Hundreds turn out to mourn, celebrate Eli Bussotti's life
Family, friends and community members stood shoulder to shoulder in a packed funeral home Thursday night to remember Eli Bussotti.
Hundreds of people attended the celebration-of-life ceremony at Duster Funeral Home in Tarentum for the Highlands High School senior who died Sunday from injuries suffered in a car crash.
Through their tears, those closest to Eli were able to bring laughter to the crowd with their stories of his larger-than-life personality. Although he was known for his antics and pranks, he also was described as one of the kindest students at the school.
Eli’s girlfriend, Kaliah Pratt, said she’d never seen a place more packed than Eli’s celebration. She encouraged everyone to live life has he did.
“He came here to teach us all a lesson and he lived his purpose, but we all didn’t live ours yet,” she said. “He had a big part of everyone’s purpose and he taught us how to come together, how to be accepting of everyone you see, how to be selfless and not think of yourself and just treat everyone with kindness and compassion.”
Eli’s 13-year-old sister, Ava Bussotti, shared humorous stories of sibling arguments, but said their love for each other never wavered.
“Even if you really didn’t know Eli, he loved everyone in this entire world,” she said. “He touched every single one of our hearts in so many ways.”
Eli’s longtime friend, Shane Bowman, described Eli as his “brother” who will always be a part of him.
“He just had the biggest heart I’ve ever seen in my life,” Bowman said. “Everything we did with each other was just an amazing time.”
Nathaniel Riddell shared a few funny stories, but also recognized Eli’s selflessness of being an organ donor.
“It just makes me so happy that he saved eight lives with his life,” Riddell said. “It’s so wonderful to think about.”
Eli’s organs were donated to at least eight people across the United States.
There were no strangers in the room as children and adults clung to each other for comfort as the high school choir performed “You Raise Me Up” and “Amazing Grace” in honor of Eli.
“This community is a blessing,” said Michael Zeiler, choir director. “The love that is in this room right now is radioactive.”
Highlands senior Jaylen Hayden also performed the song he wrote for Eli this week, titled “Long Live E.”
After Hayden was done performing, he encouraged everyone to hug.
“It’s time for everybody to come together,” Hayden said. “It’s what he would have wanted.”
Emily Balser is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Emily at 724-226-4680, email@example.com or via Twitter @emilybalser.