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Sibling rivalry motivates local to Boy Scout fame
When he saw his older brother gaining regional attention, Eli Gentry had one simple goal — besting him.
The 18-year-old Eagle Scout recently added the final merit badge to his 133-piece collection, four more than his older brother, David, who also earned every merit badge there is.
The two have more combined merit badges than any pair of siblings.
“To me, a parent whose kids have 262 merit badges to dad’s zero — it’s incomprehensible to me, to be truthful,” the boys’ father, Paul Gentry, said of their achievements. “I can’t believe they did it. This takes five or six years each.”
Boy Scouts of America, which does not keep an official tally of the achievement, periodically adds more badges.
BSA spokeswoman Renee Fairrer said only about 200 troops among 911,000 nationally earn as many as 100 merit badges each year.
“It is highly unusual given the number of Boy Scouts we have,” she said.
Gentry’s older brother was recognized for his work at a public Court of Honor ceremony at Port Orchard’s First Christian Church. His father said they also plan to honor their younger son in August — arrangements have not yet been made — before he heads to college.
Gentry, who is home-schooled, said he wanted to become a Boy Scout when he saw his older brother, who now is a communication major at the University of Hawaii, join Boy Scout Troop 1532 in Port Orchard.
Troy Pugh, a Bremerton native who runs Meritbadgeknot.com, which honors elite Scouts, said he has admired the accomplishments of the Gentry family from a distance. He said the “pinnacle” for most families is to become an Eagle scout, which requires 21 merit badges.
“Unfortunately, most kids — and their parents — do the minimum,” said Pugh, who became the third member of his family to earn every merit badge as a teenager in Ferndale in 1985.
Gentry said he spent anywhere from five hours to earn his art badge to eight months documenting every single purchase he made and “what you plan to do with what’s left” of the money for his financial one. It also took him three years to earn his cooking badge, but he did that intermittently.
Perhaps the most difficult were the water-related activities, which Gentry openly feared at one point. Among those are SCUBA diving, swimming and lifesaving.
“SCUBA had me pretty afraid, but he got through it fine,” Gentry’s father said. “Once he got under water, he did great.”
He earned his final merit badge, for inventing, by building a contraption that uses hand-warmers to heat a tent.
“It pretty much validated everything I have done up to that point,” Gentry said.
He said he became interested in engineering through the tutelage he received from professionals at the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard in Bremerton. Gentry now plans on pursuing a career in engineering at Arizona State University beginning this fall.
The Eagle Scout credits his parents for helping him meet his goals. Gentry’s mother jokingly refers to herself as the “chauffeur” as she has driven both her boys to numerous events. The younger Gentry said his father, a marathon runner, also is an inspiration — as well as his older brother.
Pugh, who now is a financial adviser in Ephrata in Central Washington, said he has confirmed only 171 cases in which a Scout has earned every available badge.
“I’ve been watching the Gentrys for a number of years now,” he said. “They’ve done a lot of different activities and have learned a lot of things. I definitely applaud them for setting a goal to learn.”
Now that Gentry has graduated, he hopes to help other Boy Scouts reach their goals. After he becomes acclimated to the transition to ASU, he said he will volunteer with Boys Scouts there.