Curtis Honors Fallen Heroes

  1. 167 too many. This number is more than just a number – it’s a tally,  a  tally of  Curtis graduates that lost their lives serving this country as a member of the armed services. Not only that, but this number grows every day, as more fallen soldiers are confirmed.

On February 16th, their legacies were honored at a NJROTC assembly, The assembly presented their life stories for all to remember. Central to this assembly  was research. The research for this project was done by a retired chorus teacher turned historian JoAnn Nolemi, who has spent years recovering the names and lives of soldiers that died in battle.

“It started with Alan Blair- rescuing him from oblivion,” said Nolemi, when asked about the origins of her search for the truth. “If a person dies for our country and is forgotten, they die twice.” Her research process begins with a list and with newspapers, records, anything with a mention of a soldier. “My first resources are names on monuments throughout Staten Island.  There are over 100 stone monuments and plaques throughout the Island where communities have lovingly remembered local  people who served.  Once I have a name, there are on-line resources to get more information. My next source is the Staten Island Advance and other local newspapers.   The Advance is not digitized online.  So I have spent hundreds and hundreds of hours in the basement of the St. George Library looking through old film reels for articles and obituaries of heroes lost in war.” This grueling process repeats for each name found. Her work made it possible for the gathering to occur – each fallen warrior came with a lifetime of information to sift through, and it had to be done with care.

“There is no end,” said Nolemi, “just this week I found two more heroes.  Finding more information, or a family looking for information, or the identity of a hero who would have been forgotten makes everything worthwhile. It is an ongoing process. My future: I would love a large on-line database, more school presentations (student interaction is the most important), and  a book.” There is no doubt that the count of fallen soldiers will continue to move upward, but remembering them is crucial. “Their lives cannot be forgotten, and gatherings like these, created and supported by people, helps in that. This assembly is just one step forward to that remembrance. “They fought and served at the height of their youth and left many things behind: their friends or their physical health or their mental wellbeing.   Even if we are against warfare, we can not deny that we need a strong military to defend us against those powers that do believe that warfare is the answer. If we put these young people in harm’s way, it is our responsibility to support those who served and those who came back with visible and invisible wounds, and to always remember those who never made it home,”concluded Nolemi