SOUTH PLAINFIELD - Jack Michael O'Shaughnessy has been named the 52nd Eagle Scout of Boy Scout Troop 309. He celebrated with the troop, family, friends and local dignitaries at an Eagle Scout Court of Honor on March 7 at Wesley Church in South Plainfield, where O'Shaughnessy was officially awarded the honored rank of Eagle Scout.
“I feel very happy, proud and thankful for everybody who helped me along the way,” said O'Shaughnessy.
“I'm very proud of my son, Jack, on his achievement,” said Laura O'Shaughnessy (mother). “Watching him do the Eagle Scout project, I really saw the leadership in him come out, and he did it. He instructed people on what to do and organized everything. He went from a little boy to a grown man overnight.”
"I'm very proud of Jack," said Terry O'Shaughnessy (father). "It was a long road getting here, but he did it. He had a lot of help from everyone and I'm very happy for him."
Troop 309 Scoutmaster Jeff Pauls welcomed everyone to the Eagle Scout Court of Honor.
“Many scouts set out on the trail to Eagle, but few have the perseverance to follow it to the end,” said Pauls. “Jack O'Shaughnessy is one of those few, and we are here today to honor his great achievement. The wearer of the Eagle award is the epitome of scouting’s best efforts and beliefs. Jack O'Shaughnessy has become the 52nd Eagle Scout of Troop 309.”
Troop Senior Patrol Leader Mikael Evans led the Opening Ceremony as the scouts of Troop 309 filed in carrying the American Flag. After the Pledge of Allegiance, they rose their hands in the scout salute to recite their oath. It was then that Pauls announced O'Shaughnessy as the 52nd Eagle Scout, and he was escorted into the room by his parents, Laura and Terry O'Shaughnessy.
"A year ago, we had a family camping hike at the Watchung Reservation," Pauls said. "Jack's mom asked me what I thought his chances were of becoming an Eagle Scout. I thought about the three or four merit badges he had to complete and his Eagle Scout project. I said that chances were slim to none and none had taken the lead. But your mom disagreed with me and here we are a year later honoring you as our 52nd Eagle Scout. So congratulations from me at this time for your perseverance, your dedication for getting it done on time!"
Jack O'Shaughnessy's grandmother, Sandra Zaluska, delivered the invocation, adding the importance of her grandson's faith, his commitment and work ethic.
"I feel very proud of Jack," Zaluska later said. "He's a really good grandson. He's a nice person, and he's got a very lucrative future ahead of him."
O'Shaughnessy grew up in South Plainfield and was active in sports, participating in Pop Warner Football, wrestling, soccer, baseball and basketball as a child. An avid skier, Jack was in the Ski Club for seven years and played football his freshman year of South Plainfield High School (SPHS), also taking guitar lessons. O'Shaughnessy graduated from SPHS in 2019 and currently attends Middlesex County College.
As a Boy Scout, O'Shaughnessy earned the BSA Lifeguard certification when he was 15 years old, which enabled him to become a lifeguard at the South Plainfield Community Pool, then the Plainfield Country Club, and now is employed as a lifeguard and swim instructor at The Club at Richocet. O'Shaughnessy earned 21 badges on his way to Eagle Scout.
The final requirement for all Boy Scouts on the road to Eagle Scout is the Eagle Scout project. O'Shaughnessy chose to enhance the South Side Dog Park, installing bone-shaped benches, planting a flower bed, and staining the fence alongside the road.
"I got to work with Jack on his project in the dog park and he had to overcome a few obstacles because with any public project there are a lot of guidelines and a lot of restrictions of what you can and cannot do," Councilwoman Faustini said. "So he had to go through several layers of approvals, and at times, make some changes. And he never gave up. He consistently came back and did whatever he had to do, even expanding the scope of his project, in order to get his final approval. He worked hard for it and is extremely deserving."
