Friends, Family Celebrate the Life of Sleepy Hollow Teen
by W.B. King
New York Times bestselling author of Wonder, R.J. Palacio, noted that “If every person in this room made it a rule that wherever you are, whenever you can, you will try to act a little kinder than is necessary — the world really would be a better place.”
Those who were fortunate to call Owen Kelly a friend or were among his loving family understood what it felt like to be in his “room,” an environment enveloped in kindness, good humor, smiles and laughs.
“Owen was my first close friend and really helped me become a more well-rounded and confident person,” said Hudson Schumacher, 16, who attends Sleepy Hollow High School. “He always talked to me about my problems and was always there to help me if I ever needed anything.”
Schumacher and Kelly first became friends in the seventh grade and weren’t strangers to hijinks. “One of my favorite memories with Owen was in English class. We were asked to take an assessment to see how all the kids were doing, and that it wouldn’t affect [our grades]. So, we very childishly took advantage of that no grading policy and filled the whole test in with jokes and ridiculous comments.”
Light-hearted days withstanding, the Tarrytown-Sleepy Hollow community, and the student body and faculty at Fordham Prep, where Kelly, 16, was a sophomore, learned the news of his sad and tragic passing on Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
As author Palacio wrote in her book Wonder, “Some things you just can’t explain. You don’t even try. You don’t know where to start. All your sentences would jumble up like a giant knot if you opened your mouth. Any words you used would come out wrong.”
A Smile that Shed Light
An honor student and member of the Fordham Prep’s junior varsity hockey team, Kelly, a Sleepy Hollow resident, was a community volunteer and held summer employment at the Tarry Crest Swimming and Tennis Club and the Philipse Manor Beach Club. He was also a counselor-in-training at Camp Shankitunk in Delhi, New York.
Kelly’s influence on loved ones was palpable on Thursday January 22 at the Pocantico Hills Firehall, which hosted a celebration of his life. The event was attended by hundreds of friends and family who shared laughs, tears, and hugs.
“It was amazing to see so many people come out and say their goodbyes,” recalled Schumacher who was in attendance.
On the Facebook page “Remembering Owen Kelly,” celebratory anecdotes and warm remembrances were abundant—a long scrolling list of friends and family who wanted to say hello and goodbye one last time.
“There are no words to describe what I, and the whole community, are feeling. Owen, heaven has gained an angel but the world has lost an amazing soul,” wrote Giselle Garvey. “I am so fortunate to have known such an amazing person. You and your happy heart, warm smile, annoyingly loving texts, pretty ugly Patagonia’s, exuberant laughs, jokes, and happiness and the wonderful person you are, will always be with me.”
Halle Tirsch noted, “You were one of those people that could make anyone laugh, you always had a joke to tell or something funny to say…you introduced me to so many people and my life would be so different if it wasn’t for you.”
The Strength Needed to Carry On
The countless Facebook epistles encapsulated the promise that Kelly’s memory will serve as a reminder to embrace and appreciate every moment life has to offer.
“We were friends since the third grade. You were there for me when my mom died…at least you will be with her now,” noted Payge Chebetar. “You were one of the most unique and amazing people I know and I’m glad that I am able to say that you were my close friend. I wish that you were still here, please give me the strength to go on without you.”
Whether a peer or an adult, strength will be needed in order to mourn and move forward in remembrance of Owen Kelly, by all accounts a loving and lovable young man who was taken from this world too soon and without warning.
“We weren’t in touch for around a year after 2014, but quite recently we had started to become closer again. The last time I saw him was at the Front Porch Series. We just danced in the tiny mosh pit, and it was a beautiful thing,” recalled Hudson Schumacher. “Owen Kelly was an amazing person, and touched the hearts of so many people. I miss him more and more every day, and it really still feels like this is all in a dream.”