, Salem, MA

Local News

October 28, 2013

Mourners fill St. Augustine Church for funeral Mass of Colleen Ritzer

ANDOVER — More than 1,000 people filled St. Augustine Church on Essex Street this morning for the funeral Mass of Colleen Ritzer, murdered last week, allegedly by one of her students at Danvers High School.

Ritzer, 24, who grew up at 5 Dascomb Road and graduated from Andover High School in 2007, was then laid to rest at the town-owned Spring Grove Cemetery off Abbott Street.

During the nearly two-hour service, attended by friends, family, colleagues and students from Danvers, as well as former classmates and teachers from Andover schools, Ritzer was remembered for her infectious personality and upbeat, optimistic outlook on life.

"Colleen's gift was that of inspiration," said Gina McDaniel, one of Ritzer's cousins, who read her Words of Remembrance to more than 500 people in the chapel and another 500, mostly Danvers High School students and faculty, gathered in the lower level of the church. "She possessed an energetic intensity that is rarely seen."

In his homily, the Rev. Peter Gori, pastor of St. Augustine, tried to console the grief-stricken crowd.

"In the face of great tragedy, we are shocked and horrified," he said. "We are naturally inclined to ask, 'Why?' It is immensely frustrating when, like now, there is no satisfactory answer to that question."

Police said Ritzer was killed by 14-year-old Philip Chism, whom she had asked to stay after school last Tuesday afternoon. He allegedly followed her into the bathroom where he stabbed and killed her. He was arrested and charged Wednesday with first-degree murder and is being held without bail.

But today was a day to remember her "contagious smile and bright, loving personality," which McDaniel called the "common theme" running through the past several days.

As the bell tolled from the tower of St. Augustine, hundreds of people poured out of the chapel's front and side entrances, standing respectfully on the sidewalk, waiting and watching as the pallbearers carried the casket to the hearse waiting out front.

A police motorcycle unit from the Northeast Massachusetts Law Enforcement Council, or NEMLEC, then escorted the funeral procession to the cemetery, where Ritzer was buried in a private ceremony.

Text Only | Photo Reprints
Local News

AP Video
Raw: Israel Bombs Multiple Targets in Gaza Veteran Creates Job During High Unemployment Raw: Cargo Craft Undocks From Space Station Widow: Jury Sent Big Tobacco a $23B Message New Orleans Plans to Recycle Cigarette Butts UN Security Council Calls for MH 17 Crash Probe Obama Bestows Medal of Honor on NH Veteran Texas Sending National Guard Troops to Border Hopkins to Pay $190M After Pelvic Exams Taped Foxx Cites Washington 'Circus Mirror' NASA Ceremony Honors Moon Walker Neil Armstrong Obama Voices Concern About Casualties in Mideast Diplomacy Intensifies Amid Mounting Gaza Toll AP Exclusive: American Beaten in Israel Speaks Obama Protects Gay, Transgender Workers Raw: Gaza Rescuers Search Rubble for Survivors Raw: International Team Inspects MH17 Bodies Raw: 25 Family Members Killed in Gaza Airstrike US Teen Beaten in Mideast Talks About Ordeal 'Weird Al' Is Wowed by Album's Success
Comments Tracker