Scoutmaster left his camp better than he found it

Phone calls, letters and social media posts of condolence and reminiscence began coming from across the country within a day after the tragic death of Warren-area Scoutmaster Jim Potjunas.

Jim helped start Boy Scout Troop 101 42 years ago when he was a teenager, and he has served as its Scoutmaster since 1980.

He died Saturday, doing what he loved best. He and his wife were leading a caravan of vehicles filled with younger Scouts to a camping trip at Algonquin Provincial Park in Ontario, Canada, when his vehicle crashed on state Route 11 in Gustavus after a tire blew out and he lost control. Jim was killed, and his wife, Sandra, and the children inside were transported to an area hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.

Few men have been more dedicated to making a difference in the lives of others, as is evident by the outpouring of love and sadness. It’s even more evident when the support comes from the words of young people who associated with Jim.

”Monumental is the only word I can think of to describe him. As a scout leader, he was there for the smallest and the biggest things that you may have needed his help with,” said Stavan Shah, a 2017 Howland High School graduate, who is now an assistant Scoutmaster for Troop 101.

Niko Mastorides, 17, of Howland, who has been in scouting since he was 11, described Jim as like ”a third parent figure.”

Mastorides recently completed his Eagle Scout project of refurbishing the wall at the Kids Club at Trumbull Family Fitness in Warren, and now, sadly, he will be the first scout from Troop 101 at the Eagle Scout Court of Honors to not have Jim Potjunas in attendance.

“It was an honor to be one of the scouts to have received my Eagle Scout under his guidance,” said Cole Kuszmaul, a 2017 Champion High School graduate, and Troop 101 member.

Warren attorney Ned Gold Jr. said this simply of his longtime friend: “I’ve never known a more dedicated Scoutmaster.”

Under Jim’s direction, Troop 101, which is chartered at Blessed Sacrament Parish in Warren, amazingly has produced 148 Eagle Scouts in its history — impressive and almost unheard of.

That’s largely due to the demands and respect he helped instill in the young men with whom he came in contact. He taught them, challenged them to find perfection and then praised them when they succeeded. It takes a special soul to accomplish so much for so many.

And the impact will continue to be far reaching as those he mentored are now sharing those gifts with others.

It’s been said a good Scout always leaves his camp better than he found it.

Without a doubt, Jim Potjunas has accomplished that goal.