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800 mourners say goodbye to Maddox Derkosh, child killed at zoo

| Friday, Nov. 9, 2012, 12:06 p.m.
Justin Merriman | Tribune-Review
Pallbearers carry the casket of Maddox Derkosh, 2, from St. Bernard Church in Mt. Lebanon after funeral services on Friday, November 9, 2012. Maddox died Sunday after he fell from a wooden railing overlooking the African painted dogs exhibit at the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium and bled to death after being mauled by the dogs. Justin Merriman | Tribune-Review
Justin Merriman | Tribune-Review
Pallbearers bring the casket of Maddox Derkosh, 2, into St. Bernard Church in Mt. Lebanon for funeral services on Friday, November 9, 2012. Maddox died Sunday after he fell from a wooden railing overlooking the painted dogs exhibit at the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium and bled to death after being mauled by the dogs. Justin Merriman | Tribune-Review
Justin Merriman | Tribune-Review
A woman collects trucks at the funeral of Maddox Derkosh, 2, at St. Bernard Church in Mt. Lebanon on Friday, November 9, 2012. Maddox died Sunday after he fell from a wooden railing overlooking the painted dogs exhibit at the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium and bled to death after being mauled by the dogs. Justin Merriman | Tribune-Review
Justin Merriman | Tribune-Review
Family members arrive at the funeral of Maddox Derkosh, 2, at St. Bernard Church in Mt. Lebanon on Friday, November 9, 2012. Maddox died Sunday after he fell from a wooden railing overlooking the painted dogs exhibit at the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium and bled to death after being mauled by the dogs. Justin Merriman | Tribune-Review

Little Maddox Derkosh loved to look at the world around him, the Rev. David Bonnar told about 800 mourners who gathered on Friday to say goodbye to the child.

“One of the most distinguishing features of Maddox were his eyes,” Bonnar told those crowded into St. Bernard Church in Mt. Lebanon for the Whitehall boy's funeral. “His eyes were even more pronounced by his trademark glasses. In his short life, he saw so much with those eyes.”

Maddox, 2, died on Sunday at Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium when he fell into the African painted dogs exhibit and the animals mauled him.

Police have said his mother, Elizabeth Derkosh, 33, lifted the boy to the top of a railing at the exhibit, and he fell into the enclosure. Pittsburgh police are investigating.

Family members and others attending the child's funeral in the Roman Catholic church declined to comment. Many at the services arrived holding tissues and grabbed more from church staff to wipe tears as they followed the small white casket and family members out of the church after the services.

“I have been a priest for nearly 25 years, and I have never experienced such a heart-wrenching moment,” Bonnar said. “This is a tough time for so many.”

The funeral was held in the same church where the Derkoshes were married and where Maddox was baptized, Bonnar said. The couple held each other as they walked into the church behind their son's pallbearers. Bonnar urged those in attendance to resist the temptation to remain in the darkness of grief and anger.

“Maddox was a child of the light,” he said. “He was happy and joyful and could light up a room like a Christmas tree.”

Bishop David Zubik, who met with the family on Thursday, could not attend the funeral and instead wrote a letter that Bonnar read.

“What is in my heart is that you may know God's tight hug in this time of great sadness,” Zubik wrote. “I have no doubt — and I know that you believe it so too, that dear Maddox is working hard from heaven as your new guardian angel.”

The family asked for donations of toy trucks in lieu of flowers, so they could give the items to a charity at Christmas.

Betty Borzilleri, office manager for William Slater II Funeral Home in Scott, said staffers there quit counting the number of toy trucks, but she said there are “thousands.” An apartment at the back of the funeral home with both an empty living room and dining room are full of trucks, she said.

Bonnar said someone brought a toy dump truck to the church from Evans City.

“We have been getting so many trucks at the church that some might think we have become a satellite Toys R Us store,” Bonnar said. “Jason and Liz, I want to commend you, for even in your unspeakable suffering and pain, you are consciously thinking of other little ones by asking for toy trucks.

“God knows you have a rough road ahead, but with this effort, the healing has already begun.”

Margaret Harding is a staff writerfor Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-380-8519or mharding@tribweb.com.

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