• Hundreds attend funeral for Danvers teacher


    ANDOVER, Mass. (MyFoxBoston.com) -- Hundreds of mourners attended the funeral of slain Danvers math teacher Colleen Ritzer Monday.

    Pink floral arrangements were placed on each step of the St. Augustine's Church in Ritzer's hometown of Andover, an homage to the 24-year-old's favorite color.

    Ritzer's cousin, Gina McDaniel, shared an emotional eulogy that echoed the descriptions loved ones and students shared of her in the days following her death.

    "Colleen's gift was that of inspiration," said McDaniel. "She possessed an energetic intensity that is rarely seen. Her self-esteem, intelligence, drive, and love of humanity affected everyone she met."

    The program handed out at Ritzer's funeral included a pink floral design and the words from one of her past tweets, "No matter what happens in life, be good to people. Being good is a wonderful legacy to leave behind."

    Ritzer tweeted the words months before her death from the account she used to keep her students up to date on assignments.

    A spokesman for the 24-year-old's family says between 900 and 1,000 people attended her funeral, including upwards of 600 Danvers High students. The total number of mourners was so high, the church had to put them in an overflow space in the basement.

    Officers with the North Eastern Massachusetts Law Enforcement Council provided an escort to the funeral procession. NEMLEC assisted local law enforcement agencies in the murder investigation at Danvers High School last week.

    "She just lit up the room. I'd say, turn the lights off, Colleen's here. Save power. She was that radiant," said former Andover High School teacher Joe Spanos.

    Spanos said Ritzer worked for him at his convenience store and was a student teacher under him at Andover High School.

    "She was just perfect. She was the type of girl you want your son to marry, you want your kids to hang out with, your child to grow up like," said Spanos.

    Ritzer's college friends remembered their beloved friend after her wake this weekend.

    "There's nothing I won't miss," said Caroline Rufo, who was Ritzer's roommate at Assumption College.

    "She was a wonderful inspirational person and an inspiration to all of us," said Rufo. "She was an inspiration to me to live my life to the fullest every single day."

    Another college friend, Natalie Geeza, added Ritzer was the glue who held them all together. She always remembered to keep in touch, sending holiday cards or letters when the friends lost contact.

    Friends say teaching was Ritzer's dream job.

    "She always wanted to be a teacher. I just think it was her natural instinct from the beginning," Rufo said.

    It's painful that the very thing she loved to do was the thing she lost her life doing. Police said Ritzer was killed, allegedly at the hand of one of her students, inside Danvers High School. Philip Chism is charged with murder as an adult in Ritzer's killing.

    Spanos said it's hard not to get angry.

    "To lose her at 24-years-old? That's a crime. You have to know something is wrong with your son. Come forward. Get help. There are resources out there," said Spanos.

    Through an attorney, Chism's family released a statement over the weekend. "Ms. Chism's heart is broken for the Ritzer family and the loss of their daughter and sister Colleen Ritzer," reads the statement in-part.

    Next Up: