Late Scout leader’s memory lives on

Editor’s note: This is No. 9 of the top 10 stories of 2017 voted on by employees of the Tribune Chronicle.

WARREN — The James Potjunas Troop 101 Scout Center was dedicated Memorial Day weekend to honor Potjunas for his many years of service and work in Boy Scouts.

Following an Aug. 5 car crash on state Route 11 that killed the Vienna resident, the large building at the Blessed Sacrament Parish site off Reeves Road now honors his legacy and memory.

Potjunas, who was 60 at the time of his death, helped start Boy Scout Troop 101 more than 42 years ago when he was a teenager, and he served as its Scoutmaster since 1980. Many who remember him noted his dedication and impact on scouts’ lives.

He was killed in a single-car accident on state Route 11 in Gustavus while leading a caravan of vehicles filled with younger Scouts headed to a camping trip at Algonquin Provincial Park in Ontario, Canada.

The Ohio State Highway Patrol in Southington reported his vehicle was traveling north on state Route 11 just north of state Route 87 when the right rear tire of his 1999 GMC Suburban blew out. Reports stated he lost control of the vehicle, which slid off the left side of the highway and overturned in the median.

Potjunas died of positional asphyxia, according to the Trumbull County coroner. His wife, Sandra Potjunas, and the five children he had in his vehicle survived.

Ken LaPolla of Howland, who now is serving as Scoutmaster for Troop 101, said he will always remember Potjunas’ dedication to the Boy Scout program and the many memories he shared about scouting with everyone.

”He had so many stories he would share with everyone. Everyone has felt his loss in the troop and all he did as they continue and go forward,” LaPolla said.

Matt McCracken, formerly of Warren and now of Pittsburgh, served as an assistant Scoutmaster with Potjunas and remembered Troop 101 had around 150 Scouts earn their Eagle Scout awards under Potjunas’ guidance.

”He always made each scout feel included. Jim was always there if you needed to have a talk. Jim was a storyteller. I will always remember the stories he shared,” he said.

McCracken said everyone will remember how excited Potjunas was when they dedicated the equipment building and meeting center in his name.

Barbara Rosenblum of Howland. who has served as a Girl Scout leader, said Potjunas “was the greatest Scoutmaster known to mankind.”

Rosenblum said her family and Potjunas’ family have been getting together around Christmas Eve for many years. She said Potjunas’ wife and son will be with her family this weekend.

“This will be the first Christmas Eve he will not be there. It will be difficult for everyone,” Rosenblum said.

She said Potjunas was always involved with helping Boy Scouts earn their Eagle Scout awards and worked with her to create a Venture Crew, which combined Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts in community activities.

“He was always involved. He was a part of my son (Joe) and so many other scouts’ lives. He was very positive and supportive of what they did,” Rosenblum said,

Howland resident James Lapolla was in Boy Scouts with Potjunas.

“He was a like a big brother to me in scouting. I did not have an older brother but when we were in scouting he always helped me. He was the one who got me interested in scouting and was a senior patrol,” Lapolla said.

Troop 101, which is chartered at Blessed Sacrament, has produced 148 Eagle Scouts in its history. During Potjunas’ tenure as Scoutmaster, his Scouts constructed equipment for local hospitals and rehab centers, held blood drives for the American Red Cross and completed large projects at area parks and churches.

Potjunas received his Eagle Scout Award in Troop 11 in 1973, and became an assistant Scoutmaster of Troop 101 on his 18th birthday. He became Scoutmaster of Troop 101 in 1980, a position he would hold for the next 37 years.

Jim earned many awards and recognitions, including Order of the Arrow Vigil Honor; the Silver Beaver award; the Scoutmaster Award of Merit; Friends of Scouting Outstanding Service Award; and Tribune Chronicle Community Star award in 2006 for his work with the Boy Scouts.

Other top stories

The year’s other top stories include:

No. 10: The latest in the corruption case against former Niles Mayor Ralph Infante and others.