Private Michael Lynch, 20, a medical corpsman and former president of the high school drama club in Amsterdam, was bending down to tend to a wounded soldier in Vietnam when Lynch himself was killed by small arms fire March 15, 1969.
According to a military website, 13 soldiers from the Amsterdam area died in the Vietnam War.
Lynch had put his college career on hold and enlisted in the U.S. Army to serve with the First Battalion, Fifth Infantry of the 25th Infantry Division. A friend said Lynch made that decision after hearing the song “The Impossible Dream” in the New York City production of “Man of La Mancha.”
Originally posted to Germany, Lynch volunteered for Vietnam. He came home on leave for Christmas in 1968. His mother, Caroline Sampone Lynch, and younger brother, Nicholas, 16, then living in Hagaman, were with Michael for the last time in early January 1969, when they saw him off at the Schenectady bus station.
Nicholas Lynch has heard that his brother died either from enemy fire or friendly fire in Binh Duong Province. Michael’s body came home, and he was buried at Mount Carmel Cemetery.
Lynch said his brother was intense and idealistic.
“He worried about the world, about racial problems,” Nicholas said. “He was a wonderful person. He put his heart into acting and all that he did.”
Michael wrote poetry, including a poem called “Why?” The poem concludes, “Why must we kill each dark night many poor souls, in the name of Right?”
Robert Lynch, Nicholas and Michael’s father, had left the family. As the older son, Michael shouldered more responsibility after that. In high school, Michael looked up to drama teacher Bert DeRose.
“He was a very sensitive and caring young man who played various character roles in the school’s drama productions,” DeRose said. “He loved the stage.”
Michael played King Pellinore in “Camelot.” He was the father in “Mary Poppins” and “The Miracle Worker.” He was Max in “The Sound of Music.”
After high school, Michael left to attend SUNY New Paltz. DeRose said Michael was excited to go there.
A year later, DeRose saw his former student.
“He told me that he had quit college to join the armed services because he felt the need to serve his country,” DeRose said.
DeRose has proposed that the newly renovated theater at what is now Lynch middle school in Amsterdam be named for Michael Lynch. The board of education is considering DeRose’s suggestion and is open to other nominations for the name of the auditorium at Lynch, located on Brandt Place and officially known as Lynch Literacy Academy. The auditorium in the current high school on Saratoga Avenue in the is named for DeRose.
Michael Lynch was not related to the man for whom the Lynch building was named. Wilbur H. Lynch was a former school superintendent and Amsterdam mayor. The Lynch building was the high school through 1977, and Michael Lynch, a 1966 graduate, performed on stage there.
Tom Stewart, now an announcer for New York City public television, was in “Camelot” with Michael.
“I remember him as having a larger than life personality, full of humor and warmth and love, which were all in his performance as King Pellinore, the befuddled monarch always out walking his dog,” Stewart said.
Edward Schwartz of Troy, who also performed with Michael in high school, wrote, “He set a good example, both on-stage and off, by simply trying to do the right thing. Our hope is that a young person will see his name and ask, who is this? And, why?”
Bob Cudmore is a freelance columnist. Opinions expressed in his column are his own and not necessarily those of the newspaper.