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Pearl River Vietnam casualty honored


SUFFERN When Joe Famellette heard last year that a former student's remains had been found in Vietnam, the physical education professor at Rockland Community College could not continue driving.

"I'll pulled over and started crying," Famellette recalled of his reaction to news on the radio that Heinz Ahlmeyer's remains had been discovered, 38 years after the Pearl River man was killed in action. "It totally blew me away. I had to stop. ... That was the light-bulb moment."

Famellette, 71, was Ahlmeyer's coach and teacher at the community college in the early 1960s and wanted to do something to honor the memory of a student he said would do "anything" for his team and community. Famellette, who has been teaching at the college for 46 years, said Ahlmeyer was "such a wonderful and giving young man."

And so Famellette and his wife, Judy, yesterday announced the creation of the Heinz Ahlmeyer Memorial Scholarship Fund with a $3,000 donation. The fund will provide a $250 scholarship to a graduate of Pearl River High School attending RCC who is active in athletics and community service. A minimum grade point average of 2.5 is also required.

"We needed to do something so young people in Pearl River would be able to come to the college and continue the mission of the college," said Famellette, a Marine who served in the Korean War. "We wanted to perpetuate that spirit."

Ahlmeyer grew up on South Nauraushaun Road and graduated from Pearl River High in 1961. After two years at RCC, he attended New Paltz, SUNY, and then enlisted in the Marine Corps.

On May 10, 1967, the 23-year-old second lieutenant was leading a seven-man patrol near Khe Sanh, in Quang Tri Province. The patrol was ambushed, and Ahlmeyer and three others were killed. He had been listed as missing in action until January 2005, when his remains were positively identified.

Last year, Ahlmeyer was buried with full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery.

The Marine Corps League Rockland County Detachment also made a $500 contribution to the fund.

Pete Power, league commandant, said he hoped future recipients would know of Ahlmeyer's sacrifice and be inspired to be good members of the community.

"We have to invest in the youth," Power said. "Hopefully, we'll inspire them to become good citizens."

Don Cairns, executive director of the college's foundation, said that the goal was to endow the scholarship and that it was a nice way to honor veterans who have "paid such a high price for freedom."