Jeannette Boy Scouts to honor hero who died trying to save girl 100 years ago
A search for relatives of a teen who died a century ago while trying to save a young girl from drowning has been fruitless, according to local Boy Scouts officials.
But they are forging ahead with plans to honor Robert W. Eicher’s bravery.
A graveside remembrance ceremony will be held July 5 at noon in Jeannette Memorial Cemetery in Penn Township. Members of the public, current and former Boy Scouts and any relatives of Eicher, 14, and Ada May “Maizie” Hugg, 15, are invited to attend. Scouts are asked to wear their uniforms and/or Eagle Scout medals, if applicable.
On Aug. 11, 1917, Eicher drowned in Loyalhanna Creek near Buttermilk Falls in Ligonier Township while trying to save Hugg. Both teens lived in Jeannette. He was posthumously awarded one of the first Boy Scouts of America Gold Honor Medals. He received a Carnegie Medal in 1918.
The epitaph on his grave reads: “A Boy Hero Who Gave His Life for Another.”
Local and national officials and volunteers had been researching the lineage of Hugg and Eicher in an effort to find their relatives or a photograph of Eicher to include in the ceremony. They had been hoping to solve the mystery of who has been leaving a bouquet of flowers on Eicher’s gravesite for many years.
No answers have been found, said Dave Slusarick, senior district executive for the Scouts’ Bushy Run District of the Westmoreland-Fayette Council.
Volunteers have determined Eicher’s direct relatives are dead, but distant cousins of his father and grandfather may live near Scottdale, Slusarick said in a news release. Eicher’s father was Robert W. Eicher (Jan. 2, 1886-April 16, 1945), and his grandfather was Samuel R. Eicher.
Robert Eicher belonged to a Jeannette troop. He was at a Saturday afternoon picnic when Hugg jumped into the creek for a swim, according to a newspaper account, research from the Carnegie Hero Fund Commission and a 1932 book, “Boy Heroes of Today.”
When she became distressed 15 feet from the bank where the water was 10 feet deep, Eicher rushed in with his clothes on to try to save her. He was three feet away from the girl when he went under. Both were swept away by the water. Divers later recovered their bodies.
Another Jeannette Scout, George Hiteshue, also dove in to try to save the girl. He was pulled from the water and resuscitated, according to accounts.
Renatta Signorini is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach her at 724-837-5374, [email protected] or via Twitter @byrenatta.