HELENA, Mont. -- Dr. Jesse Marcel Jr., who said he handled debris from the 1947 crash of an unidentified flying object near Roswell, N.M., has died at the age of 76.

Denice Marcel said her father was found dead at his home in Helena on Saturday, less than two months after making his last trip to Roswell. He had been reading a book about UFOs.

Over the past 35 years, Marcel Jr. appeared on TV shows, documentaries and radio shows; was interviewed for magazine articles and books, and traveled the world lecturing about his experiences in Roswell.

"He was credible. He wasn't lying. He never embellished – only told what he saw," his wife Linda said.

Marcel's father was an Air Force intelligence officer and reportedly the first military officer to investigate the wreckage in early July 1947. Marcel Jr. said he was 10 when his father brought home some of the debris, woke him up in the middle of the night and said the boy needed to look at it because it was something he would never see again.

His father maintained the debris "was not of this Earth," Linda Marcel said. "They looked through the pieces, tried to make sense of it."

The item that Marcel Jr. said fascinated him the most was a small beam with some sort of purple-hued hieroglyphics on it, she said.

After an initial report that a flying saucer had been recovered on a ranch near Roswell, the military issued a statement saying the debris was from a weather balloon.

"They were told to keep it quiet and they did for years and years and years," Linda Marcel said. Interest in the case was revived, however, when physicist and UFO researcher Stanton Friedman spoke with Jesse Marcel Sr. in the late 1970s.

Friedman wrote the foreword to Marcel Jr.'s 2007 book "The Roswell Legacy," and described him as a courageous man who "set a standard for honesty and decency and telling the truth."

"His legacy is that he had the courage to speak out when he didn't have to about handling wreckage that his Dad brought home," Friedman said Tuesday. "He worked with artists to come up with what the symbols on the wreckage looked like. He didn't have to do that. He could have kept his mouth shut. A lot of people did."

On his last trip to Roswell in early July, UFO researcher and Earth science professor Frank Kimbler arranged for Marcel to visit his childhood home and the debris site.

"I remember my dad did say that he loved the ride up to the site that day because he was able to discuss science with Frank," Denice Marcel said in an email to The Associated Press. "One thing about my Dad, he was always reading something on astronomy or some kind of scientific journal. He loved astronomy with a passion."

Marcel Jr. graduated from medical school at Louisiana State University School of Medicine in 1961 and joined the U.S. Navy in 1962. He retired after nine years and later joined the Montana Army National Guard and became a flight surgeon in 1981. He was called back to active duty in October 2004 and served as a flight surgeon in Iraq for just over a year. He reached the rank of colonel.

He worked as an ear, nose and throat doctor and retired from the Veterans Administration Hospital at Fort Harrison, west of Helena, all of which lent credibility to his story.

"I know that one of the things that Dad would love to say is, `If we are the only ones here then there is an awful lot of wasted space out there,'" Denice Marcel said. "He wasn't the first one to say this, but he did believe it. He also believed that everyone needed to know the truth, and that the Roswell Incident was a real event and that it was time for the cover-up to stop."

He is survived by his wife and eight children. Funeral services are pending.

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  • Melbourne, Australia, Feb. 2013

    This is a composite image of how three alleged UFOs maneuvered about in the sky over Melbourne, Australia, in early February, 2013. The final verdict isn't in yet on whether they're birds, aircraft, balloons, bugs or something truly unidentified.

  • Lanterns

    These candle-lit Chinese lanterns can rise high into the sky and are often mistaken for UFOs.

  • Exploding Weather Balloons, Not UFOs

    On Dec. 20, 2012, a bright, circular object (pictured at the top of this composite image) was videotaped exploding in the skies above Sacramento, Calif. It wasn't immediately identified, resulting in speculation that it was either an alien spacecraft, military top secret weapon, runaway planet, North Korean satellite, among others. Within a short period of time, it became apparent that this was a weather balloon. The bottom part of this image shows such a balloon as it ascended over Tampa Bay, Fla., on July 2, 2012, and exploded in an identical manner as the Sacramento object, probably much to the dismay of all true ET believers out there.

  • Boomerang UFO composite images -- 10-5-12

    This is a composite of images shot by two eyewitnesses of a boomerang-shaped UFO they reported seeing over their Burbank, Calif., home on Oct. 5, 2012. Mutual UFO Network photo/video analyst Marc Dantonio concluded the object was likely "a balloon, floating on the wind that has collapsed in half."

  • Changing UFO Pattern -- Warren, Mich. 1-10-13

    This four-image series of lights in the sky was recorded over Warren, Mich., on Jan. 10, 2013. The lights were seen changing into several patterns. The most logical explanation for these types of UFOs is a series of balloons or lanterns.

