Paying Tribute

May 4-10, 2006
Paying Tribute
By Claudia Mathis/ SUN staff writer
SUN photo(s) Paul Finch
Mass Celebrated at Holy Family for Fallen Trooper Craig Todeschini

FAIRMOUNT — It was standing room only at Holy Family Church on Thursday, April 27. The church was filled with mourners who came to honor Trooper Craig Todeschini, 25, who died tragically April 23 in an automobile accident while in the line of duty. Todeschini crashed into a tree in the hamlet of Pompey Hill while chasing a speeding motorcyclist.

Todeschini entered the New York State Police Academy in 2002 and was stationed at Troop D in Lafayette. He was a lieutenant in the Solvay Volunteer Fire Department and a past member of the Taunton Fire Department. More than 2,000 troopers, law enforcement officials and firefighters joined Todeschini’s family and friends at the funeral service. Dignitaries such as Gov. George Pataki, New York State Attorney General Eliot Spitzer and Onondaga County District Attorney William Fitzpatrick were also in attendance. Bishop James Moynihan was present as well, and presided over the Mass.

As the Mass began, law officers, some from as far away as California, Vermont, Rhode Island, Connecticut and Oklahoma, filed through the church. Some of the officers found comfort in touching Todeschini’s casket as they passed by. Troopers from his barracks sat in the church, while most of the others watched the Mass on large screen televisions in the parish school’s cafeteria and gym.

Father Richard Prior, pastor of Holy Family, began his homily by reminding those in attendance that Christ said that life on earth is finite and all journeys will come to an end. Father Prior said the first verse of the Beatitudes was especially profound for those who were mourning Todeschini that morning — “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” “The glory of God shines through in the darkness to comfort those who are grieving,” he explained. Father Prior said Todeschini would be remembered for serving and loving others. “Craig was the hand and arms of God in this community,” said Father Prior. “He worked for the common good of all of us. The love he shared with his family gave him the most joy in his life.”

During the Communion procession, symbols of Todeschini’s life were brought to the altar. Todeschini’s stepson, Tyler Palmer, brought a lieutenant firefighter’s hat to the front of the church. Additional tokens included a Stetson hat, Derek Jeter’s number two jersey and a baseball.

After Communion, Gov. Pataki and Police Superintendent Wayne Bennett eulogized Todeschini. Gov. Pataki said that, as citizens, law officials like Todeschini protect freedom and security. “Our laws mean nothing without people like Craig,” said Pataki. “Craig loved his fellow human beings. When he became a volunteer firefighter at 16, he decided to devote a large part of his life to protect others. He was a hero and he died a hero.” Bennett said that police officers take pride in their ability to sort things out and get answers. “Since Sunday evening, we’ve been looking for a lot of answers to great questions,” said Bennett. “We need to open our hearts and minds to God for answers.”

Bennett said that, even as a young person, Todeschini was well thought of by his friends and neighbors. Todeschini was interested in community service from an early age. One of his neighbors had remarked that he was “the greatest kid on earth.” Bennett said, “He lived his dream every day of being a trooper. His legacy will live on. He is a true American hero. May he rest in peace.”

Todeschini’s mother, Cindy, then offered a reflection on her son’s life. “Craig had a zest for life, extraordinarily different than the average person,” she said. “He had a calling in life to help people.” Cindy emphasized the importance of showing respect in an attempt to offer an understanding of her son’s death to those at his funeral. “You see, I believe God has to take somebody large away from us, somebody who’s going to make an impact on a lot of people, so that he can get his message out to us that we need to be good towards one another,” she explained. “God has given me the courage to stand up here and talk about respect. The one thing I want to point out today is that we all need to show respect to one another. If we would all do that, this senseless tragedy would not have happened and we would not be here today honoring Craig. Let’s take Craig’s tragic ending and learn to respect police officers and other people.” At the close of the Mass, Bishop Moynihan comforted those in attendance by saying, “all of our diocese is weeping with you.”

Bishop Moynihan said there was one group that he feels committed to — the brave. “Blessed are the brave,” said Bishop Moynihan. “Blessed are those who stand in the breach between order and disorder, between ourselves and calamity. Blessed are the state police, the firefighters, the sheriff deputies and the police officers, of which my father was one.”

Reflecting on Todeschini’s life, Bishop Moynihan said that he died a confirmed Christian. “Craig died for his community — for the people in this Onondaga County,” said Bishop Moynihan. As Todeschini’s casket was pushed out of the church and the law enforcement and firefighters stood at attention, three helicopters flew overhead. One turned left, leaving the other two, in a missing man formation. Then, a state police color guard folded the American flag draped over the casket before it was presented to Todeschini’s widow, Kristi.

After taps and a gun salute, the hearse carrying Todeschini’s casket traveled amidst a procession of fire trucks and patrol cars toward St. Mary’s Cemetery in DeWitt.

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