Criswell, Roper receive Golden Eagle awards

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WINTER GARDEN — More than 200 friends, family members and well-wishers attended the Central Florida Council of Boy Scouts’ May 8 gala to celebrate the 2015 Golden Eagle recipients: Bill Criswell and Barbara Roper. Kathy Stark and Charlie Roper co-chaired the event at the Garden Theatre, in Winter Garden. The theme was “The Man I Wish to Be.”

After giving the history of scouting, Stark and Roper asked audience members to stand if they had ever been involved in the program; among those rising were nine Eagle scouts. Two past Golden Eagle honorees were also in attendance: Ward Britt and Walter Toole.

There are an estimated 2,000 scouts in West Orange County.

Scouting is important because participants “pick up life skills while having fun,” Charlie Roper said.

Cub Scout Max Gidley spoke to the crowd, sharing his experiences with scouting. He is a Webelo with Pack 125 in Celebration.

Pledge forms were handed out to attendees, and at the end of the night, it was announced that $37,140 had been raised.

Receptions before and after the ceremony gave folks a chance to greet the Golden Eagle recipients and congratulate them on being recognized for their service to West Orange County.


“(Scouting) gives young men the opportunity to become great men,” Barbara Roper said after being escorted to the stage to receive her award.

She has been involved in West Orange County since she moved to the area in 1950 after marrying her husband, Bert. She taught at Lakeview High and Tildenville School and then turned to volunteering when she stopped teaching to raise their four children, Becky, Edward, Preston and Charlie.

Roper founded the Adult Literacy League in Orlando; started the West Orange YMCA in 1967; joined the board of WMFE, the newly established public broadcasting station in Orlando and then served as the first woman to chair the board in 1970 and 1971; was elected to the board of the Public Broadcasting Service; and served as the first chairwoman of the Central Florida YMCA Board. The Roper YMCA in Winter Garden bears her family’s name.

Currently, she is involved with the Winter Garden Heritage Foundation.


“Anything that people can do to promote scouting, our country needs this very, very much,” Criswell said upon accepting his award.

The main principle that has guided his life has been to try to live by the Ten Commandments.

As a young boy, he enjoyed being outdoors, playing basketball and building things. After high school, he joined the Navy, serving with the Sea Bees during World War II.

Following the war, he moved to Orlando and married Helen Ann, his wife of 46 years. They have one daughter, Holly, who lives in Orlando. Criswell has lived in the Windermere area for 52 years.

After retiring as vice president of H.C. Buchanan Concrete, he turned his passion to service with the Windermere Rotary Club, the Central Florida Builders Exchange and West Orange Habitat for Humanity. In 2007, he founded Home At Last, which builds homes for combat-wounded veterans. The seventh one is being constructed currently in Oakland.

“Being a small part of a veteran returning home is an honor, privilege and rewarding experience you won’t ever forget.”

Contact Amy Quesinberry Rhode at [email protected].


West Orange County citizens who have received the Golden Eagle award are Jack Quesinberry (2000), George Bailey (2001), Sen. Daniel Webster (2002), Bert Roper (2003), Jerry Chicone (2004), Ward Britt (2005), Jerry Van Dyke (2006), Dr. John Cappleman (2007), Dr. Albert Gleason (2008), Danniel Petro (2009), Derek Blakeslee (2010), Richard Irwin (2011), Walter Toole (2012), Tim Keating (2013) and Sue Crabtree (2014).


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