‘He Took Care of People’: Classmates, Friends Remember 1993 New Canaan High School Graduate Robert M. Amen Jr.

As news of Robert M. Amen Jr.’s untimely passing last week spread through the town and wider community, friends and fellow 1993 New Canaan High School graduates remembered a widely liked and singularly kind, compassionate person who smiled easily and moved effortlessly among various social circles. A Boston College graduate and U.S. Air Force veteran who served for six years with distinction, including multiple tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, Amen died Thursday at age 42. He is survived by his wife, Kerith, and their daughter, Adair. His life will be celebrated at a funeral Mass at 1:30 p.m. Tuesday at St. Aloysius Church.

PHOTOS: New Canaanites Gather at God’s Acre, Town Hall To Honor U.S. Military Veterans

More than 200 people, many in uniform, gathered at God’s Acre a crisp, sunny morning Friday for New Canaan’s Veterans Day ceremony. Led by VFW Post 653 Commander Peter Langenus, a U.S. Army captain in Vietnam who also served as a colonel during Operation Desert Storm, the ceremony included remarks from Desert Storm veteran and Saxe Middle School educator Christopher Cogswell as well as First Selectman Rob Mallozzi and Lisa Melland, regent of the Hannah Benedict Carter Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution, presentation of the flag by the New Canaan Police Department Color Guard, a tolling of the bells in First Congregational Church by Linda Avgerinos and a reading of the poem “In Flanders Field” as well as the names of New Canaan veterans who have passed in the past year (full list below). Cogswell, a third-generation New Canaanite and ’86 NCHS grad who works as a special needs assistant and recess supervisor, in his remarks opened a discussion about what he called “two words that are a common virtue in all of us, ‘uncommon valor.’ ”

“The meaning of these words usually starts with an oath or a pledge: ‘I do solemnly swear,’ or ‘on my honor,’ ” Cogswell said, standing at a podium in front of the Wayside Cross, a monument to World War I veterans that was erected in 1923 at the foot of God’s Acre. “In combat I learned that uncommon valor was a common virtue. Real heroes are the quiet men and women of action and duty.

Memorial Day with Sandra (Conner) Lefler: ‘I Think About Them Every Day’

The last time New Canaan’s Sandra Lefler (née Conner) saw her brother, Creighton Conner, was Memorial Day weekend in 1966, here in town. Creighton, a 1960 New Canaan High School graduate who excelled in academics as well as sports, had earned a bachelor’s degree in American Literature from Middlebury College, then joined the U.S. Army Signal Corps and went to Vietnam for two years, where he served as second lieutenant. Though the war had become very unpopular, Sandra recalled, the siblings’ grandfather William B. Conner—the man for whom Conner Field off of Farm Road (just below what is now Saxe Middle School) is named—told Creighton “to be an example for the rest of the kids and march in the parade, which my brother did.”

“My mother and I watched him and we kept running around from every corner on Main Street—you know how there are all those side streets off of Main?—because he looked so great in his uniform,” Sandra, two years younger than Creighton, recalled from a living room sofa at the Douglas Road home she shares with her husband of nearly 47 years, Mark—it’s not far from the house where she and Creighton grew up, on Oak Street up near the corner of South Avenue. “He marched in the parade down to the cemetery. He looked so handsome.