(KREI Radio reporter Greg Armbruster contributed to this story]

Legislation has been filed to rename a section of Interstate 55 in Jefferson County for a southeast Missouri native who died last year in New York, after saving another swimmer caught in a riptide.

State Sen. Gary Romine (R-Farmington)

Missourinet Farmington affiliate KREI Radio reports West Point Cadet Thomas Surdyke is from Festus and graduated from St. Pius X.

State Sen. Paul Wieland (R-Imperial) says Surdyke is a hero.

“There will be a sign going either direction (on I-55) kind of announcing what the highway was named after,” Wieland says. “We’ve got the verbage and everything pretty much agreed with MoDOT, so it’s just a matter of passing the legislation and getting the sign put up.”

The legislation would designate a portion of I-55 as the “USMA Cadet Thomas M. Surdyke Memorial Highway.”

Wieland’s co-sponsor in the upper chamber is State Sen. Gary Romine (R-Farmington), who notes Surdyke saved another swimmer’s life in June on Long Island, after both men were caught in a riptide.

“And I’m just very proud of the Surdyke family. They are great corporate citizens, good constituents and have everything to be proud of,” says Romine. “I’m sorry for the loss of their son, but his heroism cost him his life. And I think it’s folks like that we have in our community that we’ve got to make sure that we take time to honor them any chance we get.”

During the June incident, Surdyke and the civilian, a man he’d only met that day, were pulled out to sea. Wieland and Romine say Surdyke kept the civilian’s head above water until help could arrive, without regard for his own safety. Cadet Surdyke was overcome by exhaustion and died a few days later at a hospital.

Surdyke was on a one-week break between air assault and cadet field training, when the incident happened.

He graduated from St. Pius X in Festus. Wieland and Romine say Cadet Surdyke was an Eagle Scout and a former football player. He had just completed his first year at the United States Military Academy at West Point.

He was one of four children.

State Rep. Elaine Gannon, R-DeSoto, has filed the House version of the bill. KREI Radio reports private money would be raised for the road signs.