The remains of a Rhode Island Vietnam veteran have been returned home to his family 53 years after the military said his plane was shot down over North Vietnam and he was killed during close combat on the ground.
Lt. Col. Fredric Mellor’s remains arrived on a Delta commercial flight at T.F. Green Airport in Warwick just after noon Wednesday. Members of the local honor guard met the plane on the runway and off-loaded his casket draped in the American flag before transferring it to a hearse.
A small group of people gathered outside the exit of the airport, including Ron Pariseau and Les Bostwick, two Navy Seabee veterans from Thompson, Conn. that didn’t even know Mellor.
"It's a brother and he's finally coming home,” said Pariseau. “We've been waiting a long time."
"This is the right thing to do,” added Bostwick. “Bring him home."
Mellor was 30 years old when he died in 1965. His childhood friend, Don Brown, lives in North Kingstown. He remembers Mellor as a great piano player and a fun person.
The two boys were inseparable during their grammar school years in South Kingstown and were even wooing the same woman, Brown’s wife Celia now, during their early years in the military. When the Air Force said Mellor had died, but never recovered his remains, Brown held out hope that he would see his friend again.
"You always hoped from the beginning that something would turn up and he would be alive,” said Brown. "I'm very proud of him. Once you can get over the knowledge that you'll never see him again, you can thank the good Lord that he was there."
A wake for Mellor is scheduled for Thursday at Nardolillo Funeral Home in Cranston. His remains will be buried at the Veterans’ Cemetery in Exeter Friday.