Thursday, May 03, 2007

Lane (Norman L.) Tollett remembered

ELYRIA — Friends, relatives and former classmates of Norman Lane Tollett’s from Elyria Catholic High School streamed into the homes of Marti Sparks and David Tollett throughout the day Monday to offer their support and express their sympathy for the loss of their son.

Tollett, a 30-year-old Army sergeant who was known by his middle name, Lane, was killed Saturday in Baghdad. He would have been 31 on May 6.

He became the third Elyrian to be killed in Iraq, following M. Sgt. Robert H. West and Sgt. Daniel M. Shepherd.

Tollett’s parents, who are divorced, were informed their son was killed by an improvised explosive device while he was on foot patrol in Baghdad. An Army chaplain and casualty officer appeared at their front doors at 8 a.m. Sunday to break the sad news.

“They arrived to tell me he had been killed almost on the hour from last Sunday when I last spoke to Lane,” his mother said.

When Lane Tollett told his mother he planned to join the Army in the summer of 2003, she wasn’t thrilled about his decision, she said.

“I had those typical ‘mom’ feelings; I didn’t want him to,’’ Sparks said. “But when he explained to me why he wanted to join, I told him I understood and supported his decision; I respected his decision but it hasn’t been easy.

“He said he wanted to make a difference.”

Lane hadn’t planned to join the military. He had nearly completed about three years of study at Bowling Green State University, had worked a time for his father’s Legacy Food Systems and for about a year as a vending machine mechanic for a company in Columbus when he decided to visit a friend in New York City in the fall of 2001.

“It during that trip, about 2:30 one morning, they decided to go visit Ground Zero,” his mother said. “Lane told me later that as long as he’d live, he’d never forget the sights, the sounds and the smells he saw that night.”

It was during that trip, his thoughts turned to the military. It also was about the same time that former pro football player Pat Tillman joined the Army.

Lane, an athlete through his high school years, was impressed by Tillman’s statement that he wanted to be part of a bigger team, said his father, who lives on Loyola Drive in Elyria.

“Lane thought about it for about two years before he finally joined,” his mother said, gently rubbing her fingers across some snapshots of her son spread across the dining room table in her home on Courtland Drive in Elyria.

“It wasn’t an emotional, quick decision,” she said. “He told me he wanted to do something to make a difference. And then he said, ‘If I can take the place of one young husband or young father, it will make it all worth it.’ ”

That kind of caring, giving attitude was typical of Lane, his father said.

At age 28, Lane was older than most of the soldiers he joined for basic training in Fort Bragg, N.C. They quickly nicknamed him “the old man.”

And Lane earned his fellow soldiers’ respect. They chose him as honor graduate of his platoon.
“He was almost a fatherly figure to some of them,” David Tollett said. “Lane was always there for everybody. He wanted to take care of people; whatever they needed, he was there.

“He was everybody’s best friend. He was proud of his family, his community, his state, his country and his friends. And we are proud of him.”

Lane wasn’t married, but he had a girlfriend who lives in Pennsylvania. He met her at his brother Don’s wedding about a year ago. Lane’s brother Don, 29, lives in Delaware; brother Ryan, 26, lives in Elyria.

“Lane was an awesome brother and one of the best friends you could ever ask for,” Don Tollett said.

Lane’s family still does not know all of the details surrounding his death.

“They said the Army would be conducting a full investigation before they would reveal any more information,” his father said, clutching an 8-by-10 photo of his son in full dress uniform.

About all the family knew by Monday afternoon was Lane’s body had arrived at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware. They didn’t know when his casket would arrive in Elyria.

Lane served with the Army’s 82nd Airborne Division, C Company, 1504th parachute infantry regiment. He was to have been discharged from the Army in November.

An avid sports enthusiast and athlete, he was a 1994 graduate of Elyria Catholic High and a co-captain of the school’s football team. He also was on the wrestling and baseball teams, and hoped to someday complete work for a degree in education and coach children in sports.

The Rev. Frank Kosem of St. Jude’s Catholic Church on Poplar Street said he could still remember the days when Tollett walked through the hallways of St. Jude Elementary School.

“In general, he was a quiet person, but very faithful and very loyal,” Kosem said. “I think he was connected deep down and just a good person. He was always respected by his peers and was just a good clean-cut man.”

Kosem said he had not spoken with Tollett for a while, but he did meet with Tollett’s mother on Sunday after she heard about her son’s death.

St. Jude’s likely will host a military funeral for Tollett.

“It will be the traditional military funeral with all the respect he deserves,” he said. “It’s a shock. It sends chills down your spine when you think

From the Chronicle Telegram

Related Link:
Lane (Norman L.) Tollett dies 'of wounds suffered when his unit came in contact with enemy forces using small arms during combat patrol operations'