Lakeland Teachers Remember Clayton Carpenter, Special Ops Pilot

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Clayton Carpenter was remembered by his teachers as a respectful gentleman who was a great student.
Clayton Carpenter was remembered by his teachers as a respectful gentleman who was a great student. Photo Credit: File Photo

CORTLANDT, N.Y. -- Army Capt. Clayton Carpenter, who was killed in a helicopter training accident on Sunday, was recalled fondly by his teachers at Lakeland High School.

Carpenter, of Cortlandt Manor, was remembered by his teachers as a respectful, honorable young man who was a great student.

"I had tremendous respect for Clayton," Michael Lillis said. "He was so earnest and dedicated. He was really a wonderful student."

Lillis said Carpenter was driven to attend the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and serve in the military. Carpenter would talk to Lillis, since Lillis knew cadets at West Point.

"He was singular in his purpose," Lillis said. "He was a real person of integrity. After he graduated, he came in and thanked me for everything I had done for him. That's who he was. He was so considerate, just wonderful."

Lillis said Carpenter looked people straight in the eye and addressed them as "Sir."

"He was a leader," Lillis said. "This is a remarkable loss for the community. It's hard."

James Lopez, a physics teacher who had Carpenter in several classes, said he was a real gentleman who was humble and talented.

Before the school year started, Carpenter went to all his teachers and introduced himself.

"That's unusual for a 15-year-old to do," Lopez said. "He had a good sense of humor. Everyone liked and respected him."

Lopez said Carpenter thanked him for helping him get into West Point.

"I'm sad I won't see him again," Lopez said. "He was an awesome talent and a great student. He will be sorely missed. I was lucky to have him. I wish he had lasted longer."

Teacher Maureen O'Donnell had Carpenter in English class and coached him in track and said he was very studious.

"When you have a student as studious as Clayton on your team, you get to see the other side of them," Carpenter said. "You see the fun side; the side their friends see."

O'Donnell remembered Carpenter attending a dedication of the Lakeland Patriotic Hearts in November 2003 and communicated with her son while deployed in Iraq.

"He was truly one of Lakeland's finest," O'Donnell said.

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