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A band of civilian brothers from University of Wisconsin-Stout has made sure that one of their own, a man who made the ultimate sacrifice for his country, will be remembered into perpetuity.
A scholarship in the name of Lt. John Abrams was established this year at University of Wisconsin-Stout, where Abrams graduated 50 years ago, in 1962.
Abrams died July 13, 1968, in the Mekong Delta region of Vietnam when the Navy helicopter he was piloting crashed after being hit by enemy fire.
About a year ago eight members of the Sig Tau Gamma fraternity, of which Abrams was a member, decided to start an endowed scholarship to honor their friend. Nearly $41,000 has been raised, and the first John Leon Abrams Memorial Scholarship was awarded this fall by the Stout University Foundation.
The Sig Tau Gamma group also has presented a plaque to Abrams’ family, purchased an engraved brick in his name at the Dunn County Veterans Memorial in Menomonie and has inspired the university to begin developing a Hall of Honor at the Memorial Student Center for all alumni killed while serving their country.
Abrams was one of six UW-Stout graduates who died in Vietnam.
Sig Tau Gamma members and UW-Stout alumni who served on the memorial committee are Bob Dealey ’64, Jerry Burke ’63, Bob Janeczko ’63, Bernie Howaniec ’67, Dave Meilahn ’63, James Rathert ’64, Dave Reisinger ’62 and Brian Walker ’64.
“Brian Walker, who piloted carrier-based Navy A-4s over Vietnam, asked if a memorial was ever established for John Abrams. That question set John’s fraternity brothers on a yearlong mission to honor a Stout grad and war hero,” Dealey said.
The scholarship has been funded through pledges from former classmates and the plastics industry, including the Making and Mold Design Division of the Society of Plastics Engineers which donated $5,000.
The scholarship will be awarded annually to a plastics engineering major upperclassman active in campus activities, a veteran or member of a service branch or a descendent of a veteran.
“The objective was to honor John by naming the scholarship for him, recognize the Stout grads who served our country and to help promote the recently inaugurated plastics engineering program at Stout,” Dealey said.
Abrams, along with three other men, died when their helicopter was hit by gunfire. He was 28. He had been in the Navy since 1962, the year he graduated from Stout State College.
He graduated from high school in Milwaukee and is buried there, although his hometown of record at the time of his death is listed as Menomonie.
To donate to the Abrams scholarship fund or other scholarships at UW-Stout, contact Stout University Foundation, 715-232-1151 or go to the website.