Lincoln Parish’s Bruce Cowan finally soaring as Eagle

Bruce Cowan is pictured during his Eagle Scout Court of Honor ceremony Thursday night. (Photo by T. SCOTT BOATRIGHT/LPJ)

By T. Scott Boatright

The Boy Scout Law says a scout is trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean and reverent.

Thanks to Lincoln Parish’s Bruce Cowan, the Boy Scouts should probably add patient, persistent and persevering to that list.

On Thursday evening, Cowan, 80, finally realized a near-lifelong dream as after a 68-year wait, he was finally bestowed with the rank of Eagle Scout at The Gospel between Ruston and Choudrant.

Usually, Boy Scouts of America (BSA) regulations say a scout must complete the requirements to obtain the rank of Eagle by the age of 18.

But Cowan’s quest to become an Eagle Scout was anything but usual.

Cowan loved scouting as a youth growing up in Ruston and was well on his path to become an Eagle by the time he was 16 years old. There was only one thing standing in his way — being able to do a pull-up.

When Cowan was a scout in the 1950s, earning the Physical Fitness merit badge was a requirement to become an Eagle Scout. And being able to do pull-ups was one of the requirements to earn that merit badge.

“I couldn’t even do one,” Cowan said. “I had badly hurt my elbow as a boy. I had a compound fracture. My elbow never worked the same again. It still doesn’t. The person who tested and signed for that merit badge back then was a former Tech coach — a great man, but a tough man. And a very much ‘by the book’ kind of man. He was apologetic about it, but even though I could meet all the other requirements, I couldn’t even do one pull-up and he wouldn’t give me that merit badge that would have completed my requirements for Eagle Scout.”

While frustration led to Cowan dropping out of scouting at the age of 16, he never gave up on his desire to become an Eagle Scout. Even as an adult he would tell others that not becoming an Eagle was his life’s lone regret.

And although he gave up on his dream while he was in high school, he never gave up on his love of scouting, later being involved as a scoutmaster in St. Francisville.

Two years ago a friend of Cowan’s who knew about his longtime disappointment of not becoming an Eagle, Jessica Hayes, began working behind the scenes trying to convince BSA to look at the case and grant Cowan the rank of Eagle.

“She and my wife Tyrette were talking and Tyrette told her the whole story,” Cowan said. “Tyrette said Jessica told her, ‘That’s not right’ and went about making all of this happen. I didn’t know any of it was going on. They kept it secret from me. They wanted to surprise me.

Then my birthday came around in March of last year and Tyrette asked me, ‘What was the biggest disappointment in your life?’ I didn’t hesitate in saying not able to be an Eagle Scout. And she then told me, ‘You might get it.'”

So despite his age, Cowan returned to the world of scouting.

“I had to fill out all kinds of paperwork to prove I had filled all the other requirements,” Cowan said. “And I had to write a long essay describing why I wanted to become an Eagle Scout and why I deserved it. It was a long process made even longer because of the COVID pandemic.”

In February, Cowan passed his Eagle Review Board conducted in conjunction with Ruston Troop 45.

And it all culminated with his Eagle Court of Honor held Thursday night.

“This would not have happened if it weren’t for Jessica,” Cowan said. “She got the ball rolling. So many people helped. It’s a big honor for me because I made a goal in 1952 saying that you want to be an Eagle Scout, and it took 68 years to come. I had really given up. I’m so thankful for all of this. It’s a special night in my life.”

Bruce Cowan’s wife Tyrette is pictured pinning his newly-awarded Eagle Scout medal on him during Thursday night’s Court of Honor ceremony. (Photo by T. SCOTT BOATRIGHT/LPJ)

7 thoughts on “Lincoln Parish’s Bruce Cowan finally soaring as Eagle

  1. I saw you this morning and teased you but never said congrats! Congratulations Bruce!!! Allen Carpenter

  2. What a wonderful thing to have finally accomplished, and a wonderful story for all of us. I’m SO proud of Bruce and all of those that made this dream come true.

  3. Way to go, Bruce! One of the things I learned in scouts was that perseverance pays off, and that one can reach seemingly impossible goals through small progress steps. You have just demonstrated that in spades!

    Personal fitness was my last merit badge, too, but for me it was the mile run, not pullups. Having rarely run more than a block or two and being very puffed after, I just knew I couldn’t make a mile in 7 minutes. But one day I talked myself into trying 2 laps on the Tech track. It hurt, but I decided to return in a couple days and go for another half lap. That was no worse, and 10 days later and another 3 added half laps and I had my mile. And my time was already good enough for me to qualify!

    I think I may have told you sometime in recent years that you were a part of my first (and one of my strongest) scouting memories. My very first night as an 11-year-old, I was put in the patrol of which you, Kennon Goff, and John Tom James were the “elders” — Rattlesnake Patrol I think it was. Someone decided it was a good night to practice a rope exit from our 2nd-story Sunday school room; but then it was decided to test it in reverse first — a wise choice. I think you were the smallest of the elders and drew the “rider’s straw.” Fortunately, the chair to which the rope was tied broke when you were still pretty close to the ground!

    Again, best congratulations on the Eagle Rank!

  4. Congratulations, Bruce! Well deserved! Dreams and persistence and a little luck (like Jessica and Tyrette) always pay off.

  5. Congratulations Fellow Eagle, now how many palms are you shooting for? LOL seriously glad of your accomplishment!

  6. Congratulations Bruce for the recognition that should have been yours so long ago. I recall you, John Tom James and Kennon Goff thinking nothing of walking from Trinity Methodist Church out to the “wilderness” north of Toma Lodge . And how I envied and was impressed with your Merit Badge Sash totally filled with badges. Your inspired and motivated a number of us to try and emulate you.
    Again, congratulations on this long past due recognition you so rightfully deserve.

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