valentine passed away from leukemia at age 18 on Feb. 21. Speakers commented that his presence was felt at the ceremony this afternoon, with bright sunshine and frequent gusts of wind.

The stone wall around the monument includes a sitting area in front with an inscription, “Forever Remembered – Forever Missed.” Dale Smalley of Smalley Monuments donated that marble stone with the inscription.

The Holley Garden Club planted the flowers just before Memorial Day.

Andrew Drechsel speaks at the dedication. He and Evan joined scouts together in first grade as Tiger Cubs. The members of Troop 62 in Holley were the only ones in their cohort to earn the Eagle.

Andrew said Evan enjoyed being a Scout and going on camping trips. When Evan completed his first chemotherapy treatment and the leukemia was in remission, he spent many hours back in Scouts at camp, troop meetings and getting approvals for the veterans’ wall.

Evan approached former Legion Commander John Pera about the project back in 2018. Evan and his father Neil researched the stones and dimensions to build the veterans’ wall.

“The main part of an Eagle project is the planning and providing direction to the volunteers to make the project a success,” Drechsel said. “Evan completed all of this. He facilitated this project from the beginning and wanted to be a part of each step. As much as he wanted to be there, the volunteers knew it might not be possible and they worked to get the project completed on Evan’s behalf.”

Andrew Drechsel speaks to the crowd at times pausing due to the gusts. Andrew and Evan completed the last merit badge together, which was about personal management.

“Evan continued to persevere through so much and I just want to say how proud I am that Evan was able to complete his Eagle project for the American Legion and earn the rank of Eagle Scout,” Drechsel said.

Bob Miller, a member of the Sons of the American Legion Squadron 529, lives next to the Valentine family. Miller said Evan was deeply loved by the community.

Miller thanked several key supporters for the project, including Smalley Monuments, Millspaugh Construction Company for assisting with the excavation, Preston’s Landscaping for setting the stone and getting the stone blocks at a discount, the Village of Holley DPW for assistance with the electricity and for clearing the site in February when there was ice and snow.

The Holley Village Board also helped secure approvals for the project. The Holley Fire Police closed down a section of Route 31 for the dedication ceremony today. The Kingdollar family, Western New York Energy and Holley Rotary Club donated to the project.

Erik Volk of the Boy Scouts of America assisted Evan with the paperwork to meet the standards to be an Eagle Scout. Major Craig Lane, retired from the Air Force, helped with the construction.

Neil and Diane Valentine (left), Evan’s parents, were praised “for the gift of their amazing son.”

Diane Valentine thanks the community for rallying to make the Eagle Scout project a reality.

“He would have been so grateful for the people who brought this to fruition,” she said.

Mrs. Valentine said her son loved being in Scouts and made it a goal soon after he joined to become an Eagle Scout.

Scott Galliford (left), commander of the Jewell Buckman Post, joined Penny Cole and Bob Miller in announcing Evan Valentine won the Post’s “Good Citizen” award.

Tom Gardner, pastor of the First Presbyterian Church in Holley, leads the group in a prayer.

The reception after the dedication included some of Evan’s favorite snacks – Cheez-Its and Reese’s milk chocolate peanut butter cups.

Evan’s Eagle Scout uniform was on display, as well as the shovel used for the ground-breaking in February.

The wall includes a plaque noting the project was the result of Evan Valentine’s community service requirement to be an Eagle Scout.

Jim McMullen, the Scout executive for the Iroquois Trail Council of the Boy Scouts of America, said he was inspired by Evan’s determination to obtain Scouting’s highest rank, and to take on an important project for the Holley community.

“I think it’s very profound that he wanted this last piece for the community,” McMullen said. “He is an Eagle Scout and he earned it. He provided the leadership to get the project done.”