Large crowd greets Air Force pilot's hearse in Kennedy
For the second time in a week, Kelly Rauschart stood quietly and watched the body of a man she never met pass by.
Rauschart, 50, joined hundreds of people along Pine Hollow Road in Kennedy on Saturday morning to greet the funeral procession for Air Force Capt. Sean Ruane. Two days earlier, Rauschart, an American Airlines flight attendant, watched in silence with others at Pittsburgh International Airport as an honor guard took Ruane's casket from the plane she was about to board.
Ruane, 31, a Montour High School graduate from Kennedy, died with three airmen on Jan. 7, when the Pave Hawk helicopter he was flying crashed during a low-level training flight in England. A combat rescue pilot, husband and father of a 14-month-old boy, Ruane deployed four times to Iraq and Afghanistan. His family buried him in a private ceremony in Resurrection Cemetery.
Gray clouds hung low over Kennedy, hiding the blue sky that tugged at Ruane throughout his life. A steady wind drove powdery snow through the 20-degree air, stirring the flags held by those who lined the road.
“He gave his life. I can give an hour in the cold,” Rauschart said. “It is our responsibility to be here for him.”
The township's fire chief, Christopher Gutt, organized the gathering, as he did when Army Staff Sgt. and Kennedy native Patrick Kutschbach died in 2007. As word spread, six fire companies and two ambulance companies asked to take part.
Several of Ruane's childhood friends warmed themselves in a foyer of a small building while waiting for the procession. Janelle Ganley, 33, of Oakdale wore the small, gold, heart-shaped pendant Ruane gave her in high school. She, Jamie Chambers, Brian Ganley and Jessica Simpson remembered an athlete, a saxophone player and a friend who moved easily between the social groups that can seem so intractable to adolescents.
“You're not going to find one clique of friends,” said Simpson, 32, of Beaver. “He was friends with everyone.”
The procession, led by eight police vehicles from various departments, passed the crowd after 10 a.m. It passed Hilary Zubritzky, 65, Ruane's middle school home economics teacher, and Kevin Maehling, 49, of Mt. Lebanon, who with his wife, Stacy, wanted to teach their daughter Kiera, 8, about respect for the dead.
Steve Moll, 65, of Kennedy stood near the end of the crowd. An Air Force veteran who served in Vietnam in 1969 and 1970, Moll said his son attended Montour High School ahead of Ruane and his daughter graduated two years behind him.
“He's one of ours,” Moll said.
Mourners inside more than 60 cars looked through their windows as they slowly passed the silent crowd. Some in the cars waved. Others wept.
Mike Wereschagin is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7900 or firstname.lastname@example.org.