Completing an Eagle Scout project is a challenge for any teen. Finishing the project while living three states away must be nearly impossible.

However, that’s just what Gary Ankrom Jr. has done.

Ankrom, originally from Smithfield, moved to Rutherfordton, North Carolina, nearly two years ago, but he didn’t let that stop him from completing his Eagle Scout project in Fayette County one day before his 17th birthday.

The project, installing a four-foot high granite Ten Commandments monument in the front of his former church, Brownfield United Methodist in Smithfield, required a lot of help from his family and members of his former Boy Scout Troop 609, along with the support from his current Boy Scout Troop 129 in North Carolina.

“It took forever to get days where we could (work on it),” said Ankrom, who is involved with sports and scouts back in North Carolina.

Ankrom said he had the idea for the project some time ago, and started making calls to get things rolling back in January 2018. The first step was to get the project approved by scout leaders and the church. Then, the stone was ordered from a company out of Florida, who agreed to ship it free after learning it was for an Eagle Scout project.

Once the stone was shipped to the area, coordinating having it delivered to the church for placement was a complicated and lengthy process.

“Realistically, it would have taken five months, but (because of the distance) we had to do it this way,” Ankrom said of the 17 months it took to complete the project.

Although mentioning every person who had something to do with the project would be impossible, Ankrom specifically thanked Terry Henderson, his scoutmaster in North Carolina, and Henderson’s wife Kim, for helping him get everything figured out. He also thanked Wes Gower, his former scoutmaster here in Pennsylvania, and Gower’s wife Brenda, for their support. Ankrom also thanked his mother, Wendy Ankrom; best friend, Brady Shore and his cousin, Timothy Abraham.

Ankrom had a sign engraved that stated the monument was an Eagle Scout project with both of his troops identified. After he began the project, his great grandparents, Willard and Hazel Abraham, passed away, so Ankrom also placed a marker dedicating the work to their memory.

“Both of them were very active in the church,” said Ankrom.

To help with the coordination of it all and the actual physical placing of the stone, Ankrom called on Lee Mansberry, his on-site mentor at the church. Locally, Connellsville Monuments professionally set the stone. However, before that, footers had to be dug, posts placed for support and a base installed to hold the stone in place. Ankrom, his friends, and mother helped on weekends when they could.

Lights were also installed so the monument could be lit up at night. Mulch, plants and brick borders were the finishing touches on Aug. 17.

“Today was the last step,” said Ankrom.

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