O'Shaughnessy diligently worked to accomplish his project, instructing the 34 volunteers who devoted themselves to making the renovations he envisioned for the park. It took a total of 125 man-hours to complete the endeavor.
O'Shaughnessy sat before the room with his parents on either side of him. His father was born in New York, but moved to South Plainfield at the age of five. He attended Sacred Heart School (now Holy Savior) and went on to attend South Plainfield High School. He currently works as an air compressor mechanic, a profession he has held for 40 years.
Jack O'Shaughnessy's mother grew up in South Plainfield and attended Sacred Heart and SPHS, graduating in 1985. She then attended Middlesex County School of Nursing and has been caring for children with disabilities for 22 years. The couple met at TJ's Hideaway in South Plainfield and married in 1998. They have five children, Danny, Jack, Cassie, Terry Jr., and Jimmy, and also have one grandchild, Alena.
Troop 309 has a tradition of presenting the scout’s mother with a rose for every rank the scout has achieved. For each rank, a member of the troop presented Laura O'Shaughnessy with a red rose. The final rose was given to her by her son.
Troop 309 Advancement Chair Nancy Pauls, verified O'Shaughnessy's advancement record while troop members presented the flowers to his mother. Pauls read each date that O'Shaughnessy attained his rank advancement. Beginning with the rank of Scout on July 30, 2012, O'Shaughnessy reached the rank of Tenderfoot on Jan. 31, 2013, Second Class on May 28, 2013, First Class on May 19, 2014, Star on Jan. 14, 2019, Life on Jan. 14, 2019 and Eagle Scout on Oct. 9, 2019.
O'Shaughnessy not only achieved his BSA Lifeguard Certification, but held positions of leadership within the troop, including Quartermaster, Assistant Patrol Leader, and Patrol Leader.
Eagle Scouts possess many qualities that bring them far in life and the Boy Scouts' program nurtures these qualities and obligations. An Eagle Scout is honorable, loyal, courage, cheerful, and is of service to others.
Assistant Scoutmaster Rich Veit read a letter from the Council President of the Boy Scouts of America, and Assistant Scoutmaster Reeve Hastings read a letter from the Eagle Scout Alumni Chair.
"Jack, I am so proud of you," said Hastings before he began. "I know that was a big rush at the end. You had a lot to do, and between the Eagle Scout project and the merit badges, you stuck with it, you didn't quit and you got it. This is something you're going to be proud of for the rest of your life, something you're always going to be able to hold on to. You really did a great job, congratulations."
Pauls shared that 61,353 men earned Eagle Scout in 2019, which is a record number for the Boy Scouts of America, adding that O'Shaughnessy can count himself among those accomplished young men.
"Eagle candidate, Jack O'Shaughnessy, you are to be congratulated for reaching the highest peak of the Eagle trail," said Pauls. "Your diligence and hard work have paid off. If you, along with your mother and father, will please rise and come forward, your Eagle Badge of rank will be presented. You have made Troop 309 very proud. May the qualities that inspired you to this achievement continue to lead you on to even greater success in your life."
After O'Shaughnessy recited the scout oath, Pauls asked his mother to place this Eagle Badge on her son's chest representing his accomplishment of Eagle "so the world will know that Jack is an Eagle Scout."
“Jack, place this mother’s pin over your mother’s heart in recognition of the love, encouragement, faith and trust in your future,” said Pauls as O'Shaughnessy placed a pin on his mother’s shirt.
“Jack, in recognition of the wisdom and guidance given to you by your father, you will present him his father’s pin, which he will be proud to wear in your honor,” said Pauls as O'Shaughnessy placed the pin on his father’s shirt.
With applause sweeping through the audience, Pauls congratulated O'Shaughnessy for his accomplishment. O'Shaughnessy then had the opportunity to honor his mentor as he was asked to present the traditional Mentorship Pin to someone who had made an impact on his trail to Eagle. With that, Jack asked his mother to stand, and he presented her with the Mentorship Pin.
