The heroism of a Lincoln High Eagle Scout was slowly getting forgotten as generations passed – but one Neshannock Life Scout is determined to keep the young hero’s legacy going.
On October 2, 1942, 14-year-old Charles Follette Jr. was attending a Lincoln High School football game working as crowd control for the Eagle Scouts to ensure spectators stayed off the field. During the game the seniors were doing a fundraiser by wheeling a gasoline powered popcorn roaster around the stadium to sell popcorn. Somehow during the game the machine caught fire and Follette and a few of his fellow scout mates sprung into action, pushing spectators away from the roaster. While doing this, a second eruption sprayed them with burning gasoline and Follette’s clothes were set ablaze. Several reports state that a sailor came down from the stands and wrapped him in his peacoat to douse the flames, however the damage was already done. Follette was taken to the hospital and succumbed to his burns, particularly to his lungs, and died that same night. He was hailed as a hero after that, putting his own life at risk to save others.
Justin Banko, a 15-year-old Life Scout in Troop 743, heard about Follette’s heroism and took the incident to heart, as his mother recalls.
“Justin heard about the incident and as a fellow scout, he took it to heart. He knows being an Eagle Scout is about leadership and commitment, which is exactly what young Follette sacrificed his life by doing, and Justin didn’t want his story to be forgotten,” Lori Banko stated. “I’m so proud of him.”
Banko did a lot of research into the incident and was able to get in contact with several of the Follette’s, who have been extremely thankful and supportive of the memorial.
After doing plenty of research and planning, he proposed the idea as his Eagle Scout project to the Ellwood City Borough Council, who approved the memorial to be placed near the outside of Helling Stadium.
“The original proposal had the memorial elsewhere in the park, but council counter-proposed to the area near the stadium because they believed it was a more appropriate spot; there is plenty of space to construct it and it’s a high traffic area where the public will get the most out of the memorial,” Robert Villella, the Borough Manager stated.
Banko, who is raising the funds for the memorial, expects it to consist of two benches made of two columns of stacked paving stones with a sitting slab, a memorial sign, paving stones, and placing native plants, two rhododendrons and two mountain laurel, at the site of the memorial.
With no discounts taken into account, Banko ranged the cost at a high of $3,000, which he is currently raising money for through WesBanco.
“I’ve been in the scouts since I was in kindergarten, I could have done an easy project but I wanted to do something I can say I’m proud of doing. Being a scout isn’t about cutting corners it’s about commitment,” Banko said, who expects to be in the scouts even after graduation, volunteering his time as a leader.
With everything going as planned, Banko believes the majority of the memorial should be in place by mid-August.
To make a donation to the memorial, walk into any Wesbaco and tell the tellers that you’d would like to make a donation to the “Charles Follette Jr. Memorial Fund,” and they will place the money into the nonprofit account.