Ceremony to Honor Late Veteran William Phelps ’69

 Ceremony to Honor Late Veteran William Phelps ’69

05/17/2016 

The graduation photo of William Phelps ’69 looks so youthful in SUNY Cortland’s 1969 student yearbook, Didascaleion.

On the same page, artist and poet Kahlil Gibran is quoted: “Shall the day of parting be the day of gathering. And shall it be said that my eve was in truth my dawn?”

Phelps’ celebrating classmates couldn’t forsee the parting his family would endure two years later when the former physics major and his crew disappeared along with their F4 Phantom jet during the Vietnam War.

Nor could they have predicted this terrible loss would — 45 years later — yield a gathering and a measure of dawn for Phelps' remaining family members and admirers who will finally, formally acknowledge his loss.

Friends and remaining relatives have worked diligently with veterans groups to finally honor Phelps’ memory and say a last goodbye. A dedication/memorial service is planned at 1 p.m. Saturday, May 21 — which is Armed Forces Day — at St. Mary’s Cemetery in Cortland. All are welcome to attend, including alumni and members of the campus community.

After graduation, Phelps joined the Air Force and was serving as a weapons and systems operator on the jet flying night missions over Laos. On Nov. 23, 1971, his plane was shot down. Phelps’ remains and those of the pilot, Capt. Robert Altus, never were found.

For seven years, Phelps was listed as missing in action (MIA). When military officials declared Phelps killed in action (KIA) Aug. 16, 1978, in the absence of any remains his family could not accept his death. Having lost their only son, Phelps’ parents were devastated and never held a funeral or memorial service.

Both parents are now deceased. Phelps’ father endowed a Cortland College Foundation scholarship named in memory of his son. Over the years, the award has helped offset the cost of graduate school for generations of matriculated SUNY Cortland physics students or those who earned degrees in chemistry, biological sciences and geology.

An Air Force color guard will march at the ceremony and a musician will play taps. A priest will officiate. Mementos of the soldier will be on hand, including his memorial plaque, his medals encased in a shadow box, his military picture and an image of the kind of aircraft on which he flew.

In addition Phelps’ extended family members, the local veteran’s organization Warriors of the Cross spearheaded the effort to have the official military plaque made and placed at the family cemetery plot.


More News

Blackbird Film Festival Returns

Blackbird Film Festival Returns

Over 140 short films to screen in festival that is free and open to the public.


'Color My College' 5k Coming April 23

'Color My College' 5k Coming April 23

Students can enjoy a colorful 5K run on Sunday that's for a good cause.


April the Giraffe Shares Cortland Connection

April the Giraffe Shares Cortland Connection

A biology major who works at Animal Adventure Park was there in person to see the world-famous baby giraffe’s first steps.


Acclaimed Pianist to Unveil New Work at Cortland

Acclaimed Pianist to Unveil New Work at Cortland

Avant-garde musician Margaret Leng Tan will perform a free concert on campus


Piscataway Nation to Perform April 26

Piscataway Nation to Perform April 26

The Piscataway Nation Singers and Dancers will dance, drum and sing with authenticity.


Students Model European Union in Big Apple

Students Model European Union in Big Apple

Twelve attended the Model European Union conference held March 30-April 2.


Holocaust Memorial Events Planned

Holocaust Memorial Events Planned

Leibel Mangel will recount serving in Israel's military on Thursday, April 20.


Science Based Club Created for Scholarship

Science Based Club Created for Scholarship

Current Research in Biology (CRIB) exposes students to novel research.


College Writing Committee Posts Winners

College Writing Committee Posts Winners

Seven students will be awarded for writing excellence during the 2016 academic year.


Senior BFA Major to Present Thesis Exhibition

Senior BFA Major to Present Thesis Exhibition

Justin Pribulick will display his work in Dowd Center April 27-May 12.


Explore

Visit

Contact