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Loved ones remember fallen Marine At service, Lance Cpl. Timothy Serwinowski is recalled as a jokester and a protector

The air was silent Saturday in the Town of Tonawanda as friends and relatives of Marine Lance Cpl. Timothy G. "Win" Serwinowski slowly walked out of Amigone Funeral Home.

Hundreds attended the funeral service to share their memories of the 21-year-old North Tonawanda native. The only sound heard over the playing of taps, and later "Amazing Grace," was the flapping of a few dozen American flags in the wind.

Serwinowski, a 2007 graduate of North Tonawanda High School, was mortally wounded by a sniper while on patrol in southern Afghanistan's Helmand province early last week. He died early Monday morning. His remains arrived at the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station early Friday.

"I miss him so much. He was the best," said friend Callie Thompson, 21, following Saturday's short outdoor service. "Whenever he walked into the room, he'd put a smile on someone's face. He was such a jokester."

Others called Serwinowski a man with "a lot of best friends," which showed in the service's turnout. The line was said to be out the door during Friday's visitations.

Kelsey Urban, Serwinowski's stepsister, said she found the crowds overwhelming and comforting.

"It was amazing," the 19-year-old said. She rustled a crumbled piece of tissue in her hand, standing among one of several small post-service huddles Saturday. People hugged, while others shared pictures of Serwinowski.

After several minutes, they began to disperse. Urban, Thompson and a few others remained.

"He was a wonderful older brother," Urban said. "He always put his family and other people first."

Friend Kaitlin Fritz, 19, of North Tonawanda, chimed in. "He was just always fun to be around," she said. "Always."

A lane of Sheridan Drive was blocked off in front of the funeral home, where a line of motorcycles was parked. Their owners -- many in sunglasses, hats and leather vests -- stood clasping American flags until the service was finished.

Bands wrapped around either their arms or pant legs identified them as members of the Patriot Guard Riders, a group that often supports the grieving families of fallen soldiers at their loved ones' funerals.

Strangers watched from the Walgreens parking lot across the street, some holding flags themselves. Other memorials for Serwinowski, who attended Niagara County Community College before joining the Marines in May 2008, have cropped up elsewhere throughout the week.

By Saturday night, 28 people had joined the Facebook group "Remember Tim Serwinowski." The page's description read, "[Rest in peace] Tim, you were a good person and like a hero to all of us."

One comment written on Wednesday said, "We think of you in silence. We often speak of your name, now all we have is memories, and your picture in a frame. Your memory is our keepsake, with which we'll never part."

Friends and siblings said they will carry specific memories.

"Just our boy issues -- he would be there for us for advice," said Thompson, of North Tonawanda. "He supported us in everything."

For Emily Serwinowski, her older brother was her protector.

"He always intimidated my boyfriends and scared them away," the 17-year-old said, momentarily breaking the somber silence with laughter. "He told them that if they would hurt me, he would hurt them. But ultimately, he loved me more than anything."

e-mail: jsmith@buffnews.com