Boy Scout Council honors Rocky Gannon as 2016 Distinguished Citizen
The Pee Dee Area Council of the Boy Scouts of America bestowed their Distinguished Citizen Award on life-long boy scout and military veteran Rocky Gannon during a special ceremony on June 23. The award was presented at a dinner held at the Southeastern Institute of Manufacturing and Technology Center on the Florence-Darlington Technical College campus.
“The Distinguished Citizen Award is given to someone in the community that has distinguished themselves with community service,” said Barry W. McDonald, Pee Dee Area Council scout executive. “They are selfless in their commitment to others in their community whether its youth programs, senior programs, homeless, financial assistance, whatever the case may be.” “Of all the awards I have received in my lifetime, this is the most meaningful,” said the 91 year-old recipient in an interview after the event.
He reflected on how people stepped up in his life to make sure he didn’t miss anything after his father died when he was a young boy living in Ocean City, New Jersey. “As I went through life, I remember learning in college, Psychology 101, that you’re a product of your environment,” Gannon said. “The people I met have molded me.” Rocky noted that he survived terminal cancer in 1975 and two strokes, among other health issues.
“The Lord has been good to me,” he stressed. Roland “Rocky” Gannon was born in Ocean City on March 8, 1925. On his 12th birthday he became a Boy Scout. In September of 1942, the 17 year-old achieved his Eagle Scout award. Gannon has been an active and a registered Boy Scout for 80 years. He received the Silver Beaver Award, the highest recognition an adult volunteer can receive from the Boy Scout Council. Rocky also received the BSA’s Silver Beaver Award for selfless service to the community and the Distinguished Eagle award.
For 30 years, Gannon has been a member of the Pee Dee Area Council and served twice as the executive board president. He served five years on the National Scouting Board. At the age of 17, Rocky met with an Army recruiter about enlisting. In May of 1943 he was called to active duty and his adventurous life’s journey began. As a pilot in the Army Air Corps Rocky flew the B-17 Flying Fortress.
By the age of 20, Rocky was flying the B-29 Super Fortress. For the next 37 years Rocky amassed 6,000 hours in 34 different aircraft, including bombers, transports, gliders and fighter planes. He received 50 military awards, including the Distinguished Flying Cross, Bronze Star, ten Air Medals, four Meritorious Service Metals and the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry with Palm. He flew missions in WWII, Korea, Belgian Congo and Vietnam.
Fifteen of his 37 years were served overseas. Rocky retired from the Air Force in 1980 and became an International Aviation Consultant. Thirty plus years ago Rocky and Roberta, “Bert,” his bride of 64 years, moved to Florence where Rocky served the Florence Regional Airport as executive director, retiring in 1993. Over the past 30 years, Rocky has served his community with vigor and distinction on 11 boards in the Florence and Darlington areas.
They include: Pee Dee Area Boy Scouts of America, Executive Board, two years as Board President BSA National Council, 6 years Pee Dee Area Red Cross Board of Directors Board of Directors for Florence and Darlington’s Chambers of Commerce. Part of team that brought several international companies to Florence. Lifetime Achievement Award, Darlington Chamber of Commerce. Vice Chairman SC Aviation Association (SCAA) SC Aviator of the Year, 2001 and a member of the South Carolina Aviation Hall of Fame.
Chairman of Darlington McLeod Hospital Advisory Board Committee Member on both committees for creation of Florence Veterans’ Park and Darlington’s Veterans’ Memorial Active member of the Florence Rotary Club Rocky and Roberta have three children, Mike, Patti and Mary. He is proud that his son Mike and four grandsons all achieved the rank of Eagle Scout. At the event, Gannon and his wife were presented with a portrait of the two of them painted by Florence artist Lynda English. Gannon said scouting has been great to him just like to people of the Pee Dee area.