ANDOVER — Hundreds of mourners from every corner of Colleen Ritzer’s life — from her preschool teachers to high school and college classmates to busloads of her fellow teachers and students from Danvers High School — filed into St. Augustine Church in downtown Andover yesterday to deliver an outpouring of love and sympathy to her anguished family.
Three hours after calling hours began for the 24-year-old math teacher from Andover who was murdered inside Danvers High School last week allegedly by one of her students, a roaring convoy of police motorcycles led nine buses labeled “DANVERS PUBLIC SCHOOLS” through downtown Andover.
At 6:15 p.m., hundreds of students and teachers poured out of those buses and lined up on the sidewalk alongside the Essex Street church to pay their final respects. The Danvers community sported pink ribbons over their hearts — a nod to Ritzer and her favorite color.
Throughout the day, those who knew Ritzer waited for more than an hour at times to say goodbye. Inside the church, they saw floral arrangements and slideshows that reflected the rich life of an active, always smiling daughter, friend and educator. Outside, there were more pink floral arrangements lining the steps up to the church.
For those sharing their thoughts about Ritzer outside the church, her smile was foremost in their minds.
“The smile could light up the room,” said Laura Fogarty, who was Ritzer’s preschool teacher from the age of 15 months to 5 years old. “She’d squeeze you and hug you. She would have a temper the exact same way.”
“She was full of everything,” Fogarty added. “Full of energy. Full of life.”
Caroline Rufo, Ritzer’s college roommate at Assumption College in Worcester, described the dorm room they shared their junior and senior years as “such an uplifting place to live.”