On behalf of the troop, Evans presented O'Shaughnessy with a special Eagle Scout neckerchief, which he placed around O'Shaughnessy's neck to replace the orange troop neckerchief. Troop 309 has a tradition of passing down a troop patch.
"This troop was founded in 1967, so this is our 52nd Eagle Scout in our 52nd year," said former scoutmaster Ron Schroeder and Eagle Scout. "This Eagle patch that Wyatt is going to present to Jack was first presented to Bob Price in 1976."
The Eagle patch has been passed down to every Eagle Scout in Troop 309 since. 51st Eagle Scout, Wyatt Gerber, then presented the patch to O'Shaughnessy.
“I know the values that were instilled into Jack by his scout leaders and by this program,” Schroeder said. “He has an appreciation for excellence. He has an appreciation for what it means to be an American. He has a love of this program, and he has outwardly and publicly announced his dedication to the ideals of scouting.”
All the Eagle Scouts were asked to join O'Shaughnessy and congratulate him. Assistant Scoutmaster Scott Waters then introduced the dignitaries who had come to the event to present several awards and certificates.
"First things first," said Waters. "I want to thank Jack for asking me to be a part of this. It gives me a thrill when the kids ask me. They go through eight or nine years of scouting and I'm glad to be a part of today. It's a privilege. I want to congratulate his mom and dad too."
"Jack, you have had the biggest turn around in this troop," said Waters. "You really turned yourself around. It was a pleasure working with you, I'm glad we got it done and I'm glad you asked me to be up here, so congratulations!"
Mayor Matthew Anesh, Councilwoman Christine Faustini and Councilman Derryck White were the first to be called to the podium.
"It is an honor to be here today,” Anesh said. "The Council and I have been here to Troop 309 Eagle Scout ceremonies a lot. The Eagle Scout projects that have come over the years all touch the community. And whether it's our community here or neighboring communities, it's always impressive to see the work that's been done. So yours touches the three of us in the governing body because of the work done at the South Plainfield Dog Park."
Anesh read a proclamation in recognition for O'Shaughnessy's accomplishment and wished him continued success in the future, noting that due to his considerable accomplishments and exemplary dedication to excellence, he has brought honor and pride to his family, his community and to scouting.
"Scouts who are not Eagle, you should strive for this," Anesh added. "This is a great honor."
“Your grandmother prayed a beautiful prayer to start this ceremony,” White said. “She mentioned faith, commitment and hard work. I know what you accomplished at the dog park so you're used to building and using tools. In life, I think that those three tools will be the ones that will allow you to build bridges. I see you as a bridge builder, whether it be socially, racially, or even in your occupation. I see you giving hope, encouraging and lifting people up.”
White presented O'Shaughnessy with a South Plainfield lapel pin with the South Plainfield Borough Seal, noting that the pin of South Plainfield represents the pride they have in South Plainfield and will remind him of the support and resources he has with the residents of South Plainfield available to him.
"I had the pleasure of working closely with Jack because I'm in charge of recreation and oversee the dog park," said Faustini. "Jack overcame all the barriers. He really went full steam in order to make sure that he achieved his goal. I really think that he is a role model in this community. In this world where we have so much at our fingertips, children can get used to things coming to them very easily. As they grow into young adults, you really need to learn to be able to push through barriers because that's what makes you grow. I just want to commend Jack and thank him for his project for the community."
Representing the Flint and Steel Association, Tony Sarao, who has been in scouts for 74 years, presented O'Shaughnessy with a certificate.
“I've done this a lot of times and it's always a pleasure to present these certificates to the Eagle Scouts who have done a great job and from what I hear, you've done an excellent job," said Sarao. "I want to present you the certificate from the Flint and Steel Association, a small group of men who have giving service to scouting for over 50 years and continues until this day. Congratulations.”
Past Commander Robert Beningivenga and Vice Commander John DeAndrea presented a good citizenship citation and a check on behalf of the American Legion Post 243.
