An overflow crowd of hundreds attended the heartbreaking funeral of Irish teenager Kalie Gill on Monday in the Bronx, where her two surviving sisters eulogized Kalie as a shining star who will never be forgotten.
Kalie, 15, was run over and killed by an out of control car at a church festival at St. Paul the Apostle in Yonkers on the evening of Friday, October 11. She was accompanied by her sister Lindsey, 12, who suffered multiple injuries in the accident and remains hospitalized at Jacobi Medical Center in the Bronx. Lindsey is expected to make a full recovery.
The eldest of the three Gill daughters, 21-year-old Jamie, read letters that she and Lindsey wrote to their departed sister after her sudden death. Lindsey wrote that the was told the shattering news in the days after it happened, and that she was sorry she didn’t get a chance to say farewell to her big sister and best friend.
“I never wanted this to happen to you. I never got a chance to say goodbye,” Jamie read to the mourners who packed St. Barnabas High School Chapel.
“When I found out about it I wanted to cry but no tears came out. I froze . . . I’m sorry I can’t make it to your wake and funeral, but I’m here trying to survive for you.”
Lindsey, who suffered multiple broken bones and internal injuries and has undergone several surgeries, touchingly wrote that her immediate thought after the accident was of her big sister.
“When we got hit I thought of you...we didn’t talk too much at the fair,” Lindsey said.
The student at PS 19 in Woodlawn brought tears to the eyes of the congregation when she wrote about sharing a bed with Kalie.
“We shared a bed most of our lives. I loved it but you hated it. I would put my leg on you because I was scared of the dark,” Lindsey wrote.
The sisters, Lindsey remembered, had their share of battles; Kalie was a late sleeper and Lindsey was an early riser. But they bonded over so many shared interests, including Bratz dolls and making videos.
“We used to make up random words and make our Bratz dolls say them,” Lindsey wrote.
Jamie’s recollections of her sister were equally poignant, and she showed remarkable strength and poise when she rose to address the mourners.
“I’m so happy you were part of my life since you were born,” she said. “I love everything about you. I loved how witty, funny and sarcastic you were.”
When Lindsey was born, Jamie remembered, a feisty Kalie, then three, demanded to know who the newcomer was.
“You marched up to Dad and asked, ‘Who’s that baby?’ That baby was Lindsey.” The two youngest Gill children soon became best friends.
Jamie recalled a sister who was fearless on the rides at Six Flags Great Adventure, and adept at making new friends.
“She was kind-hearted and gentle. She never had a bad word to say about anyone,” Jamie said.
The devastated Gill parents, Damien and Karen of Fenagh, Co. Leitrim, were supported by many family members and friends who traveled from Ireland to help them cope with the tragedy. The Gills came to New York in the 1990s, spent several years here and had their three children, then returned to Leitrim with their girls for some eight years. They relocated to Woodlawn during the summer, and the Irish community far and wide has been stunned at the tragic turn of events that has forever changed their lives.
A family spokesperson told those at the Mass that the Gills are deeply grateful for all the support. “They have great strength from thousands of messages from both sides of the Atlantic,” the woman said.
Father Brendan Gormley of St. Barnabas eulogized Kalie, but said there were no answers as to why a young girl was taken in the prime of her life.
“Why? Why Kalie? Why now?” Gormley asked. “These are questions that people of faith and people of no faith ask. I do not have these answers. Where there are mysteries, there is a need to have faith and trust in God.
“There is no reason to believe that Kalie’s light has been extinguished...we might not be able to see Kalie with our own eyes, but we believe she is with us always.”
The chapel was full of students from St. Barnabas High School, where Kalie was a sophomore. A memorial to Kalie on the altar included some of her favorite things – flip-flops, a pink handbag, Kraft mac and cheese and a Cadbury Twirl bar. Especially moving was an old school assignment for which Kalie identified her parents as her heroes.
“They are kind, gracious and good listeners,” Kalie wrote.
The crowd spilled outside and included Irish Consul General Noel Kilkenny and his wife Hanora, and many members of the Irish county societies and immigrant support groups.
Police were on hand to direct traffic around the chapel after the Mass. The Gill family accepted condolences afterwards from attendees prior to burying their middle child at nearby Woodlawn Cemetery.
The driver of the vehicle that hit the Gill girls, Rosanne Piccirilli, is a sixth grade teacher at St. Paul’s in Yonkers. She remained on the scene after the accident and has not been charged with a crime, saying that her Jeep malfunctioned and would not allow her to brake. Police continue to investigate.
Damien and Karen Gill told the Irish Voice last week that they did not blame Piccirilli for what happened.
“I feel very sorry for her. It’s something she’ll have to live with too,” Damien Gill said of the teacher who is reportedly in a state of shock over the accident.
St. Barnabas High School has established a Kalie Gill Memorial Fund to assist the family during this time. Checks can also be made payable to the Kalie Gill Memorial Fund and sent to Sister Joan Farrone, St. Barnabas High School, 425 East 240th Street, Bronx, New York, 10470. More information is available at www.stbarnabashigh.com.