The glow of candles and classic rock ‘n’ roll filled the Quad Friday as friends of Jonathan Rizzo joined to remember their friend and celebrate his life.
Rizzo, a sophomore who was murdered last July, was a member of the Kappa Sigma fraternity. John Williams, the fraternity’s grand master of ceremonies and pledge educator, organized the service.
“It was very difficult to put it together,” Williams said. “I wanted it to be so perfect, because Jon meant so much to so many people. We wanted his spirit to come out . whether people in the audience knew him or not.”
Some of Rizzo’s favorite bands, including the Grateful Dead and Pink Floyd, played as students, clad in dark attire, filed onto the Quad. The flag was lowered to half-staff and bell chimes played at 8 p.m.
The service began with an introduction by Kappa Sigma President John Guidroz. An excerpt of Matthew was read: “God blesses those people who grieve. They will find comfort.”
Father Rob Panke spoke first, urging students to look to scripture during difficult times, regardless of their religion.
“I have always seen and witnessed great hope in the midst of a lot of pain,” he said.
Students who knew Rizzo were blessed, he said, adding that life is short. Panke encouraged listeners to “apologize, love, forgive and don’t wait to deepen your relationship with God . because sometimes tomorrow doesn’t come.”
Having been approached by many students unable to make sense of Rizzo’s death, he admitted that humans would never know why the tragedy occurred. He closed by reminding students of Rizzo’s belief that “at death, life merely changes for the better.”
Several of Rizzo’s close friends offered their remembrances. All expressed their struggle to say goodbye. But many also offered fun memories of their time with Rizzo, who would always say hello to everyone he knew on the street, they said.
One of Rizzo’s former roommates told how getting in trouble one of their first nights in Thurston Hall had brought them closer together. A student who had known him from home spoke about playing high school soccer with Rizzo.
He was described as “a good listener” who was “destined for good things in life.” Several students described him as the brother they never had. Listeners were told to model their lives after Rizzo’s by adopting the caring nature that made him so different.
“Never take things for granted,” said Rizzo’s former roommate Shamik Trivedi. “Never forget the good times . he’ll be in our hearts forever.”
Candles were passed to members of the crowd as fraternity members led everyone in singing “Amazing Grace,” which accompanied by guitar.
Even after the service ended, students and friends lingered on the Quad. Many stood embracing, leaning on one another for support and crying. Most took time to view the picture collages that had been placed at the front of the audience. A few were found kneeling and praying as music, including “Tears in Heaven” by Eric Clapton, played in the background.
Sophomore David Kaye, who lived on the same floor as Rizzo in Thurston Hall, described the evening as “very powerful.”
-Katie Warchut contributed to this report