Adored Army Vet, Nonprofit Founder From Hudson Valley Dies At 38: 'Larger-Than-Life'

A beloved US Army veteran from the Hudson Valley who dedicated much of his time and effort toward helping his fellow troops is being remembered for his large personality and ability to form a lasting bond with anyone. 

Mahopac resident Luke Rathschmidt. 

Mahopac resident Luke Rathschmidt. 

Photo Credit: State Sen. Pete Harckham

Putnam County resident Luke Rathschmidt of Mahopac died unexpectedly in South Carolina on Saturday, May 18 at the age of 38, according to his obituary. 

Born in 1986, Rathschmidt was a proud US Army veteran who served in Iraq in the 82nd Airborne Division. 

His time in the military left a lasting impression on him that shaped much of the rest of his life, according to his obituary.

After returning home, Rathschmidt, a Purple Heart recipient, eventually became a driving force behind United for the Troops, a nonprofit organization that collects essential items such as food, toiletries, and other goods and sends them to troops deployed overseas. 

Rathschmidt came up with the idea for the organization after noting that many of his comrades were not receiving packages like the ones sent by his family during his time in the Army, according to the nonprofit's website. 

Within a year of its creation, the organization sent over 400 packages and collected over $6,000, which more than doubled its original goal.

After Rathschmidt's death, countless friends and organizations reacted to the tragic news on social media. 

"Luke was an upstanding member of his community and a veteran who bravely served our country. He will be dearly missed," wrote New York State Sen. Pete Harckham. 

In their social media post, the Mahopac Falls Volunteer Fire Department called Rathschmidt an "amazing man." 

The Carmel Highway Department also memorialized Rathschmidt: "Luke was a great father, son, uncle, and friend to so many...He served our great country with the utmost integrity." 

Rathschmidt's family member, Denise O'Neill, said his loss would be "felt forever" in a post on Facebook.

"We all say there are no words, but we can't seem to stop talking about what a great guy Luke was & how much we miss him. Please remember him in your prayers," O'Neill added.

In his obituary, Rathschmidt's family wrote that his "larger-than-life personality and jovial warmth touched everyone he met." 

"The only thing bigger than his heart… was his beard," his obituary continued. 

A GoFundMe page intended to collect donations for Rathschmidt's children was set up following his death. As of Friday, May 24, it had already collected a whopping $80,000 out of a $500,000 goal. 

Those who wish to contribute can do so by clicking here. 

Rathschmidt is survived by his life partner, Tracy Hascup; their children, Jaelynn and Brandt; his father, James; his mother, René; his siblings, Teresa, Timothy, James, Denise, Kathleen, Tracy, and Michael; and several other family members.

A service for Rathschmidt was held Friday, May 24 at Joseph J. Smith Funeral Home in Mahopac at 692 Route 6. 

A Mass of Catholic Burial will be celebrated on Saturday, May 25 at 10 a.m.

Rathschmidt's full obituary can be read by clicking here. 

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