Pall bearers wheel the casket of shooting victim Alexander Jonathan "A.J."… (Joe Raedle / Getty Images )
AURORA, Colo. – The funeral-goers began weeping almost as soon as they stepped into the church. Near the sanctuary entrance was the open casket of Alexander J. Boik, a recent high school graduate who loved pottery and baseball and dreamed of teaching art.
Better known as A.J., Boik was one of the 12 people gunned down a week ago during a late-night screening of the new Batman movie here. His funeral Friday at Queen of Peace Catholic Church, where he’d been baptized and received his First Communion, was a poignant remembrance of a teenager on the cusp of manhood.
Boik, 18, had sandy hair, a thin mustache and some stubble on his chin. He was buried in a black jacket and shirt and purple tie. He’d played catcher on his high school baseball team, so a mitt had been placed in his casket. There was also a marker of his future plans: a certificate of admission to the Rocky Mountain College of Art + Design.
Boik’s peers, some attending their first funeral, grew red-faced and teary at the sight of their friend. As they walked into the sanctuary, they saw two large photos of Boik in his cap and gown, reminders of his warm smile. They were handed cards with Boik’s picture and a poem that encouraged them not to wallow in grief:
Do not stand at my grave and weep;
I am not there. I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow;
I am the diamond glints on the snow.
Nearly 1,000 people attended the funeral; Boik’s casket was closed before the service began and covered with a white cloth. Many mourners wore something purple, Boik’s favorite color. Even Gov. John Hickenlooper donned a purple tie.
Hickenlooper shared some anecdotes with the crowd that he’d learned from Boik’s family and girlfriend. When he mentioned that Boik, a catcher, was best friends with his pitcher, several teenagers started sobbing.
“We are a better community because you lived among us,” Hickenlooper said.
In his eulogy, Boik’s uncle John Hoover recalled a spirited teenager who enjoyed playing viola, skateboarding, spending time with his girlfriend and cracking jokes. Right now, Hoover said, “I know he’s making a funny face and trying to make the rest of us laugh.”
Hoover said Boik had a warm presence and could charm his way out of trouble. He made friends with students from across the social caste system, and to honor him, “dedicate yourself to making a new friend today,” Hoover said.
Boik came from a close-knit family, said Hoover, who’d asked Boik to be his son’s godfather. Boik was particularly close to his grandfather Bill Hoover.
“My dad has not only lost a grandson, but his best buddy,” John Hoover said.
Bill Hoover sat at the end of a pew of family members, their heads bowed for much of the service. At one point, mourners on their way to take Communion stopped to touch his shoulder and whisper words of comfort.
Hoover acknowledged them, and then returned to softly singing with the crowd:
And he will raise you up on eagle's wings,
Bear you on the breath of dawn,
Make you to shine like the sun,
And hold you in the palm of his hand.
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