By Shanna Fuld
About 200 community members, friends and family gathered for a candlelight vigil Monday to pay respects to the late 21 year-old Christopher Tannuzzo of Lindenwood. Even more attended the wake the following night, forming long lines to enter the chapel.
Girlfriend Tina Mathew found Tannuzzo dead on the morning of July Fourth. Doctors said he died as a result of an enlarged heart, a condition Tannuzzo was not aware of. He was working in the painter’s union.
The vigil took place in the basketball court at elementary school PS 232, which he attended. More than a school education, the park grounds offered Tannuzzo a safe place to find friendship and community. He had spent countless days under the sun with his close-knit neighborhood group, playing basketball games ever since he was a young student.
“Tannuzzo arranged all of our games. He’s the reason all of the basketball groups from the neighboring parks talked to each other,” Chris Vitale, his best friend and the vigil organizer, said. “He had a smile that could light up a room.”
Children, young adults, parents and even PS 232 Vice Principal Aileen Leibman (who was vice principal when Tannuzzo was a student) attended the vigil. Vitale brought candles for everyone and after lighting them, many set the candles down in the shape of a heart next to a photo collage of Tannuzzo. As people filed into the court, they hugged and kissed each other with wet eyes. Friends took turns sharing stories about his good character, infamous big smile and funny attributes that made him a well-liked neighbor and friend.
“Every promise he ever made to me he kept,” Mathew said. “He never failed me once.”
Tannuzzo and his girlfriend dated for a year and a half. She said he promised her he would be there for her forever.
“He’s holding me up right now,” she said. Mathew also remarked that she would not have been able to make it through these last days of distress without his spirit.
The day of the vigil, Vitale drove the group of basketball friends to buy matching pink button-downs for the wake. He said that when he looked at the meter parking receipt, it was set to expire at 2:32 p.m., the number that signified love and friendship for Tannuzzo and his boys.