Family, friends remember Marine
By Martin B. Cassidy
Staff Writer
December 30, 2005

Whether grinding through basic training as a U.S. Marine, playing grade school football, or eating Italian food, Ryan Zimmerman seemed intent on wringing the most joy out of life he could, his friends and family recounted yesterday at the young man's funeral.

Eric Anderson, 18, recalled a trip the two Greenwich High School graduates took to the Bahamas this year, and how Zimmerman stood out at the Greenwich High School junior prom in his yellow tuxedo.

"He said, 'I don't care, I look good,' " Anderson said with a smile.

The pews of St. Catherine of Siena Church overflowed with relatives and friends to pray for and remember Zimmerman, who they described as a warmhearted U.S. Marine whose youth and fun-loving spirit belied his commitment to helping others.

Zimmerman died Saturday morning when his car veered through a guard rail at Davis Avenue and Bruce Park Drive into part of Indian Harbor.

"I thank the Almighty for the most wonderful 18 years," John Zimmerman, his father told the congregation. "Far, far, too short a time."

An honor guard of U.S. Marines in their dress blues, as well as former Marines, saluted Zimmerman's coffin as it it was carried into the church to the strains of the hymn "Be Not Afraid." Zimmerman completed basic training at Parris Island, S.C., this fall.

During the service, lectors read from the Book of Wisdom and the Gospel According to John.

The reading from the Book of Wisdom urged listeners to put faith in the idea that those who die believing in God will be reunited with him.

"Their passing away was thought an affliction and their going forth from us, utter destruction," the reading said. "But they are in peace."

In his homily and at the end of the service, the Rev. Michael Moynihan told Zimmerman's young friends to find happiness in following Zimmerman's example, especially through trying to serve others.

"If you really want feelings of goodness in your hearts, it comes not from what you get but from what you give," Moynihan said.

After the Mass, family members and several friends spoke about Zimmerman.

His aunt, Wendi Corcoran, speaking on behalf of Zimmerman's mother, Shawn Corcoran Zimmerman, said that her nephew's commitment to the Marines and his family showed a sense of purpose unusual in such a young man.

"What a grand speck of sand he was," she said. "What he did in 18 years most people do not achieve in a lifetime."

Anderson said he was concerned when Zimmerman said he was joining the Marines, but also admiring that he did so while the country was at war.

"To join at such an uncertain time is another sign of his great character," Anderson said. "In the past few days, we've found ourselves stunned in pain. All I have found is that, as incredible as it seems, Ryan is gone."

Ryan's uncle, John Corcoran, thanked the people who stood by the family in the past few days; including Greenwich Police for efforts to try to find his nephew's treasured U.S. Marine Corps ring, which remains lost.

Talking to his nephew's friends and former teachers since the young man died, he said he was struck by how much those people loved him.

"He lived a life we thought we could have," Corcoran said.

Near the end of the service Moynihan, a retired U.S. Navy chaplain, asked the U.S. Marines attending the service to stand and be recognized, with the soldiers drawing a long ovation.

After the service, police and U.S. Marines lined up outside of the church again in the rain, and Zimmerman was taken with a police motorcycle escort to St. Mary's Cemetery in Greenwich.

John Bria, a close friend of the Zimmerman family said he was devastated attending the service.

Bria's son, John J. Bria III, died last January of a drug overdose at the age of 19 in his father's home.

"Ryan was a terrific kid," Bria said. "I have no heart left."

In his remarks, John Zimmerman asked friends and family to have faith that they will see his son again.

"I just want you all to share my belief and faith that I have that we will meet Ryan again," he said. "And that there will be a better place where we can all be together forever."