Memories of a life cut short at 15 years of age flashed across a screen at Peace Portal Alliance Church Saturday, where hundreds of people, many of them teenagers themselves, gathered to pay tribute to Dario Bartoli.
As the sanctuary filled with song – including live renditions of Judy Garland’s Somewhere Over the Rainbow, The Band Perry’s If I Die Young and Eric Clapton’s Tears in Heaven – the screen filled over and over again with moments captured at birthday celebrations, Christmas and on vacation; as Bartoli practised skateboarding or rode his BMX with friends, played in the pool and posed in Halloween costumes…
The love- and laughter-filled images were a stark contrast to the violent manner in which Bartoli died. He succumbed in Peace Arch Hospital on Dec. 13, just hours after he was attacked in or near Bakerview Park in South Surrey. Two days later, police said early indications supported the theory that it was an “alcohol-fuelled altercation between two groups that turned tragic.”
The Integrated Homicide Investigation Team has conduct of the file, but have yet to announce any arrests or charges in connection with the death of the Earl Marriott Secondary student.
Tuesday, Staff Sgt. Jennifer Pound said only that tips “continue to come in.”
At Saturday’s service, youth pastor Geoff Stewart didn’t speculate on the incident, but summarized what, no doubt, everyone in the church was feeling:
“This isn’t supposed to happen. We shouldn’t be here,” he said. “Dario should be here. It just doesn’t add up. I’m heartbroken for every single one of you.”
Stewart also endeavoured to comfort anyone who may be somehow blaming themselves for their friend’s death; perhaps believing that if only they had done one thing different that day, he may still be alive.
“You need to know today, your love never failed Dario. Your friendships never failed him,” Stewart said.
“Your love and support for his family this week has been nothing short of inspiring.
“What will his legacy be? You will be his legacy.”
Dozens of Bartoli’s friends regrouped a few hours after the service at the South Surrey Skate Park – some clearly distraught in light of media coverage of Bartoli’s death. There, they – and some of their parents and members of the teen’s family – set off Roman candles and sent glowing sky lanterns toward the heavens, where a star now shares his name.
Certificates handed out at the church service note the step was taken on the day Bartoli died, “in loving memory of a guy who could never fail to put a smile on everyone and anyone’s face.”
“White Rock won’t be the same without him,” the certificate reads.
The sentiment was repeated by a friend who stepped forward to speak on behalf of all of Bartoli’s friends, and in a letter written by his mom, June.
Read out by Stewart, she describes Bartoli as “my prince,” and “the most compassionate boy with the brightest smile.”
“He’s now the brightest star in the sky,” she writes.
The mother notes that her son was laid to rest “in a bed of roses” – a reference to The Band Perry song performed earlier that was one of his favourites – on petals plucked from flowers received in the wake of his death. As well, she is building a foundation in his memory.
“You were a gift to my life,” she writes. “I love you forever.”