Army Sgt. Felix Delgreco of Simsbury, a member of C Company, 102nd Infantry in Bristol, was killed April 9, 2004 while on patrol in Baghdad, when his vehicle struck an improvised bomb and was attacked with small arms. He was the first member of the Connecticut Army National Guard to die in Iraq. He was 22 years old.
One of retired music teacher John Zenisky's fondest memories of former student Felix Delgreco is how the youngster would "wail" on his harmonica at the spring rock 'n' roll and blues concert at Simsbury High School.
"He was a very gregarious kid and very outgoing," Zenisky said. "He loved to play that harmonica."
Delgreco, 22, of Simsbury, was a sergeant in the Connecticut Army National Guard. He was killed while on patrol in Baghdad, when his vehicle struck an improvised bomb and was attacked with small arms fire. He died two days after arriving in Baghdad, and was the first member of the Connecticut guard to die in Iraq.
A member of Simsbury High's Class of 1999, Delgreco played trumpet in the jazz band. He worked as part of the backstage technical crew on school plays and other performances.
He also was an Eagle Scout. Zenisky was invited to Delgreco's induction ceremony.
"He was proud of that achievement," he said. "I was happy to be there because he was such a great kid and he was well-liked by his classmates. He always had a smile on his face all the time."
"He was one of those kids you just wanted to bring home and adopt," said Bergouhi Spencer, Delgreco's high school Latin teacher of four years.
Spencer remembers Delgreco as a boy with a keen curiosity and a joy to have in class. She took her Latin class to Europe every year and Delgreco was along for four of them. She gave her students Latin nicknames, but Delgreco came ready-made with a moniker.
"Felix means lucky or happy in Latin and we used to kid him about that," she said. "I can just see him sitting there."
Spencer said he could also still see him basking on the steps of a Florence cathedral, blending in with his trademark European beret-style cap, which he wore on all the trips abroad.
"He was just a part of the fabric, sitting there in the sun," Spencer said.
Delgreco would often come back and visit his former teacher, once proudly wearing his uniform, she recalled. She learned of his death Saturday night.
"This morning throughout [Easter] service, I'm thinking about new life, resurrection and I can't reconcile the two right now in my mind," Spencer said. "He's fitting into heaven right now because he was such an angel."
As a teen, Delgreco had an abiding interest in the military and enlisted in the guard in 1999 while still in high school. He became a member of C Company, 102nd Infantry, in Bristol.
The company left Connecticut on Jan. 8 for Fort Hood, Texas, and became part of the 39th Brigade from Arkansas. The unit arrived in Kuwait last month and began patrolling in Baghdad on Wednesday.
East Windsor resident Patricia Shary's son Christopher, 25, is also in Delgreco's company and is serving in Iraq. The youngest of Shary's 10 children, Christopher also served in Bosnia with Delgreco and called Saturday to give his parents the news.
"It's very upsetting," Patricia Shary said about Delgreco's death Sunday. "I'm scared to death for my son. I can't imagine what [Delgreco's] family is going through. This is an awful thing.