OLEAN, NY – Olean Boy Scout Antonio Belvees was looking for a project so he could complete requirements to become an Eagle Scout.
And Kathy Boser of Allegany had just the project in mind.
She knew that what needed to be done was the laying in the ground of memorial blocks for Johnny Appleseed Lane in Franchot Park. The project had been started in 1990 with the planting of crabapple trees, and for each tree donated, a block was inscribed with wording of the donor’s choice. Some donors chose memorials to people; some chose tributes to local organizations. Each was supposed to be put in the ground by a tree.
“There are only two trees that I’m aware of that had the blocks put down,” Boser said, adding that over the years some of the crabapple trees have been removed or replaced.
The other 50 or so blocks had not been put down for 26 years.
Johnny Appleseed Lane, located at the start of the Franchot Park walking path, is adjacent to the park’s Children’s Memorial Garden, a project founded in 1995 by the late Ann Padlo and one that Boser took over at the founder’s request.
While Boser was checking with Crandall’s Memorials of Olean about removing rotting lumber in the Children’s Memorial Garden, she found out that the blocks and the plaque from the Johnny Appleseed Lane Project were in storage at Crandall’s.
Crandall’s, Boser recalled, “really wanted something to happen. It became my mission to try to bring that to completion even though I wasn’t involved in that project.”
So Boser talked to the Belvees family, and the Boy Scout and his family were taken with her idea and the story behind it.
“Once Antonio heard about it, he was determined,” Boser said. “He was going to do it whether or not it was for his Eagle Scout project. It’s a wonderful project. It’s wonderful to get the Scouts involved.”
Belvees said he was thankful that Boser came to him because he was struggling to find an idea for his project.
“I was stumped,” the Scout said. “Then Kathy came up with the idea, so we thought it would be a good project to finally put this problem to rest.”
Belvees and Boser approached Olean Mayor William Aiello to make sure that he was included in the process.
“We barely had to explain it. He was for this project,” Belvees said.
Cory Crandall of Crandall’s Memorials said that the Boy Scouts were efficient in getting the project done, and that the support from the community helped too. He noted that prior community interest had not brought the project to completion.
“No one at this point has moved the project forward as Antonio did,” Crandall said. “It was great timing that Antonio needed to fulfill his Eagle Project this year.”
Crandall and his father Curt, company president and Eagle Scout, assisted Belvees by offering suggestions, cleaning the blocks and providing small filler bricks. They also helped Antonio carve a granite block that recognizes his Eagle Project.
“They took him under their wing,” Boser said. “They knew it was his project so they wanted him to do the planning, but really helped him as far as making the layout.”
Boser said that it took about a year for Belvees to complete the project.
For the bricklaying in October, Crandall’s provided equipment and machinery and helped the troop install the blocks, bricks and plaque.
Boser said she was overjoyed to see Scouts and families from Troop 617 working together to complete the long-delayed project.
“The Boy Scouts were there working,” said Boser, who works at St. Bonaventure University as an administrative assistant to the institutional review board and the dean of the Jandoli School of Communication. “Everyone was invested and involved in it, which was great.”
Belvees said he was happy that he was able to help families in Olean and provide them a sense of closure.
“It made me feel really good about myself,” Belvees said. “Finishing a project that hasn’t been completed and was forgotten about for so many years really makes you feel good.”
Belvees provided a piece of advice for anyone wishing to reach out to help their community:
“Just go out and ask,” he said. “Don't be afraid to go do something right. There are no excuses.”