In Memory of Justin Zemser

Remembering "Z"

This memorial website was created in the memory of our son Justin Brandon Zemser who was born on March 25, 1995 and passed away on May 12, 2015 in Philadelphia, PA at the age of 20. Justin died in the Amtrak train derailment on his way back home to Rockaway Beach, NY. Justin was a sweet, funny, kind, caring, loving, bright, talented, wonderful and amazing young man. These few words will never be able to express all that he was and all that he meant to his family and friends. Justin was our only son, our bright shining star, and the love of our lives.

He entered and left this world with such a beautiful meaningful spirit. He lived his life with fun, joy, laughter, silliness, smiles and with a heart full of love for his family, his friends, his teachers, his Hebrew study partner, his snake, bearded dragon and turtles, and his home. He lit up every room he entered. Justin was full of life and kept a positive outlook wherever he went.  He was a born leader, and was his own person who respected everyone's opinion and expected the same in return. He touched our lives everyday with sunshine and love. He made us burst with pride every single day of his life, and Heaven must be an even more beautiful place now with our "Midshipman" there.


We will love, miss and remember him forever in our hearts.


Susan and Howard Zemser



Justin was born in South Nassau Communities Hospital, on Saturday, March 25, 1995. He grew up in Rockaway Beach, New York, which is the southernmost part of the Borough of Queens.  As a youngster, Justin always enjoyed playing at the local park and swimming in the community pool.  He attended pre-K in a local building and then went to P. S. 183 for grades K through 5.  He was a very bright boy; when he was 7 years old he started reading the Harry Potter series of books and then discussed them with his mom.  He didn’t stop reading this series until he finished them all.  About the same time, his dad taught him how to play chess.  He played this challenging game throughout middle school, high school and while at the US Naval Academy.  Along with others in his second grade class, he participated in the Music Memory program at his elementary school.  This involved listening to many of the classical composers of the great symphonies and trying to
memorize their music.  Then, during a city-wide competition, the class team would try to recognize the specific musical pieces by the first few notes.  As these notes were replayed, the team had to correctly identify both the symphony and composer.  Justin and his team won the gold championship which was presented at Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts in Manhattan.

Justin, who was also affectionately known as “Z” or “Z-man,” then attended the Channel View School for Research from grades 6 through 12.  While in 7th grade, and as part of the Jewish tradition, Justin studied for his Bar Mitzvah.  He followed in the footsteps of his dad and his dad’s two older brothers, by having this rite of passage ceremony at Congregation Derech Emunoh, one of the very oldest synagogues in the Rockaways.  He graduated in 2013 at the top of his class (2200 on his SATs!) and was selected as the graduating class Valedictorian.  As a student at CVSR, Justin managed to not only be the president of the student government, but also the president of the National Honor Society. He was the student representative on the Professional Council, where a number of school policies were discussed and voted upon.  He was captain of the high school football team where his positions included both running back and safety. Prior to being on the high school team, beginning at age 7, he played on the local Rockaway Ravens traveling community football team where he played these very same positions.  He was the recipient of the PSAL New Era Pinstripe Bowl MVP 2012 Scholar-Athlete Football Award which was presented to him at Yankee Stadium.

Justin was an avid swimmer.  He became certified in CPR and then worked as a lifeguard at a local swimming pool for several summers.  Other high school voluntary activities included participation in the Rockaway Beach Special Athletes program, traveling to Brooklyn and Manhattan with some friends to help with the preparation of food in local food banks/food kitchens, and helping, along with others, in some of the clean-up activities in the Rockaway Community following the aftermath of Super Storm Sandy.






Justin was accepted to five Ivy League schools, but for the longest time had his heart set on attending the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, MD.  His wish came true when his acceptance letter was
received and he would be a Plebe in the class of 2017.  Days after his high school graduation, Justin was off to the USNA where, by the end of his second year, he ranked in the top 10% of his class.  He had an almost perfect 4.0 GPA.  As a result of his academic success, he was listed on both the Superintendent’s List and the Commandant’s List.  Justin was a member of Semper Fi (The Marine Corps Club), the Chess Club, and Native, (the Native American Club).  He was a member of the Jewish Midshipman Club, where he was the Vice President.  He was a proud member of the Navy Sprint Football team where he played wide receiver and long snapper.  Justin was also a member of an extraordinary group of Midshipmen (the Midshipmen Action Group) who, voluntarily, visited terminally ill veterans.  The Mids spent time with them and listened to the stories these brave veterans told.  They honored the veterans with a “final salute.”  This was an ultimate sign of respect for these great Americans.

 Justin was a part of a small group from the USNA that participated in an amazing trip to Israel in the early spring of 2015.  He was beyond excited to share his experiences and could not wait to re-visit this beautiful country in the near future.

Justin’s goal at the Naval Academy was to become a Navy Seal.  In his spare time, he began a strenuous physical training routine which included taking scuba diving lessons.  This was a personal goal to become a certified scuba diver, and to prepare for his upcoming Navy Seal training program. 

 Justin was a natural born leader.  He was outgoing and friendly.  He was intelligent and naturally curious.  He was an avid reader.  He was organized.  He was self-disciplined.  He was loyal to his commitments.  He was kind and caring.  He had a remarkable zest for learning and balanced this with not only a typical, normal teenage social life, but with his love of sports and physical fitness.  (He kept a running diary regarding his exercise routine.)  He would go out of his way to help his friends and fellow students from both high school and at the USNA.  He always continued to do volunteer work regardless of his rigorous academic schedule and other Navy activities.    He did all this, and more, during an all too brief period of time. 

 Justin Zemser was a positive role model not only for his peers, but for all of us.   May his good name and memory always be for a blessing.