Soar like an Eagle Scout

Dale Shrull/Cortez Journal

For his Eagle Scout project, 18-year-old Landan Wilson made concrete headstones, which now hold the small plaques at the Sylvan Cemetery near Pleasant View. Prior to making the headstones, rain would wash the plaques away at times in the dryland cemetery.

By Dale Shrull Journal staff writer

Landan Wilson stands in the Sylvan Cemetery near Pleasant View looking pleased and proud.

There are now 58 gravesites that have cement headstones because of Landan.

The Montezuma-Cortez High School senior was close to becoming an Eagle Scout but he still had two difficult tasks in front of him.

The clock was ticking and time was running out.

About 70 days before his 18th birthday, Landan was freaking out — a little. If Landan didn’t get those final two tasks completed by his 18th birthday, then he would not make it to Eagle rank.

Still plenty of time, but he was cutting it close. Seventy days to accomplish a goal he’d set for himself a decade before.

Landan says he’d dreamed about becoming an Eagle Scout since he first started in the Cub Scouts at 8 years old. He’d gotten all but one of the required merit badges and all that remained were the two most difficult tasks: He needed to finish a 20-mile hike and complete his Eagle Scout project.

“In October, I was kind of skeptical because I had to get it done before my 18th birthday,” Landan says.


With his Nov. 29 birthday looming on the horizon, Landan admits that it really was a strong motivation to get those final two tasks done. He didn’t want to waste all the hard work and not become an Eagle Scout.

He made it with about 10 days to spare.

The Sylvan Cemetery project idea came from Bessie White and her daughter, Lori Olander, who are the caretakers of the cemetery. When the idea was hatched, Landan enthusiastically pounced into action.

Many of the old gravesites had name plaques fastened to stakes that were pushed into the dirt.

“It’s a dryland cemetery, and a lot of times when it rains, the plaques would get moved around,” Landan says. “(Olander) thought if we put them in cement it would keep them from moving.”

Even with that project in front of him, Landan still had to earn that final merit badge and get that 20-mile hike out of the way.

“I was worried about that,” he says with a laugh.

With the help and encouragement of his older sister, Kelsey Wilson, Landan hoofed it along the back roads around Pleasant View until he had competed 20 miles.

He laughs and says his sister “only hiked 19.8 miles.”

Then it was back to the cemetery project.


They removed the plaques from the cemetery, marked the gravesites with flags to make sure they didn’t make any mistakes, then went back to Landan’s Pleasant View home to do the concrete work.

He’d never worked with cement before so there was some trial and error involved. With the help of his parents, they built forms for the headstones and started pouring.

“It was kind of stressful,” he says. “Sometimes we let (the cement) set too long, sometimes it was really soupy.”

They would pour a cement block 6-inches-by-11-inches. After waiting for the cement to be the right consistency, Landan would place the plaque into the cement until it was flush with the cement. A little finish work and the a headstone was ready.

All through the project, Landan kept his eye on the calendar, knowing that if his birthday passed, the dream of becoming an Eagle Scout would be over.

“I was a little worried that I wouldn’t make it. Even during my project I was questioning if I would make it,” he says.

But as he was learning how to work with cement and the cemetery project was progressing, Landan realized something: The project wasn’t just about him becoming an Eagle Scout. It was a special project.

“Even if I didn’t get my Eagle Scout, I was happy that I was doing it. It was cool learning about all the history and hearing all the stories,” he says.


As the last of the 58 concrete headstones was placed, Landan said he had a great feeling of accomplishment.

He’d made it.

“After all the hard work, it made me feel like I really achieved something,” he says, admitting that he’s returned to the cemetery a couple of times to look over his work.

Landan continued a tradition of Eagle Scout candidates that have done their final projects at the cemetery. He said that there have been at least three who have done work at the cemetery and then became Eagle Scouts.

Landan says only 2 or 3 percent of Boy Scouts who set out to make to Eagle Scout complete the rigorous requirements.

He had lots of help and support along the way, he says, including Boy Scout Troop 529 and his church — the Church of Latter Day Saints, Ward 2.

He also credits his parents for pushing him and not allowing him to give up.

“There were times when I questioned whether or not to continue,” Landan says. “But my parents (Brian and Kaylyn Wilson) really pushed me.”

He pauses, then says, “I’m really glad they pushed me.”

To make it to Eagle Scout, Landan had to get a minimum of 21 merit badges with 11 specific badges required. Landan earned a total of 28 and he said some of his favorites were plumbing, astronomy and animal science.

As a member of 4-H who showed market lambs, animal science appealed to him.

He said it also helped him evaluate his future.

“That helped gave me a broader perspective into what that career might be about,” he says.

Landan plans to attend Brigham Young University-Idaho in Rexburg, and he’s currently planning to study agronomy, which is an agriculture field dealing with crops and soil.

Landan can’t hide his pride with achieving his dream. Being an Eagle Scout was quite an accomplishment and the pride is earned and well deserved.

But he still looks at the cemetery project as his proudest accomplishment in the Eagle Scout journey.

To see the new headstones in place, and knowing that those plaques, some of which are nearly a century old, will never be moved by rain, wind or any of the elements, gives Landan great satisfaction.

“It’s cool to look at the before and after, and how everything blends in,” he says.

Landan Wilson is now an Eagle Scout. And now, the Sylvan Cemetery is a much nicer place because of Landan’s efforts.

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