BEACON, N.Y. -- After 39 months of captivity in the Middle East and another five months recovering from throat cancer, Robert Polhill finally returned home yesterday.

Polhill, 56, was welcomed with a parade and hundreds of well-wishers waving flags and wearing yellow ribbons.

"It makes me happy to see that Robert was not forgotten," said Polhill's wife, Ferial. "Remembrance is important."

Recovering from his throat cancer and unable to speak, Polhill simply waved to the throngs as he rode in a limousine with his wife, who read a brief message from her husband.

"The warmth of your welcome overwhelms me," Polhill wrote. "I regret that I am not sufficiently fluent to greet you myself."

Polhill was finishing a four-year stint as an assistant business professor at Beirut University when he and three other faculty members were captured by Moslem extremists on Jan. 24, 1987. He was released on April 22. Later a growth removed from his vocal cords was found to be cancerous, and his voice box was removed.

Asked if he felt as though he were a hero, Polhill shook his head as if to say no. "I don't care what he thinks, in my eyes he's a hero," his wife said.