WARREN, Ohio (WYTV) – Boy Scout Troop 101 in Warren talked to WYTV Sunday following the tragic death of Scoutmaster Jim Potjunas on Saturday.
The 60-year-old Vienna native died after the SUV he was driving on State Route 11 lost its right rear tire, overturning in a median. The accident also sent his wife and five scouts to the hospital for non life-threatening injuries.
Grief counselors were offered at the Boy Scouts headquarters in Warren Sunday. The crowd that showed up was larger than expected, and it turned into a private memorial for Potjunas.
Troop 101 says the impact of Potjunas — who donated thousands of hours to the program — goes well beyond teaching people to become better boy scouts.
“Oh, I’ve been in scouting in a lot of states — predominantly here in Ohio for 40 years — and frankly, I’ve never met a better scoutmaster,” said Great Trail Council’s Ned Gold, who knew Potjunas for over 40 years.
Gold says it’s only fitting that in May, the brand new Troop 101 headquarters was named the “James Potjunas Troop 101 Scout Center.”
“It’s one of those things you’d like to pretend it was dream from the night before,” said Matt McCracken, Troop 101 assistant scout master.
McCracken says he was traveling about five cars behind Potjunas’ SUV when the accident happened Saturday. When Potjunas’ SUV tire blew out, it caused him to crash into Gustavus.
For McCracken, Potjunas’ impact on his life is lasting.
“In almost everything he did, he was almost a second father,” he said. “Another figure — a role model. Jim was always there if you needed to have a talk.”
The boys were making a trip to Canada when the accident took place. They were headed to Algonquin Provincial Park.
Ken LaPolla was already there with some of the older scouts when he found out about Potjunas’ death.
“Shock. Disbelief,” LaPolla said.
LaPolla says people from many generations showed up to share stories of Potjunas at the troop’s headquarters Sunday.
“A lot of people I haven’t seen in a long time,” he said. “Again, another testament to Jim.”
Leaders with the troop said a more formal, organized memorial is in the works for Potjunas. However, those details have not yet been decided on.