  • UFOs Over Earth

    This composite image shows four different times that alleged UFO were photographed above Earth by either space shuttles or the International Space Station. The big question is whether or not they are truly unidentified objects or if they are more likely reflections from spacecraft windows, meteors or fast-moving spacecraft-generated debris.

  • Pink UFOs Or Lens Flares?

    What appear to be pink-red UFOs are actually lens flares from the Google Earth street view camera as it snapped images in Texas (left) and New Mexico (right).

  • Lens flares Arizona

    These two flying saucer-shaped, pink-colored lens flares were created by the Google Maps camera as it drove through locations in Sedona, Ariz. (left) and Flagstaff, Ariz. (right). The images were snapped in April 2009. Submitted to HuffPost by trenna.

  • Lens flare Whiteriver, Ariz.

    This skybound lens flare was created by a Google Maps camera in June 2008 over Whiteriver, Ariz. Submitted to Huffington Post by Cheryl Weeks.

  • Lens flare Gulfport, Miss.

    This very Earthbound lens flare was created by a Google Maps camera in November 2007 at Gulfport, Miss. Submitted to Huffington Post by Jenni Parker.

  • Lens flare Eureka Springs, Ark.

    This seemingly grounded lens flare was created by a Google Maps camera in January 2008 at Eureka Springs, Ark. Submitted to Huffington Post by SE.

  • Lens flare Escanaba, Mich.

    This lens flare appears to be following a car. The Google Maps image was created in October 2008 at Escanaba, Mich. Submitted to Huffington Post by Mary Robinson.

  • Cincinnati Skydivers NOT UFOs Sept. 28, 2012

    On the night of Sept. 28, 2012, a group of strange-looking lights appeared in the sky near Cincinnati, Ohio. First there was one, then, two, then three lights, slowly descending. It turns out, however, that these lights were originating from a group of skydivers performing a pyrotechnics jump at the La Salle High School homecoming event.

  • Weather Phenomenon

    Some UFO sightings may be due to a natural phenomenon known as sprites, like this one shown from 2006. "Lightning from [a] thunderstorm excites the electric field above, producing a flash of light called a sprite," said geophysicist Colin Price.

  • Clouds

    Clouds: Saucer-shaped or "lenticular" clouds that form at high altitudes have been confused with UFOs.

  • Blimps or Advertising Balloons

    Blimps or advertising balloons: These can look like flying saucers from some angles, especially at night.

  • Sunken Ship in the Baltic Sea

    On June 19th the Swedish-based diving company Ocean Explorer discovered something they've never quite seen before. They were exploring in the Baltic Sea between Sweden and Finland looking for sunken treasures when a very unusual image suddenly appeared on the sonar. A 197 feet diameter cylinder shaped object was discovered at the depth of approximately 275 feet which resembles the Millennium Falcon from the movie Star Wars.

  • Baltic Sea UFO 1

    An image released on June 15, 2012, shows a close-up view of the unidentified object sitting on the bottom of the Baltic Sea.

  • Baltic Sea UFO 2

    Close-up of rock bed that forms the Baltic Sea UFO, which still mystifies researchers.

  • Baltic Sea UFO 3

    One of several odd stone circle formations, sitting on top of the unidentified object at the bottom of the Baltic Sea.

  • Antarctic UFO -- Aug. 10, 2012

    A circular UFO hovers above the Neumayer-Station III research facility in Antarctica on Aug. 10, 2012. Theories ranging from a simple weather balloon to a more elaborate ship from another planet have run the Internet gamut. The next slide shows a closeup of the object.

  • Antarctic UFO Closeup -- Aug. 10, 2012

    This is a closeup of the UFO from the previous slide. No official explanation has been offered about the object.

  • Manufactured UFO -- 2011

    Pictured is a quad copter -- a deliberately manufactured UFO created by special effects wizard Marc Dantonio for a National Geographic special, "The Truth Behind: UFOs," which aired in December 2011. On the left is what the small device looks like resting on the ground, measuring 4 feet in circumference. At right, is how it appeared behind a tree in the night sky.

  • Police Dashboard Camera In Texas

    In February of 2012, this fireball was captured by a Texas police chief's A dashboard camera. F.A.A. say this was probably a meteor, falling to Earth. .

  • Meteors

    Meteors: Space debris can create a spectacular light show when it burns through the Earth's atmosphere, and sometimes reported as UFOs.

  • Civilian or Military Aircraft

    Civilian or military aircraft: Planes can look mysterious at night or in certain light conditions, thus confusing an observer.