Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Matthew Conte laid to rest

A very large, very loved stuffed toy rabbit was propped up against the lid of Matthew G. Conte's casket. To the left and right of his casket, two members of the U.S. Navy stood guard over the body of one of their own.

Conte, 22, was killed Feb. 1 by a roadside bomb in Iraq while serving as a hospitalman corpsman in the U.S. Navy.

He was a 2003 graduate of Field High School and also attended Maplewood Career Center in Ravenna. He was a Streetsboro resident.

Mourners paid their respects Thursday at Dunn-Quigley Cirello and Carr Funeral Home in Stow, where calling hours also will be held tonight.

The casket was draped in the American flag, and a throw blanket reading 'U.S. Navy' with an emblem of the hospitalman was hung near the open end of the casket.

Conte was laid to rest in his naval dress blues. In his hand he held a red, white and blue braided bracelet made of string.

"Before he left for Iraq, (family members) gathered with him," said his maternal aunt, Rose. "We said a prayer and the bracelet was tied to his wrist. He was not to take it off for anything. His mom would take it off when he got back home."

The rabbit that adorned his casket was a childhood toy -- one of his favorites, she said.

"Matt lit up the room wherever he went," his father, Gale Conte said. "He was always smiling, and everyone liked him. He had so many friends. People loved to be around him."

On the opposite side of the room, a video made from photos of Conte was shown. It was easy to tell which person in the photos was Matthew Conte -- he was the one whose mouth was wide open in a smile.

"That was Matt," his father said. "He enjoyed life. He loved being with people."

Matthew Conte was in the service for three years.

"You couldn't tell him not to go," said his mother, Lureen Conte. "He would have done it anyway. He saw it as his duty to his country."

Conte, who served with the 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment of the 3rd Marine Division in Kanehoe Bay, Hawaii, was killed when the armored vehicle in which he had been traveling was struck by an improvised explosive device. He was serving under the First Marine Expeditionary Force.

From the Courier

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