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Friends of St. Bernard graduate who died on 9/11 maintain memorial fund

Graduating high school seniors these days were not alive when terrorists hijacked four planes, crashing two of them into the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York City.

Local high school seniors, however, might know the name of James Greenleaf Jr., the former Waterford resident and St. Bernard and Connecticut College graduate who was one of the more than 3,000 people killed in the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. He was a foreign currency trader for Carr Futures and on the 92nd floor of the North Tower, where the first jet hit. He was 32.

For the past 19 years, friends and family of Greenleaf have led the effort to ensure his memory is kept alive through three local events helping to fund the James A. Greenleaf Jr. Memorial Scholarship Fund.

The fund started with $1,000 scholarship going to a graduating senior in 2002 and has grown to $62,000 in scholarships awarded in 2019 — funding for students at St. Bernard and for graduating seniors from New London High School, Waterford High School and Robert E. Fitch Senior High School in Groton.

All together, the fund has distributed more than $400,000 in scholarships.

“We’ve gotten a lot of support. Local people and local businesses have been great,” said fund President Frank Marcille, Greenleaf’s cousin.

One of the fund’s biggest fundraising events, a memorial dinner, will take place on Feb. 8, the Saturday closest to Greenleaf’s birthday, which was Feb. 10. The dinner — tickets are $50 a seat — will be held from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. at Filomena’s in Waterford. Scholarship recipients will be in attendance.

Marcille said the list of scholarship alumni is getting long and an alumni network is now in the works.

“We want this fund to go on in perpetuity and live on so Jimmy’s memory lives on,” Marcille said. “The purpose is to get a student who was just like Jimmy — personable, athletic, a leader and intelligent — and give these students a chance to be something.”

There is also a 5K Run for the fund held each May at Ocean Beach Park and golf tournament in July held at Lake of Isles in North Stonington. The same people have attended the race since its inception and Marcille said it has become an annual gathering spot and become a family of its own.

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