Mattituck family of Eagle Scouts take flight

Eagle Scouts

When Mattituck’s Anthony Howell became an Eagle Scout at 15, it was quite the achievement.

After all, only about seven percent of eligible Scouts even reached the rank in 2013, and they did so on average at age 17, according to statistics from the Boy Scouts of America.

But six years later, Anthony’s two younger brothers, Edward and Chris Merz Jr., are following in his footsteps with an even rarer accomplishment. Edward, 16, and Chris, 14, officially became Eagle Scouts themselves at a ceremony Sunday in Baiting Hollow, meaning this Mattituck family has three boys who all became Eagles before turning 17.

“I am just thrilled,” said Terri Romanelli, scoutmaster of Mattituck’s Troop 39, of which Chris and Edward are members. “They’re wonderful. They are really great role models as Scouts — they’re everything you want in a Scout.”

Ms. Romanelli said her troop promotes roughly one Scout per year to Eagle Scout, so to promote two brothers at the same time is unusual.

“[Chris and Edward] epitomize what a good Scout is and does,” Ms. Romanelli said. “It’s nice for them to learn at such a young age what an accomplishment this is.”

For the two younger teens, Anthony’s promotion to Eagle Scout in 2010 — and a bit of friendly sibling rivalry — served as inspiration.

“It was a great motivation for me becoming an Eagle Scout,” Edward said.

Chris, who turns 15 next week, noted he became an Eagle Scout one month faster than Anthony.

“I’m kind of proud of that,” Chris said with a wry smile.

And as he puts it, success with the Boy Scouts is just “a family thing.”

“I’m proud that they’ve done it at such an early age, so now they can move on to different experiences and other challenges,” said their mother, Colleen Merz. “I think this rank gives them confidence to do more and go to the next challenge.”

Ms. Merz also noted the similarities among their achievements.

All three boys were involved with Troop 39 as well as the national honor society Order of the Arrow. Edward, a sophomore at the private Sappo School in Commack, is the assistant patrol leader for Troop 39 and visited Michigan over the summer to participate in the National Order of the Arrow Conference. Chris, a freshman at Mattituck High School, is the troop’s senior patrol leader and is also a member of the school’s NJROTC program and a three-season runner.

To become Eagle Scouts, the brothers each had to acquire 21 different merit badges (Chris’ favorites were swimming, robotics and wilderness survival, while Edward liked archery, chess and rifle shooting). They also had to each complete an individual project designed to benefit the community.

For their contributions, the boys focused on the New Suffolk waterfront — Edward constructed three benches to go in the nearby community garden, and Chris built two picnic tables for the area.

“It was tough to build benches, but with the help of my dad [Chris Merz Sr.], who is a carpenter, he helped me a lot,” Edward said. “It was a learning experience.”

Edward finished his Eagle requirements in April and Chris finished his in October, but they were finally recognized as Eagle Scouts during a formal ceremony on Sunday, Jan. 10. Their brother, now 21 and an engineer assistant in the U.S. Navy, came home to participate in the ceremony.

“We’ve been doing this for so long, and to get this achievement, it’s just mind-blowing,” Edward said.

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Photo: Brothers Edward Merz (from left), 16, Anthony Howell, 21, and Chris Merz, 14, outside the Eagle Scouts ceremony on Sunday. (Credit: Katharine Schroeder)