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Fitch High Class of '63 honors fallen classmates

By Deborah Straszheim

Publication: The Day

Published November 09. 2013 4:00AM
Sean D. Elliot/The Day
Groton Board of Education member Robert Peruzotti chats with members of Johnie Blount's family - from left, his sister Marguerite Mootry, his mother Margie Blount and his niece Kim Mootry Smith - after a plaque dedication ceremony Friday at Fitch High School in Groton. Fitch's Class of 1963 donated the plaque in memory of two classmates, Blount and Drew Fiedler, both killed during the Vietnam War. The plaque is dedicated to all Fitch alumni who have died serving their country. Peruzotti, also a member of the Class of '63, remembered playing football with Blount at Fitch.

Groton - Margie Blount, 85, said she expected her son to come back safe from Vietnam in 1966, after Lyndon B. Johnson said he was sending home only sons.

But Johnie Blount was killed on July 4, 1966, before it could happen. So she traveled from Virginia to Groton to see the Robert E. Fitch High School Class of 1963 present a plaque on Friday in memory of Blount and classmate Drew Fiedler, who also was killed in the war.

She said Johnie had been wounded in April 1966, shortly before he was killed.

"Why did they patch him up and send him back out there?" Margie Blount said, adding that she'll never understand it.

Marty Schultz of Pomfret attended the dedication on behalf of Fiedler's family. Drew Fiedler was her first cousin, and she remembers him taking her swimming and teaching her to play marbles.

The plaque, given to the school by the Class of 1963, reads: "Dedicated to the graduates of Fitch High School who have given their lives for our country" and states that it is in memory of Blount and Fiedler.

Town Councilor James Streeter, a member of the Class of 1963, recalled both young men as outstanding athletes. Blount played football and was "always smiling," Streeter said. Fiedler was captain of the swim team and was nicknamed "Fish."

Classmate Ellen Heivly Chiapperini read an excerpt from "The Other Side of the Hill" by Gary Poe, a Fitch graduate who visited the Vietnam Wall memorial in Washington.

"Right after my 50th birthday, I visited with my friends again," Poe wrote. "Johnie is on Panel 8 East, Line 129 of the Vietnam Veterans memorial. Drew is on Panel 41 West, Line 52 ..."

Chiapperini also read the names of 30 people who had attended or graduated from Fitch who had died while serving their country.

Fitch Principal Joseph Arcarese said the plaque will serve as a reminder of the importance of Veterans Day and its real meaning.

"We owe our freedom and our lives to our veterans," he told the families, military representatives and students gathered Friday. "It is with humility and respect and honor that I stand here before the families of Johnie Blount and Drew Fiedler."


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