From Tiger to Eagle

Michael Goceljak attains Eagle Scout rank

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  • Photo by Ginny Raue Eagle Scout Michael Goceljak stands in front of his Eagle project, a restored fire ring and its new housing at West Milford Engine Co. #4 on Black Sheep Lane in West Milford. Michael chose this project in memory of his grandfather, John Goceljak, a firefighter with Co. #4 for more than 30 years and as a thank you to all volunteer firefighters.


This month, 17-year-old West Milford resident Michael Goceljak will join 2.3 million Boy Scouts of America (BSA) who have attained the rank of Eagle Scout over the last 101 years. It is the highest award bestowed by the Boy Scouts.

Since Michael will soon turn 18, he will age out of the BSA, at least for now. Interested in a career in business, the high school senior will be concentrating on preparing for college.

To become an Eagle Scout the candidate must earn 21 merit badges including, but not limited to, first aid, citizenship of the world, nation and community, personal fitness and management, family life, emergency preparedness or lifesaving, environmental science and camping.

The Boy Scout must be active in his troop and demonstrate that he lives by the principals of the Scout Oath. The final rung of the ladder leading to the Eagle Scout rank is a service project. He is responsible for planning, developing and leading the project which may benefit a school, religious institution, a camp or the community. The project may not benefit the Boy Scouts of America.

Michael was introduced to scouting as a Tiger Cub Scout in Pack #159 at Our Lady Queen of Peace Church in 2003. As his Eagle project, he chose to erect a structure, a monument of sorts, on the West Milford Engine Co. #4 firehouse property on Black Sheep Lane in West Milford. It is a thoughtful addition to the firehouse, a stone and wood structure holding an antique fire ring that has a history of its own.

According to Co. #4 firefighter Liam Glinane, the old ring was unearthed under several feet of dirt somewhere in the Macopin district about 10 years ago. The ring was used in the years before there were sirens as an audible alert of a fire in the district. When the ring was struck by a hammer, it was a call to arms for local firefighters to report to duty.

The project, completed in Nov. 2013, was ideal for Michael; as a sign of respect for his late grandfather, John Goceljak, a volunteer with Co. #4 for over 30 years and for all volunteer firefighters.

“I wanted to thank them. They are a brave bunch of guys who do a good thing for this town,” Michael said.

Somehow forgotten and covered with rust from its internment in the soil, the fire ring required substantial work to bring it to its new fire engine red glory. Masons were contracted at greatly reduced rates to erect the frame work and the ring had to be blasted to remove the damage done by time and circumstances. Michael acknowledged that he had a lot of help during the 288 hours it took to complete the job.

“My family helped me fund it and was very supportive the entire time,” he said. He said he is grateful for all the help he’s received for the project and for his leaders and Eagle Scouts who encouraged and assisted him through the years.

While he was just four years old when his grandfather died, Michael recalls him as a firm but kind man, always willing to help others and a volunteer firefighter for the entire time he lived in the township. His family was pleased with his choice for his Eagle Scout project and the volunteers of Co. #4 are happy with the new addition to their station.

“One of my proudest moments was when I finished the project," Michael said. "It brought pride to my family and my troop and I benefitted as well, learning planning, leadership and cheerful service.”

Michael is looking forward to his Eagle Scout ceremony this month. “It will be good for my family,” he said.

So has the ring been rung? He admitted to hitting it once or twice and he’s pretty sure the firefighters have “whacked it a few times,” although he believes it will be used in the future only on important or ceremonial occasions.

Maybe they should give it a “whack” on the day of his Eagle Scout ceremony, honoring Michael Goceljak’s achievements and his grandfather’s service as well.

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