Saturday, February 24, 2007

Clinton W. Ahlquist killed during combat operations

Clint Ahlquist grew up a cowboy who wanted to flee the palm trees and bright lights of Scottsdale, Ariz., for a place that fit him better.

He found Creede at 16, moved in with a cousin and graduated in 2003 from high school in the southwest Colorado mountain town of barely 400. He wrote down Creede as his hometown when he joined the Marines.

On Tuesday, Ahlquist, 23, a sergeant who had re-enlisted in Iraq, was killed in combat.

"He called us Sunday," said Barbara Ahlquist, his mother, from Scottsdale. "It was just a typical call. He told us he loved us and he missed us and he was fighting for our right to be free."

"We just know he was a dedicated, dedicated Marine. He loved and believed in what he was doing," she said. "He always wanted to be a soldier."

Creede claims the strapping young man - 6-foot-2 and 225 lean pounds - as one of its own. He is remembered as a boy who blossomed in his class of 10, started on the basketball team, did his duty as a student and charmed his way to prom king.

"He had great manners, and he took time to talk to people," said Frances Kolisch, the librarian at Creede High School who became the teenager's surrogate mother while he dated her daughter, Karly.

Kolisch said Ahlquist left his beloved blue heeler dog, Grinchy, in their care when he left for the Marines.

An only child whose grandparents had introduced him to country life and Colorado, Ahlquist moved to Creede to start his sophomore year at Creede High.

"He was very gregarious, outgoing, quick with a smile," said Buck Stroh, the district superintendent. "He was someone the kids and teachers all gravitated to, right from the start.

"Clinton just seemed to adapt to Creede, like he'd been waiting for a town like this," Stroh said. "If you met him, you would have thought he came from Creede all his life, not Scottsdale."

When Clint Ahlquist's cousin planned to move, Barbara and Rex Ahlquist, the teenager's parents, bought a home in Creede where their son could live until they retired.

"Every time we talked to him, he told us how happy he was in Creede, so we finally bought the house there," Barbara Ahlquist said.

"He was a cowboy, and he fit in in the small town. Scottsdale is not a real cowboy town."

Barbara Ahlquist said her son will have a military funeral and burial in Arizona, probably within the next two weeks.

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