ANDOVER, MASS. -- About 1,000 people are saying a final goodbye to the 24-year-old Massachusetts high school teacher who was allegedly killed by one of her students,CBS Boston reports.
St. Augustine Church in Colleen Ritzer’s hometown of Andover was filled to capacity for her funeral Mass on Monday. The mourners included about 400 students who arrived in buses from Danvers High School, where Ritzer taught math.
Her cousin, Gina McDaniel, said in a prepared eulogy that Ritzer made people feel loved, comforted and optimistic.
McDaniel said Ritzer made many of her students enthusiastic about math, even those who did not like the subject at first.
“Your memory will live on forever in the hearts of everyone you touched as a teacher, daughter, sister, granddaughter, niece, cousin and friend. Heaven stole an angel from us today. You will always be in our hearts, we love you, rest in peace,”McDaniel told Ritzer’s friends and family.
Police say Ritzer was killed in a school bathroom after dismissal Tuesday. Her body was found in woods behind the school.
Fourteen-year-old Philip Chism has pleaded not guilty to a murder charge.
At the slain educator’s viewing on Sunday, a former roommate recalled Ritzer as an ever-positive, uplifting influence on all who knew her.
Mourners embraced each other and wiped away tears as they attended the visitation for Ritzer, whose body was found in the woods behind the school on Tuesday.
“She was an inspiration to me to live my life to the fullest every single day,” said college roommate Caroline Rufo.
“There’s going to be a void forever in our hearts,” Rufo said at Andover’s St. Augustine Church. “I don’t know that anything can ever fill that.”
Authorities have not disclosed many details of Ritzer’s death, including how she was killed or any alleged motive.
A statement released by Chism’s public defender said the teen’s mother, Diana Chism, is heartbroken for Ritzer’s family.
“She asks that you know that she cares for the world’s hurt over this and greatly hopes for your prayers for the Ritzer family, the Danvers community, for her son, and all those affected by this tragedy,” the statement said.
Philip Chism was arrested early Wednesday walking along a road in a nearby town.
Ritzer’s family has established a memorial scholarship fund to benefit Andover High School graduates who also pursue teaching careers.