FARMINGDALE, N.Y. -- Funeral services were held Thursday in that tragic charter bus crash in Orange County, New York last week.
The band director of Farmingdale High School was laid to rest on Long Island in a service where, very fittingly, beautiful music was featured.
Gina Pellettiere was remembered by an overflowing crowd at Our Lady of Lourdes church in Massapequa Park. Mourners spilled out, shattered hearts in a grieving community.
Pellettiere's parents and brothers were surrounded by an extended family of students, alums and teachers who said the 43-year-old band leader changed lives.
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"She was just a wonderful person. Always happy, upbeat. She was great with the kids," Jackie Suwalski, a grandmother of a band member, said.
"The kids adored her. She was funny. She was dancing all over the podium. She was full of life, and it's hard to imagine this world without her," retired Farmingdale teacher Gale Bayen said.
"My son graduated, but she actually got him involved in the school music program, because he was a shy kid. She pulled him right in, and now he is an accomplished musician," parent Claudette Sherry said.
Not surprisingly, the service was punctuated by stirring music, played by volunteers.
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"Because they wanted to honor Gina, who they loved, and many of them worked with her over the years," Monsignor Jim Lisante said.
There was applause as the pastor spoke of Pellettiere's 2-year-old son, and grandparents who will help raise him.
"What a brave soul, too. We talked when she had a baby. She wasnt going to wait for Mr. Right to come along... as a single parent she is heroic," Lisante said. "Everybody here knew Gina, and my hope is we will all tell the stories of her life."
, surrounded by her students. A bus en route to Pennsylvania, an annual band retreat, careened off an Orange County highway, rolling down an embankment. Also killed was band chaperone Beatrice Ferrari, who was laid to rest Wednesday. Her family was among the mourners who honored Pellettiere.
"She had energy and love for students. That's why my mom and her got along, They were beautiful people. She had a zest and energy. She loved those students and she wanted them to love music," Ferrari's daughter Angela Ferrari-Aldieri said.
And, she succeeded. With school closed for services, students gathered en masse, wearing touches of Farmingdale green, remembering their "Ms. P," and praying for those still recovering.
"The day of the crash, I was talking to her and she was so excited to go to go to band camp. She had a smile on her face," Farmingdale High School marching band member Richard Jaudon said.
Steps away, "Daler Strong" banners hung.
It will take strength, said mourners, to somehow fill her big shoes.
The family requested donations be made to the Farmingdale High School music department in her memory.
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