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Brother, 31, dies living his dream as Marine

Published Feb. 22, 2006

The last time Jacob Marcellus spoke to his older brother, Matthieu, he detected melancholy in his brother's otherwise jovial voice.

Jacob had been uneasy ever since September, when Matthieu departed for his second tour of duty with the U.S. Marines in Djibouti, Africa.

"I had some real bad feelings," said Jacob, 29. "Every day since he's been there, I'd been praying for him because I felt like he was in danger."

Come home early, Jacob urged.

I can't, Matthieu responded.

Cpl. Matthieu Marcellus, 31, died Friday in a CH-53 helicopter crash into the Gulf of Aden near northern Djibouti during a training mission. Ten people died when two helicopters crashed.

Marcellus, who was based out of New River, N.C., died living his dream, his siblings in Florida said Monday.

"If he was able to tell the story of what happened, somehow he would tell it in a way to make us laugh," his sister Ruth Marcellus-Hanchell, 38, said from her Riverview home.

Matthieu was like that, she said, always telling stories to make others laugh.

He is also survived by another sister in Riverview, Esther Marcellus-Perry.

Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., to Haitian immigrants, Marie and Jacques Marcellus, Matthieu moved with his family to Miami at age 10.

From boyhood, he had a fascination with planes and aircraft of all kinds. He would draw them, talk about them and look for them.

When his oldest sister, Ruth, joined the Navy at age 18, he was inspired.

Still, his decision to join the military didn't come until age 28, much later than most.

After graduating from Miami Central High School in 1992, Matthieu moved to Gainesville, where he took classes at Santa Fe Community College and was a manager at a Toys "R" Us.

He realized there was something more he wanted to do with his life.

He had a fear of heights and didn't know how to swim, but he never lost his dream of being a pilot.

"Though he was getting older, he passed all his exams with flying colors," Jacob Marcellus of Miramar told the Associated Press. "He was too old to actually be a pilot. So he did the next best thing and became a technician."

From the day he stepped into the uniform, he felt like it was right, relatives said.

"He felt like this was something he was called to do," Marcellus-Hanchell said. "He was a proud Marine."

Marie and Jacques Marcellus instilled a deep religious faith in their four children, Marcellus-Hanchell said, and Matthieu was no exception.

His family was celebrating the thought of Matthieu in heaven, telling jokes and following the Miami Heat, the Gators and the San Francisco 49ers from a better seat.

"We're not grieving," Marcellus-Hanchell said. "We're mourning because his presence won't be here, but knowing he's in a better place, I'm at peace with that."

Besides his three siblings and his parents, Marcellus is survived by wife Donna Marie Marcellus in North Carolina and six nieces and nephews.

A service will be held Saturday at noon at From the Heart Ministries at 301 Lakewood Drive in Brandon.