HERRIMAN — The vast majority of Boy Scouts receive their Eagle Scout award by age 17. But because the paperwork never got sent in, Derick Duncan didn't receive his award until two decades later, at age 35.
Duncan knew he had earned the award at age 17 in Mesa, Ariz., but between confusion over who was qualified to perform his board of review and then his family moving, nothing was ever finalized.
Fortunately, he retained the original paperwork over the years.
"It had some dust on it," he said of the records. "But I have always had it in a binder. All the merit badge and advancement records, project pictures and write-ups, even the local council had signed off on it."
Duncan had heard of other, older men receiving Eagle awards, which prompted him to pursue it one more time.
"I read an article about a man named Robert Rubano from Staten Island, N.Y., who was 45 when he got his Eagle awarded," Duncan said. "I found his phone number and called him up. We had a great conversation. He is a Scoutmaster and also has two sons in Scouts. When I thought about my involvement as a Scout leader and my son who was just about to start his own Scouting experience, it made it an easy decision to go after it. I think it's never too late to be a good example."
While it is very unusual to receive an Eagle decades later, it is not unheard of, as it was once awarded to an 82-year-old man.
The national Scouting office told Duncan that when awarding the highest Scouting honor, the Eagle issues committee looks at two things: whether all the requirements were completed before the applicant's 18th birthday, and whether that person has the documentation to prove it. If that criteria is met, the committee gives permission for a board of review to take place, and then the application is processed as a typical Eagle application.
"They didn't make me tie knots or perform CPR or anything like that," Duncan said. "We discussed my Eagle project and what Scouting meant to me back then, as a youth, and now as a Scout leader and father of a young Cub Scout."
His court of honor, Troop 1409 (Rose Creek Second Ward, Herriman West Stake) followed the standard formula, except when the story of his delayed paperwork was told.
His son, Carter, had just turned 8 and earned his Bobcat award during the same ceremony.
"So I pinned the Bobcat Award on him, and he in turn pinned the Eagle Award on me," Duncan said. "I can't be certain, but on good authority I can say that has never happened before. It was a night I hope neither of us ever forgets."
Carter said he thought his father receiving Eagle Award — better late than ever — was simply "awesome."
Ironically, Duncan is now the Eagle adviser for his troop, working on helping the boys progress from the Life rank to Eagle Scout.
"My advice would only be two words: 'Finish it,' " he said. "I have joked with my wife Anny that she should be the happiest of all, because somewhere up in heaven, my parents must be happy to release their ban on me getting my driver's license and dating before I got my Eagle."