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AVIANO AIR BASE, Italy — A memorial service will be held at 3 p.m. Saturday for the former Italian base commander who had relinquished command earlier this month.

Col. Rosario Scarpolini, 48, died Wednesday from injuries resulting from a motorcycle accident in Roveredo In Piano, the community directly south of the air base. He died after five hours of surgery in a nearby hospital.

Italian authorities said the accident happened around noon but had no further details. An investigation is under way.

Scarpolini was commander of the base from Sept. 12, 2001, until relinquishing command to Col. Roberto Sardo on Sept. 15. During that time, he worked with four American brigadier generals and thousands of servicemembers and their families based at Aviano.

Scarpolini was on a list to be promoted to brigadier general and was promoted posthumously.

Brig. Gen. Robert Yates, commander of the 31st Fighter Wing, expressed shock in an official statement:

“He was my friend and I am going to miss him. On behalf of Aviano Air Base, Barb and I wish sincere condolences to the Scarpolini family. He left a gaping hole in our heart; the entire base is coming together in mourning for this great loss.”

As base commander, Scarpolini was in charge of about 250 Italian active-duty personnel, but also was the approving authority for the 31st Fighter Wing’s air operations.

The memorial service will be in the Italian chapel, which is behind the credit union/ bank complex on the flight line. Those who wish to pay respects can do so starting at 9 a.m.

In a recent interview before his change of command, Scarpolini said he and his family had come to love the area and added they would remain here while he took on a new position with the Italian air force near Ferrara.

He is survived by his wife, Daniela; a son, Davide; and a daughter, Giulia.

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Kent has filled numerous roles at Stars and Stripes including: copy editor, news editor, desk editor, reporter/photographer, web editor and overseas sports editor. Based at Aviano Air Base, Italy, he’s been TDY to countries such as Afghanistan Iraq, Kosovo and Bosnia. Born in California, he’s a 1988 graduate of Humboldt State University and has been a journalist for 40 years.

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