Wednesday, December 30, 2009
Westport’s St. Luke Church was overflowing today as friends, family, and strangers said goodbye to Charles M. Rochlin, the 24-year-old Westport Marine killed in a car crash on Sunday.
Members of the Patriot Guard Riders stood silently outside Westport’s St. Luke Church today as mourners arrived for a service for Charles M. Rochlin. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Dave Matlow for WestportNow.com
Family members recalled the hockey player who showed compassion for all he met, including a crippled man in a wheelbarrow he gave a Pop-Tart to during a patrol while on his seven-month tour in Iraq.
Taylor Rochlin, the Marine’s 9-year-old sister, said she was glad he did not die on Christmas, adding, “But we all wish he didn’t die at all.”
Outside the church, 20 members of New Mexico-based Patriot Guard Riders stood silently at attention holding U.S. flags. Later, they went to Willowbrook Cemetery.
“We are here to pay respect and shield mourning families and their friends from any possible interruptions created by protesters,” said Bob Stone, Connecticut captain for the group.
As police continued their investigation into Sunday’s crash, the sudden loss felt by family, friends, and strangers in his hometown was demonstrated repeatedly in the hours since Rochlin’s death.
On Tuesday afternoon and evening, hundreds were ushered into the Harding Funeral Home in sub-freezing temperatures by uniformed Marines as they sought to pay respects to Rochlin and his family.
The line of mourners was so long that at times it took more than 90 minutes before finally reaching the open casket and nearby family members.
Mourners first had to wind their way up and down a stairway and through rooms of the Masonic Lodge building where the funeral home is located.
At the end of the line, surrounded by numerous floral arrangements, Rochlin lay in full dress uniform, his father, Scott, gesturing occasionally at his son as he greeted mourners.
Today, Westport police, aided by motorcycle officers from the Fairfield Police Department, closed off roadways as the long line of vehicles made their way along the 2.5-mile journey from St. Luke Church to Willowbrook Cemetery in sunny, 28-degree weather.
The pallbearers included Marines as well as Westport Police Chief Al Fiore, a longtime family friend.
Many mourners wiped away tears as the U.S. flag which had draped the coffin was folded and turned over to the family. The graveside services with full military honors ended with a gun salute.
Overhead at the cemetery entrance, a U.S. flag flew from the Westport Fire Department ladder truck.
Two of the department’s members are currently on active duty with the U.S. military, destined for Iraq and Afghanistan.
Posted 12/30/09 at 05:30 PM Permalink
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Such a sad, sad event for everyone involved. May God’s peace bring some comfort to an event that no one even wants to contemplate. The Dinielli family is is there to help and comfort in any way possible.