When John Mathew Topor graduated from Hamburg High School five years ago, he joined the Navy with one career goal in mind to become a member of the elite Navy SEALs.
The 22-year-old Town of Boston native was making strong progress toward fulfilling that dream, according to family members, but while riding a motorcycle Saturday in San Diego near the naval base, he lost control of the motorcycle, struck a guard rail and suffered fatal injuries.
"John was going through different stages to become a SEAL. He just graduated from one stage and was working on the second stage," said Carol Keller, his mother, of the Town of Boston.
While training for the special forces, Mr. Topor was assigned to the USS Pearl Harbor, where his ship duties included serving as a firefighter and a hull technician.
"Becoming a SEAL meant the world to him. He talked about going into the service since he was young. He wanted to be a Navy SEAL," Keller said. "Once he got in the Navy, he worked hard for it. That was his greatest goal."
But Mr. Topor also had other passions.
Beside riding motorcycles, he was restoring a 1979 Chevy El Camino. In addition, he loved firefighting.
"His father [Joseph Topor] is a retired Buffalo firefighter and his stepfather [Joseph Keller] is a volunteer fireman for Patchin Fire Company," Keller said. "My son went through the youth training at Patchin and became a volunteer there."
Mr. Topor also took a strong interest in his six nieces and nephews, desiring that they should have an opportunity to get ahead in life.
"My son left his life insurance to them. It is being put into a college fund," Keller said. "They are all young, 5 years old to 11, and it will be good for them. They will have a future. My son was a wonderful boy."
Mr. Topor's remains are scheduled to be returned here Monday evening at Buffalo Niagara International Airport.
A Mass of Christian Burial will be offered at 9:30 a.m. Thursday in Our Lady of the Sacred Heart Catholic Church, 3148 Abbott Road, Orchard Park.
Funeral arrangements are being handled by Lombardo Funeral Home, 3060 Abbott Road, Orchard Park.
In addition to his mother, father and stepfather, he is survived by two sisters, April Cummings and Shanon King, and a brother, Tom Cadena.
-- Lou Michel