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From: Robert Sullivan <>
Subject: [GEN-NYS] Looking for next of kin: military memorial for Capt.Lawrence Celmer, Amsterdam
Date: Tue, 17 Jan 2012 11:12:29 -0500

By Heather Nellis, Recorder News Staff 1/17/12

In April, fallen U.S. Marine Corps Capt. Lawrence J. Celmer of
Amsterdam will be honored for his ultimate sacrifice at a plaque
dedication ceremony at the National Museum of the Marine Corps in
Quantico, Va.

But the surviving members of Celmer's Marine Corps Basic Class of 1963
at the College of the Holy Cross want to share that ceremony with
Celmer's relatives, and are hoping some will come forward so they can
be personally invited.

For the past three months, retired Marine Colonel Edward A. Cercone
has worked tirelessly in hopes of finding Celmer's kin, but to no

"We are trying to identify any living relatives, no matter how
distant, of Capt. Celmer, to advise them of this memorial for their
information, and to inquire about their possible interest in attending
the dedication," Cercone said.

Celmer was 26 years old when he was killed on March 18, 1967. He
suffered a fatal gunshot wound to his upper left chest while carrying
out a search and destroy mission at the province of Quang Ngai during
the Vietnam War.

The only child of former Amsterdam Police Chief Andrew Celmer,
Lawrence "Larry" Celmer's death was widely publicized by the local
media, including the Recorder. It still mentioned his name several
years after his military funeral, like when a local fellow serviceman
was killed, or when the city's Rotary Club would dole out a
scholarship in Celmer's name.

His mother, Valeria, died in 1978, and the former chief passed in
1992, and the trio are buried together in the St. Stanislaus Cemetery
in Amsterdam.

But classmates are hoping there may be some distant relation to the
small family that was once so high profile their name was regularly
printed by the local paper, often when the chief would comment on the
city's crime, or even Larry's name, as it appeared frequently with
childhood friend Donald Popielarz, including a wedding announcement
when Celmer was the best man at Popielarz's wedding in August 1962.

It wasn't the first time Celmer stood up for a friend getting married;
he did the same for four-year Holy Cross college roommate Paul O'Keefe
several weeks after graduating college.

O'Keefe remembered his "good friend" Larry in their college glory days
as "a very outgoing, personable and social type of person -- in
contrast to me, but never the less, he was very friendly, he had a lot
of friends and he was very popular."

He said they became college roommates "by pure luck," as O'Keefe's
father was an insurance adjuster who worked regularly with Chief
Andrew Celmer through his police work.

"They used to have lunch together, and somewhere along the line, they
realized both of us were going to Holy Cross. We were both given
admission on the late side, so they didn't have enough housing on
campus, so we lived in a private home off campus. But we got along
fine, and ended up rooming together the next three years."

Celmer was graduate of the Wilbur H. Lynch High School who would later
study chemical engineering at the Worcester, Mass. college, and
O'Keefe said the roommates were "hard-pressed by our studies."

"We both had to work very hard to do reasonably well. We were immersed
in our studies, and by our senior year, we eased up and had some fun,"
O'Keefe remembered.

Gloversville native Dominick Izzo said similar social calendars are
what brought him and Celmer together their sophomore year of college,
and though they never knew each other until their undergraduate
schooling, Izzo started picking up Celmer in his car when the pair
would drive to Massachusetts.

"We all went to the same college, and we were all in the same Navy
ROTC program together," Izzo said. "He was one of the funniest people
I've ever met in my entire life. We didn't have frat houses at
college, but we made up the difference at big weekends. Our social
calendars were very much intertwined for three years; we liked the
same kind of girls ... Every single day for three years, we did
something, or chatted, or argued about politics, or talked about

Izzo said one of "the most shocking days of my life" was the day he
learned Celmer had been killed in battle. He said he was watching the
news with his wife and three young children.

It was Celmer's second tour in Vietnam. The Amsterdam Evening Recorder
reported his death three days later, noting Celmer was believed to
have died almost instantaneously.

It would take nearly 12 days for his body to return to the city,
enough time for the chief and his wife to drive back from their
vacation spot in Florida to their Sanford Avenue home.

The March 21, 1967 paper reported Celmer's death as the seventh area
Marine to die in that war zone, the village where he died about 50
miles south of the large Marine base at Chu Lai.

Celmer had completed his required tour of duty in Vietnam and had
volunteered for another year of war zone duty, where he was a marine
search and destroy company commander at the time he was mortally
wounded, the paper reads.

"The last letter Larry sent to me in 1966 said he wanted to go into
action, that he was volunteering to go to Vietnam," Izzo said. And
despite the national controversy that erupted as the war escalated
into the late 1960s, "when I look back, Larry's death was such a loss,
it's so frustrating, but I don't think it was done in vain. He did
what he wanted to do.

"I pray for him every day," Izzo said. "That's how close I felt to
him. It's tough to forget someone like that."

And to his classmates, he'll never be forgotten. In addition to his
name engraved on the Vietnam Wall in Washington, D.C., he'll be
forever idolized with eight of his college classmates on a plaque that
will be dedicated in April.

Relatives interested in the ceremony, or anyone interested in
providing further information, can reach out to Cercone by calling
(703) 323-6358 or emailing .

Contact Heather Nellis at

Bob Sullivan
Schenectady Digital History Archive
Schenectady County (NY) Public Library

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