"Jack, congratulations to you, your parents and your grandparents," Beningivenga said. "I would like to extend our congratulations to you upon achieving the honor of Eagle Scout, Boy Scouts of America's highest rank. You are one of the select few that have accomplished this vision."
Elks Lodge 2298 representative Bill Seesselberg, Leading Knight and Youth Activities Chair of the South Plainfield Elks, presented O'Shaughnessy with a certificate and the American Flag.
“On behalf of the Elks, we take pride in presenting to Jack an American flag because you have demonstrated that you practice democracy daily,” said Seesselberg. “We are proud to call you our fellow citizen because you have worked hard to prove that you believe in the United States as one nation under God with liberty and justice for all. As the red, white and blue colors on the cloth blend to make a beautiful flag, so the skills you’ve mastered blend together to make you an outstanding citizen. Congratulations!”
O'Shaughnessy's grandmother then read a letter she wrote about her beloved grandson.
"I have known Jack O'Shaughnessy his entire life," said Zaluska. "I held him when he was just a day old. He has been a wonderful grandson all his life. I even refer to him as my sunshine. I am very proud of him and extremely proud to say my grandson, Jack, is an Eagle Scout."
Zaluska explained how her grandson meets all the qualities of scouts, citing examples of how he treats everyone as equals and how he is respectful and loving to everyone he meets.
"Jack exemplifies everything an Eagle Scout should be and I am very proud of him," Zaluska added.
Speaking on behalf of Knights of Columbus Council 6203 was Joe Wilkowski, Grand Knight, who presented O'Shaughnessy with a certificate from the Knights of Columbus Supreme Council.
“On behalf of the Knight of Columbus 6203 and South Plainfield, we congratulate Troop 309's newest Eagle Scout," said Wilkowski. " We also want to acknowledge your parents for their support in your achievement. We would also like to acknowledge your scoutmaster, Jeff Pauls, and all the adult scouts and leadership for mentoring all of these young men in their endeavors to reaching the pinnacle of Eagle Scout."
"I just want to say congratulations again," Waters said. "We saw firsthand how much work it is for the scout and for the parents. It takes a village to raise someone and in this case it was true. Thank you very much for inviting me to speak."
O'Shaughnessy then had the opportunity to speak and address the room full of family and friends.
"I really want to say thank you to everyone who helped me," said O'Shaughnessy. "Without Mr. Waters, I would not have been able to achieve Eagle Scout. My biggest thanks is to my mother because without her I really would not have been able to make it to Life or Star, let alone Eagle. I'm just very grateful for everyone. Thank you to everyone who helped me along the road and helped me get to this point."
The ceremony closed with the scouts' pledge and a benediction prayer by O'Shaughnessy's grandmother.
"An Eagle Scout Court of Honor marks the end of one journey and the commitment to another," Zaluska said. "It is a commitment to better citizenship and a commitment to be an example of leadership to all. Bless all of Jack's future endeavors. Walk with him wherever his life takes him and give him your strength, your wisdom, your compassion and your love. May all of us gathered here today be committed to scouting's ideals, which instruct us to lead better lives. May we, like Jack, always follow our own trails, discovering who we are while striving to be our best every day. May God be with us all."
O'Shaughnessy's good friend and fellow Eagle Scout, Devon Hastings, had one last thought to leave with him for the day.
"Along with everyone in this room, Jack, I am very proud of you," Hastings said. "But more importantly, I hope you're proud of yourself. I hope you appreciate, not just the award you're receiving now, but also all the work you've done to get it because it really shows how much initiative you have and what great things you can do."
Everyone then shared a buffet meal and cake to celebrate the great accomplishment of Jack's honorable achievement of attaining Boy Scouts' highest rank, Eagle Scout.
“My advice to younger scouts is to get started quick, don't wait to the last minute and just push," said O'Shaughnessy. "Don't stop because once you stop, you lose momentum and can lose hope for making Eagle. But if you keep going from the beginning and never slow down, then you'll make it eventually.”