St. Vincent Students Gather to Mourn Matthew Russo

By Signorini, Renatta | Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, December 9, 2011 | Go to article overview

St. Vincent Students Gather to Mourn Matthew Russo


Signorini, Renatta, Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review


Anthony Altieri was supposed to work with Matthew Russo on Thursday night.

Instead, he was mourning the loss of his friend and St. Vincent College classmate, as other students and faculty gathered for a memorial service in the campus chapel last evening.

"He was a really friendly, very nice person" who always had a positive outlook, said Altieri, a junior communications major.

Matthew Russo, 21, and his mother, Mary Russo, 52, both of Brentwood in Allegheny County, died from gunshot wounds in an apparent murder-suicide just before 5 p.m. Wednesday in a vehicle parked at Red Lobster restaurant in Hempfield, according to the Westmoreland County coroner. They were pronounced dead at the scene.

Investigators yesterday withheld details surrounding the deaths. Autopsies were conducted yesterday morning, and officials said they will investigate further before releasing the manner and cause of death for the pair.

The memorial service for Russo, held in the student lounge on the campus in Unity, was attended by about 400 people, the majority of them students.

A candlelight procession to the Latimer Family Library on campus, headquarters for the school's education department, followed the service.

Outside in the chill night air, students and a sprinkling of adults crowded around a simple makeshift memorial at a stone bench consisting of two bouquets of flowers and two photographs of Russo dressed as Santa Claus.

Kari Maurer, president of the college's Early Childhood Education Club, speaking to the throng at the procession, called Russo "our Santa, our future teacher and our friend."

Many of the students were in tears. Other shared hugs. Hardly anyone spoke, and those who did, spoke very quietly.

The Rev. Killian Loch, director of campus ministry, said he was impressed by the silence.

Loch said that the shock of Wednesday's deaths had given way yesterday to grief.

Speaking at the service, Loch said an unusually large of number of students had gathered together on Wednesday and then again yesterday to mourn their classmate, and to help one another in a time of loss.

"We feel beaten," Loch said. "We might say, 'God, you have abandoned us.' " But, he added, faith "perseveres." He reminded students that Christ's faith on the eve of his Crucifixion wavered but never broke.

Benedictine Brother Norman Hipps, the college's president, said Russo had dressed up as Santa Claus on Saturday during an event at the Winnie Palmer Nature Reserve. …

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