WATERTOWN—Gebrah Noonan, an Army private who died Thursday in Iraq, loved good literature and Michael Jackson and had a sense of humor sharp enough to get him voted class clown at Watertown High School.
Noonan, 26, died Thursday in a non-combat incident in Fallujah, about a month after combat operations ended in Iraq. On Sunday, Gov. M. Jodi Rell ordered flags flown at half-staff to honor his memory.
"Most people knew him as the life of the party," Jacques said. "He never looked for someone to emulate or latch onto — he had his own followers."
Noonan, who would introduce himself as "Gebrah rhymes with zebra," loved reading and was partial to Jack Kerouac and was a big movie buff. He also loved soul music and had more than 4,000 songs on his iPod. On senior dress-up day, he went to school dressed as Michael Jackson.
"One of the best things we'll always remember was his sense of humor," Jacques said. "He had a quick wit. It all comes from his intelligence."
He was patriotic, decisive and a huge football fan, although he would never settle for just one team.
Noonan, who was known for wearing a large Afro in high school, graduated in 2002. He then spent a year at Manhattanville College, took a year off, then attended Fordham University for a year. He leaves behind his parents, Ling and William, two brothers and a sister.
Funeral arrangements have not yet been made.
Noonan was the second Connecticut soldier to die in Iraq or Afghanistan in the past month.
Army National Guard Sgt. Steven Deluzio of South Glastonbury was a member of the Vermont National Guard. He was killed Aug. 22 when insurgents attacked his unit in Afghanistan.