First Officer LeRoy Wilton Homer Jr.

United Flight 93

LeRoy Homer, who fulfilled dream to be pilot

LeRoy Wilton Homer Jr. died a hero. His family and friends who filled the Meadow View Junior Academy in Chesterfield yesterday are sure of it.

Mr. Homer, 36, was first officer on the hijacked United Airlines Flight 93 out of Newark International Airport Sept. 11 that crashed near Pittsburgh, killing all on board.

Earlier that day, three other hijacked planes rammed prominent U.S. landmarks, claiming more than 6,000 lives. It is believed Flight 93 was averted from a similarly grim purpose by people aboard the plane who struggled with the hijackers.

Yesterday, before a crowd of more than 400 -- half of them fellow pilots or flight attendants -- family and friends remembered the Marlton resident, husband of Melodie for 31/2 years and father of a 10-month-old girl.

"When LeRoy left for work September 11th he had no idea what the day had in store for him," said brother-in-law Broderick Thorpe. "But he left us with a gift: his daughter, Laurel. She will hear about Flight 93 and his heroic last moments on this earth."

The eulogists talked about Mr. Homer as a man who had dreamed of flying since he was 6. They talked about Sunday family excursions to airports to watch planes take off. He earned his pilot's license at 16, before he graduated from high school and flew for the Air Force before piloting commercial jetliners.

"We have not lost a brother or a son or a husband," said one of his seven sisters, Cheryl Homer-Wilson. "We have gained a guardian angel."

His mother bid her son: "Fly with God, my darling LeRoy."

There was no body. No casket. Just his image flashing across a movie screen in the school's gymnasium -- and then his voice. He was making a speech at his wedding, and later pictures showed him and Melodie dancing.

He was also remembered as a soft-spoken man with an ever-present smile and a heart of gold. And a bright boy shaped by a female- dominated household -- he was one of nine children, seven of them girls.

"It's a shame how all the good people are taken away from us," said a sister, Michelle Homer.

The service ended with a 21-gun salute and the release of red, white and blue balloons.

Mr. Homer, who grew up on Long Island, graduated from the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs in 1987. During his eight- year military career, including service during the Gulf War, he flew cargo planes.

He joined United Airlines in 1995, flying jumbo jets out of Newark and Kennedy International Airport.

Other survivors include his brother, Thomas Freimark Sr., and sisters Marilyn Johnson, Germaine Wilson, Theresa Cooke-Poche Ramirez, Monique Homer and Christine Homer.

Donations may be made to the LeRoy Homer Child Fund, c/o Commerce Bank, 336 Rt. 70 E, Marlton, N.J. 08053.

Profile by Judith Lucas published in THE STAR-LEDGER.

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