Saturday, May 16, 2015

Justin Zemser

Autism Light #399 is Justin Zemser.

Justin Zemser was a Navy midshipman from Queens, New York, who died along with 7 others in the derailment of Amtrak Northeast Regional Train 188 in Philadelphia on May 12, 2015. Justin Zemser was born on March 25, 1995, and was the youngest victim of this terrible accident.

Justin Zemser is survived by his parents Howard and Susan Zemser.  His funeral was held on May 15, 2015, in Hewlett, New York with full military honors and Naval Academy Jewish chaplain, Lt. Yonatan Warren presided and served as burial rabbi. Justin Zemser is an Autism Light because he found time in his remarkable life to be a big brother and mentor to two children who had autism. Justin Zemser will be placed on the Autism Light Memorial Roll today.

The following is a photo of Justin Zemser posted on Facebook.

MIDN 3/C Justin Zemser. Beautiful.
Posted by Navy Sprint Football on Thursday, May 14, 2015
Justin Zemser was a high school graduate of Channel View School for Research in Rockaway, Queens, New York. He was the valedectorian of his class with a 4.0 grade point average. He also served as the President of the Student Body and as a standout wide receiver for the school's varsity football team (, May 13, 2015).

The following is a news story about the funeral of Justin Zemser.

New York Senator Chuck Schumer nominated Justin Zemser for the Naval Academy. When he received news of Justin's passing Senator Schumer said, "He stood out among countless applications. He was valedictorian of his class and volunteered at a community church program. He was a big brother and mentor to two children with autism. He was totally well rounded. I mourn the loss for his family. He would have served his country extremely well (New York Daily News, May 13, 2015)."

Justin Zemser was a second year student at the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, and had been on the Amtrak train on his way home to see his family. While at the Naval Academy he served as vice president of the Jewish Midshipmen Club and played wide receiver for their sprint football team (, May 15, 2015).

Justin Zemser was a hero and role model to countless numbers of young people for various reasons, but he was an autism hero because he included being a big brother and mentor to two children with autism into his busy schedule as a student. It would be wonderful if other young people would take on the role of being a big brother and mentor to peers with autism in memory of Justin Zemser. In order to respect their privacy in this time of grief, Autism Light did not contact any of the family or friends of Justin Zemser in preparing the first version of this tribute. Our thoughts are with Justin Zemser's family and friends during this difficult time.

Autism Light honors diverse heroes to the world of autism.

1 comment:

  1. I mourn your loss of a son. I appreciate his service to autistic people as two of my sons have autism. Loss is so difficult, especially with a child. I celebrate that he was giving in his life, and what he gave will live on through all the recipients.