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Montague Scout’s ultimate sacrifice changed face of Scouting

  • Edward Goodnow Martel, 91, left, shows the Gold Honor Award given to his uncle Eward Goodnow to Tanya Hoefler, middle, and Cheryl Izyk on Sunday, Aug. 27, 2017 at Locust Hill Cemetery in Montague.

  • The original Gold Honor Award given to Edward Goodnow in 1917.

  • Court of Honor ceremony to honor the 100th anniversary of Edward Goodnow, a local Boy Scout and Gold Honor Award recipient, on Sunday, Aug. 27, 2017 at Locust Hill Cemetery in Montague.

  • Edward Goodnow Martel, Western Massachusetts Council President Jeffrey Glaze, and George Martel, stand in front of the inscription in honor of the 100th anniversary of Edward Goodnow, a local Boy Scout and Gold Honor Award recipient, on Sunday, Aug. 27, 2017 at Locust Hill Cemetery in Montague.

  • Brothers George Martel, 94, left, and Edward Goodnow Martel, 91, unveil an inscription in memory of their uncle Edward Goodnow on Sunday, Aug. 27, 2017 at Locust Hill Cemetery in Montague.

  • Boy Scouts of America historian and scout master Gregg Motta speaks during a ceremony to honor the Edward Goodnow, a local Boy Scout and Gold Honor Award recipient, on Sunday at Locust Hill Cemetery in Montague. For The Recorder/Dan Little

  • Boy Scout of America color guard members march during the Court of Honor ceremony to honor the 100th anniversary of Edward Goodnow, a local Boy Scout and Gold Honor Award recipient, on Sunday, Aug. 27, 2017 at Locust Hill Cemetery in Montague. Boy Scouts of America Western Massachusetts Council President Jeffrey Glaze looks on.

  • George Martel, 94, speaks during a ceremony to honor the 100th anniversary of Edward Goodnow, a local Boy Scout and Gold Honor Award recipient, on Sunday, Aug. 27, 2017 at Locust Hill Cemetery in Montague.



Recorder Staff
Sunday, August 27, 2017

MONTAGUE — Just shy of two days to the 100th anniversary of Edward S. Goodnow’s death, family and members of the Boy Scout community celebrated his bravery and the changes his death brought to Scouting across the country in Montague at the centennial Court of Honor.

Goodnow was just 16 when he drowned in Enfield, Conn., because he jumped into a lake to help save two boys who were drowning. He saved the first, and died trying to save the second.

Goodnow lived in Springfield but his family was from Montague and he spent time in the area visiting relatives. He was buried in the family plot at Locust Hill Cemetery, where the event was held on Sunday afternoon.

“A Boy Scout hero who gave his life for another” is inscribed on the Goodnow family monument in the cemetery. Goodnow died on Aug. 29, 1917. He and the other three boys who died around the same time became the first four Scouts to receive the Boy Scouts’ Gold Honor Award for heroism.

The Western Massachusetts Council of Boy Scouts of America hosted the Centennial Court of Honor. The event included speakers from the Boy Scouts organization and from Goodnow’s family.

About 50 people attended the event, which was full of decoration and ceremonial importance, including flowers, flags and pictures of Goodnow and the medal posted about the gravesite where they would unveil a new inscription. There were eleven 50-state American flags, as well as two 48-state flags, which was the flag during Goodnow’s lifetime, according to Metacomet District Executive Lesley Birk.

Birk said that a Scout researcher in Washington D.C. reached out to the Western Massachusetts Council and explained the story of Goodnow and his impact on Scouting. When they learned he was buried in Montague and the 100th anniversary of his death was this year, they worked with the family to plan an event.

Goodnow’s nephews, George and Edward Martel, now aged 94 and 91, attended on Sunday. The family worked with the local scouts and researcher and Scoutmaster Gregg Motta to coordinate and recently paid to have the gravestone engraved with the epitaph: “A Boy Scout Hero Gave His Life for Another.”

“I’ve always been proud because I was named after him,” Edward Goodnow Martel said.

He said his mother, Goodnow’s twin Ruth Martel, taught them about their uncle and she was proud of her brother. The family kept the medal Goodnow received posthumously from the Boy Scouts and it is now in possession of the two nephews. The medal was pinned to a photo of Goodnow and another boy and hung in the family home.

“We never knew him but my grandfather always had that picture hanging above his chair,” he said.

According to Motta, Goodnow was a 17-year-old Scout from Troop 14 in Springfield when he drowned in Enfield, Conn. Motta did a project on Goodnow and reached out to the area Scouting organizations. He attended Sunday’s event with his son, also a Boy Scout.

Motta spoke to the crowd about his research and the story of Goodnow and what happened in Scouting after.

Goodnow’s death and the deaths of three other Scouts in rescue attempts shocked the founders, who had started Boy Scouts of America only seven years earlier. “It shocked them that, while they had motivated thousands of these boys to help other people at all times, suddenly these boys were dying in the effort.”

He said that according to news reports at the time, Goodnow didn’t hesitate to jump in the water and help the other people. He said that Edward was especially proud of being a Boy Scout.

Though the death was tragic, it showed Goodnow’s sense of helping others and his bravery. And his choice to save those lives led to improvements in training for the Boy Scouts that would prevent other deaths.

“To that, we are all still grateful, 100 years later,” he said.

Working with the American Red Cross, Boy Scouts of America started requiring Boy Scouts to pass a swimming test and they went on to train and educate them on life-saving techniques, said Motta.

Following Goodnow and another boy’s death by drowning while saving others, they created or changed other measures as well, including the invention of the Buddy System.

Ben Motta, Gregg Motta’s son, did an Eagle Scout project in which he made two buoys that stand at the Rappahannock River where 93 people have drowned since 1972. He dedicated one of those buoys to Goodnow. He and his dad made the trip from where they live in D.C. for today’s ceremony.

“It feels really good to see them recognized,” he said.

Reach Miranda Davis
at 413-772-0261, ext. 280
or mdavis@recorder.com.