LAPORTE | Zachary Muller and his father, Tom, did many things together but just prior to receiving his much coveted Eagle Scout award his father unexpectedly passed away.
"I think he would be proud," said Muller, 18, a senior at LaPorte High School.
His 49-year-old father, who was a member of the Center Township Volunteer Fire Department, was involved with Zachary in his Scouting activities since he joined the Boy Scouts in the fifth grade.
They also worked together on his community service project that earned him the Eagle Scout award.
The father and son built a 20-foot by 24-foot long maze that's being used by Center Township firefighters for training on how to reach someone trapped inside a burning building and find their way out.
Zachary said the maze is equipped with removable boards that can be easily moved in and out creating more than 900 possible routes.
Firefighters with help from ropes slide facedown trying to work their way through as if they were blinded in the heavy smoke.
Julie Muller said the maze was completed and everyone in the family was eagerly waiting to find out if Zachary's efforts would earn him the Eagle Scout award when her husband collapsed at home Sept. 18 and died from a massive heart attack.
She said nobody knew that Tom, who was the head custodian at Hailmann Elementary School in LaPorte, was suffering from heart disease until an autopsy.
The family received the good news about the award, and on Nov. 25 the medal was draped over Zachary's neck during a ceremony.
Julie said her husband "would have been very proud. Very, very proud."
Zachary, following in his father's footsteps, is now in training to become a volunteer firefighter.
"We did everything together. We did the Fire Department and we did the Scouts. Just bumming around on Saturdays. Things like that," said Zachary, who's debating between entering the military or college after graduating from high school.
For now, he's helping his mother with some of the chores his father used to do like shoveling snow and bringing in wood for the burner while trying to remain strong during the grieving process.
"Since everything happened he's had to grow up real fast. He's been there for me," said Julie.