Celebration of Life Memorial Service remembers community members

Sarah Minkewicz, News Editor

The SUNY Buffalo State community gained a sense of unity as they gathered last Friday at the annual Celebration of Life Memorial Service to honor students, faculty and alumni that died during academic year.

The memorial service took place at 12 p.m. on April 10 in the Campbell Student Union Assembly Hall.

“The celebration of life is a very important moment in the Buffalo State family’s day,” Katherine Conway-Turner, Buffalo State’s president said. “We understand that many of our faculty and staff and students are tested in very different ways. So when we loose anyone in our family we feel a hole in the heart at Buffalo State.”

Conway-Turner also said that people should focus on the memories they shared with that individual that passed away and that “as long as the memory is alive, that person has not really left us.”

“Those who depart will leave behind unique and a personal impact they had upon their families, friends, colleagues and companions,” Charlene Fontana, assistant to the director of Student Life, said as she welcomed everyone to the memorial service.

During the service, members of the Buffalo State community read off a list of 30 names, which included Nicholas Figueroa, who died in the recent explosion at a sushi restaurant in New York City. A memorial bell was rung after each name was announced.

“I offer my sincere condolences to all of you that have lost someone dear to you in this past year,” Vice President of Student Affairs Hal D. Payne, said at the ceremony. “We at Buffalo State are a community and even more then that we are a family.”

Payne, as well as Conway-Turner, represented the college on April 7 at Nicholas Figueroa’s funeral in New York City.

Payne spoke on Figueroa’s death and said that Figueroa died “tragically a few weeks ago in one of the most horrific explosions and fires in the history of New York City.” He also said that when he was at the funeral he realized that “when a student joins our family, here at Buffalo State, they bring with them the hopes, the aspirations, the dreams. Not only of themselves. Not only of their family but also of the entire community from which they come from.”

“Whenever tragedy comes to one of us, it invariably affects all of us,” Payne said to those who attended the service. “My hope is that the words spoken here today will give hope, healing and a small measure of comfort.”

Members of the Buffalo State community read works of literature while lighting memorial candles. There were also music performances from several students, such as Nolyn Brunner, Jessica Hamilton and Stephen Deck. Ivan Docenko accompanied each performance on piano.

Towards the end of the service, Tahnee Marcus-White and Emily Leminger, Buffalo State students and members of the college’s United Student Government, presented the memorial wreath to President Katherine Conway-Turner. After the ceremony the wreath was placed at Rockwell Hall Quad.

Kevin Clemente, junior criminal justice major, attended the memorial service because he wanted to pay his respects for those who passed away even though he said he didn’t know any of them personally.

“I didn’t know Nicholas Figueroa but I wanted to go because I just wanted to show support,” Clemente said. “I mean, he was a person that went to our school and I thought why not show and give respect to somebody who lost their life.”

Clemente also said that by attending the ceremony he feels that Buffalo State is more like a family.

“We all came together and we just honored somebody and I just felt that was good to see Buffalo State come together as a community and honor so many people that have passed,“ Clemente said.

A sense of family and community is what Payne wanted those that attended the service to walk away with.

“Know that whatever life you have come here to celebrate, no matter how short that life, no matter how simple, tragic, your presence here today has made that life more worth while,” Payne said towards the end of his speech. “For if that life touched you it was certainly a life well lived.”

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