Chili bridge named for Vietnam casualty

Ernst Lamothe Jr.
Staff writer

(June 19, 2007) — CHILI — A bridge on Scottsville-Chili Road will be named after Marine Pfc. James E. Widener, who was missing in action for 39 years before the U.S. military found his remains.

On June 11, 1967, Widener's helicopter crashed while surrounded by heavy enemy fire during a mission in South Vietnam. Shots hit his helicopter, knocking off the tail and sending it to the ground.

"When they told me they were going to name an old iron bridge after my brother, it caught me breathless," said his brother, Peter Widener. "I ran over and told my dad and he was shocked. This is quite a tribute and our family appreciates it."

On Nov. 2, 2006, the U.S. Department of Defense announced that Widener had been positively identified and he was given a proper military burial at Arlington National Cemetery.

Widener was a Churchville resident who joined the U.S. Marines after graduating from Churchville-Chili High School.

The bridge crosses over Black Creek and will be designated the James E. Widener Memorial Bridge.

"It is a fitting tribute that we honor his memory in the community that he loved by naming this bridge after him, so for generations to come, residents will remember the sacrifice their hometown son made," said state Sen. James Alesi, R-Perinton, who sponsored the legislation along with Assemblywoman Susan John, D-Rochester.