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Zachary Weston mourned by friends and family

Memorial service set for Sept. 24
Zachary Weston
Zachary Weston
Photo courtesy / Delmer Weston

An MIT junior whose zeal for academics and zest for outdoor life inspired his family and friends was reported missing Aug. 11 and is presumed dead.

Zachary Weston, 22, was majoring in aeronautics and astronautics. A native of Meriden, Conn., he lived in Simmons Hall at MIT.

A memorial service will be held Saturday, Sept. 24, in the MIT Chapel starting at noon. Following the service, a reception with family and friends will be held in the Seamans Laboratory in the Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics, Building 33. Weston's friends and acquaintances are invited to attend. People with questions may contact Peter Young at x3-5340 or by e-mail at

Weston, an expert hiker and outdoorsman, was declared missing when he failed to meet a friend at a prearranged spot in Mount Rainier National Park in Washington state on Aug. 11. Weston had been hiking in the area for about seven weeks at the time.

Searchers scoured the park's steep rocky terrain, waterfalls, white-water rivers and glaciers without finding the young man's body.

His father, Delmer Weston, hiked the same area in his own search for a place to leave a memorial rock for Zachary, discovering en route a cache of his son's food and equipment. He left the rock in an alcove 9,000 feet above sea level.

Father and son had shared some of this summer's hike, and the whole Weston family was familiar with Mount Rainier. Zachary appears to have been hiking alone on the day he vanished.

"The Simmons community grieves the loss of Zachary. Our thoughts are with Zachary's family and friends at this sad time," said his housemaster, John Essigmann, professor of toxicology and chemistry.

Weston was majoring in aerospace engineering and film at MIT and had plans to work in the aerospace industry after graduation, said Cheryl Weston, his mother.

The news of Weston's death was shattering to the "tightly knit aero-astro family," as Zachary's fellow students and instructors return to campus, said Wesley Harris, professor and head of the Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics. "We are sharing the grief in our classrooms, our hallways, our offices and our domiciles. Zachary was a strong, vibrant person with an infectious interest and delight in aerospace. His energy and his intellect are sorely missed."

Weston came to MIT from Platt High School in Meriden, where he was the 2001 valedictorian and "very goal-oriented, very focused on academics," his mother said.

"He set high goals and worked hard to achieve them. He felt love for his family and that was very important. He was adventurous and liked all kinds of life--music, film, hiking," she said.

As a youngster with a paper route, he showed the determination and energy that would one day fuel his ambition to go to MIT and to work in field of aeronautics. He was a "man of many talents and he used his talents to the max. He was 'Mr. Reliable,'" his father said.

Weston is survived by his parents; his sister, Angela; his maternal grandmother, Bridgie Capitanio; his paternal grandfather, Delmer N. Weston; and several aunts, uncles and cousins.

The family asks that contributions be made to the Zachary Weston Memorial Scholarship Fund or the Mount Rainier Search and Rescue Fund. Donations to either fund may be sent c/o First Methodist Church, 159 East Main St., Meriden, CT 06450.

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on September 14, 2005 (download PDF).

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