Two weeks after 19-year-old Anthony Nazaire was stabbed to death, mourners filled the church where he received his First Holy Communion as a child, Holy Innocents, Flatbush.
“It is Anthony that called us here today to be in God’s house,” said Father Carsten Martensen, S.J., during his homily at the funeral Mass. “In 19 years of life and one year in college, he had more of an impact than most… He showed that every human being is important and precious” because he showed love and kindness to everyone.
Father Martensen is a Catholic campus minister at both Ithaca College, where Nazaire was a sophomore student, and Cornell University, where Nazaire was killed following a party Aug. 28. The story received considerable media attention.
A bus from Ithaca College, located in central New York about a five-hour drive from Brooklyn, came to the Flatbush funeral celebrated by retired Auxiliary Bishop Guy Sansaricq.
“Tony was a friend and a bright spirited person,” said Ithaca College student Zsari Delany as she waited in the pew for the funeral to begin. “Never was there a time that I felt that there was bad vibes around him… I am honored that I got to meet him.”
‘Guy with the Huge Smile’
“In the School of Business, even the people who didn’t know Anthony personally knew him as the guy with the huge smile on his face,” said Sean Reid, dean of the Ithaca College School of Business, who also attended the funeral.
“He made the most of every opportunity in the business program… He was active in a student-run venture last fall and was anxious to start a business on his own. Anthony left his mark here and this tragic loss will be felt deeply.”
Nazaire’s academic advisor, Professor William Tastle said Nazaire was an outstanding student. He said he saw more of the young Brooklynite during his first year of college than he did most of his advisees during their four years of college.
“And it’s not because he was ever in trouble,” he said. “He was not a ray of sunshine, he was the whole front… He was an eager young man who wanted to learn everything and anything, trying to cram four years of education into one semester.”
Tastle said that Nazaire came to him for explanations on different aspects of business, although some were easy to answer, others required more background. Tastle remembers telling Nazaire that he would understand better when he would take his class this semester. Nazaire was able to attend one week of that course.
During the funeral Mass, Bishop Sansaricq said that evil has taken a hold on the world since Cain slayed Abel, but God has showed us that victory belongs to the victim.
“Jesus, Himself, was a victim,” the bishop said. “We celebrate this moment as Anthony steps into the wedding feast of the Lamb.”
In His Arms
“We thank God that Anthony touched our lives, made such an impact,” the Ithaca College chaplain said during his homily. “We pray that in eternal life God has him in His arms.”
“What he wanted to do was to have a successful life,” Father Martensen said. “What he wanted to do was to care for people.”
Among the student organizations that Nazaire was involved in was Brothers4Brothers, an Ithaca College organization dedicated to the empowerment of men of color on the college campus.
“It was about empowering our communities,” said Hawk Newsome, a member of the Black Lives Matter NY movement, of Brothers4Brothers. “I felt compelled to be here” at the funeral, to show respect for the young man lost.
The Black Lives Matter NY movement is planning a prayer vigil and march in part to honor Nazaire’s life and promote #ForeverAnthony on Sept. 24, 1 p.m. starting at Washington Ave. and Empire Blvd. Nazaire’s family plans to attend, according to their attorney Sanford Rubenstein.
Peaches Gillette attended the funeral because she felt a connection with Nazaire, even though she never met him. She has been thinking of moving to the town of Ithaca.
“I wanted to be spiritually supportive of anyone who has been affected by this,” she said.
As is customary for Ithaca College students, Nazaire went to a party after his first week of classes to neighboring Cornell University.
Cornell University has about four times as many students as Ithaca College, and its campus is as big as town in itself. Cornell University gives official permission for fraternities and sororities to hold parties in their campus houses, or to use college space if the campus house is too small.
The fraternity Omega Psi Phi received permission to use Willard Straight Hall for their annual “orientation week” party, and paid the appropriate fee to pay two late-night event managers – students trained to monitor such events.
Both Ithaca College and Cornell University put an emphasis on student leadership, expecting students to act responsibly. The crime rate in the town of Ithaca and the two colleges is low. This was only the second homicide in Ithaca in about a decade according to the Police department. Ithaca has been ranked as one of the safest small towns in the country in previous years by Farmer’s Insurance.
According to the Nazaire’s family attorney, there are about 20 detectives on the case, ranging from campus, to local, to state authorities. The investigation is still pending and police are asking anyone with information, video or photo to come forward.
“I am not God, but I have forgiveness in my heart,” said Nazaire’s father, Reginald Nazaire, of Round Rock, Texas, according to the NY Daily News.
“Please give yourself up,” he asked his son’s killer. “Give my family peace.”
Nazaire’s mother, Katia Toussaint, who has lived with her children in Brooklyn, has mostly stayed out of public view, but she is quoted by The New York Post as saying: “You take your kid out of a neighborhood, and you do your best to send him to a good, proper college to make something out of himself, and he comes back in a body bag?”
Nazaire graduated from Brooklyn Theatre Arts High School.