Today the body of Richard Abruzzo was laid to rest in the Gates of Heaven cemetery, almost two months after his gas balloon crashed into the Adriatic Sea on September 29, 2010. He and his ballooning partner Carol Rymer-Davis disappeared in a thunderstorm as they participated in the Gordon Bennett gas balloon race. Their bodies were recovered off the coast of Italy by fishermen a few weeks ago.
The 30 Funerals in 30 Days Challenge started with coverage of the memorial tribute to Abruzzo at the Albuquerque International Balloon Museum on October 29, and it is fitting to add this coda at the end.
Several hundred people turned out on an overcast day for the brief Catholic rite of burial and committal. A funeral mass had already been held on December 15 in the Cathedral of Manfredonia in Italy. The beautiful wood casket had calla lilies carved on the sides and a decorative inlay around the top edges. The flags of the United States and Italy supplemented the floral arrangement on top and additional small flags stood arranged around the grave. Two poster sized photos of Richard stood on display nearby.
A priest led a few prayers and shared words of Gospel, where Jesus said to not be troubled, for in my father’s house there are many mansions and he goes to prepare a place for you. As the assembled recited the Lord’s Prayer, the priest sprinkled holy water on the casket.
Family friend and former New Mexico governor Gary Johnson spoke a few words on behalf of the family and Richard’s widow Nancy. He said, “Richard set an example of how to live life to the fullest. What greater contribution can a human being make than inspiring us all to live life to the fullest? Your friendship and support are overwhelming.”
The funeral director invited the pallbearers and the immediate family to place their flowers on the casket and touch it in a final farewell. The assembled attendees were also invited to file past and touch the casket, and speak to Nancy before the burial. The committal service was only about ten minutes, but the filing past took well over 20 minutes.
Visit the Daniels Family Funeral website to read the full obituary for Richard Abruzzo. May his spirit soar ever higher.