HARRISON, N.Y. -- More than 1,000 people filled St. Anthony of Padua Church in West Harrison Thursday to celebrate the 16-year-old life of Andrew Louis Gurgitano, who died suddenly on Saturday from a stroke.
Father Christopher Monturo ventured from his prepared remarks to remember a high school girlfriend, also 16, who died in an auto accident in 1987. Monturo said he stayed in bed for four days, with the covers over his head.
"I didn't want to see anybody anymore,'' he recalled. "I thought the light of my life had gone out forever."
But then other friends arrived to share stories and laughter about Katrina and join him at her grave, which they graced with flowers.
"Every day I feel her presence and her inspiration. I miss her terribly,'' Monturo said.
Monturo reminded parishioners that they will always have Andrew with them in spirit, because he was larger than life and passionate about everything he did, especially playing baseball as a lefthanded pitcher.
Tears began to flow again when Monturo announced the New York Yankees agreed to put Andrew's name and number 14 on their scoreboard in April when they play the Tampa Bay Rays, Andrew's favorite pro team. Yankees' Manager Joe Girardi of Purchase and Harrison Supervisor Ron Belmont joined Monturo before the recessional.
"I have no doubt Andrew would have been the starting pitcher. Remember him there, and his life."
"There are no words and no answers,'' Monturo said. "We find ourselves shocked to the core. . . .One of our most talented people has been taken from us so suddenly. There are no words. There are no answers. There is only love."
Monturo said the Harrison community's outpouring of love and generosity helps make the Gurgitano family's burden a little lighter and will help them get through the difficult, dark days ahead. The comfort we most need is the Lord of life and the Lord of love, Monturo said. "The Lord carries us and he is with us and he will never leave us alone."
"Always remember Andrew. Remember his life, his friendship and his love," Monturo said. "Then we will continue to keep his love alive."
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