West Morris Central graduate and Marine dies, family struggles to give him a military funeral

LONG VALLEY N.J. (Morris County) – Michael Tsepas’s proudest accomplishment in life was serving in the United States Marine Corps. Now, days after his death, his family is finding it difficult to make sure he’s laid to rest with military honors.

The family’s frustration is mounting as they get closer to his memorial service this Saturday. The cost involved in a full military funeral and the paperwork and bureaucratic red tape involved – since he lived out of state and will be buried in New Jersey – is putting financial strain on the family. It’s also causing a lot of concern that they won’t be able to pull it together in time.

Tsepas, who served in the Marine Corps from 1992-1996, died late last week in Queens, New York at the age of 42.

Tsepas, went to Hackettstown High School from 1988-1990 and then went to West Morris Central High School, where he graduated in 1992.

Tsepas was deployed to the Middle East during Operation Desert Storm in the early 1990s. He served as a mortarman, and because of his experience as a lifeguard growing up in Hackettstown, he also worked for the military as a swim instructor.

The family wants to honor his bravery. Tsepas’ sister-in-law Jessica started a fundraising page on So far, they’ve raised about $4,380 in funds they will use to give Tsepas a military funeral, but their goal is $10,000. They still haven’t even been able to secure the American flag that is traditionally draped over the casket during a military service.

Click here to make a donation to the Michael J. Tsepas Memorial Fund Page

A service for Tsepas is planned for Saturday, June 18. There will be visitation from 9:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at the William J Leber Funeral Home in Chester, followed by a brief service at 1:00 p.m. Interment will be at Union Cemetery in Hackettstown. Family members have said there still holding out hope that they will be able to honor him and his service in the military in a way they believe is fitting.

By: Jay Edwards
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