Sunday 4 December 2016

Father of Niccolai Schuster urges parents to not let Berkeley tragedy hold their children back

Nicola Anderson and David Kearns

Published 24/06/2015 | 11:14

Father and brother, John and Alexei carry the coffin to the Church of the Three Patrons, Rathgar for the funeral mass of Niccolai Schuster. Picture credit; Damien Eagers 23/6/2015
Father and brother, John and Alexei carry the coffin to the Church of the Three Patrons, Rathgar for the funeral mass of Niccolai Schuster. Picture credit; Damien Eagers 23/6/2015
Mourners walk to the Church of the Three Patrons, Rathgar for the funeral mass of Niccolai Schuster. Picture credit; Damien Eagers 23/6/2015
Niccolai Schuster - Age: 21 From: Terenure, Dublin 6 School: St Mary’s College, Rathmines Studying: Arts in UCD
A picture of Niccolai Schuster is seen at a memorial during a candlelight vigil for the victims of the Berkeley balcony collapse in Berkeley, California June 17, 2015. Schuster was one of three men who died in the collapse, along with three women, including an American friend of the Irish students. All were in their early 20s. Seven others were hospitalized. REUTERS/Elijah Nouvelage
The six victims of the tragic Berkeley balcony collapse

In a powerful message at his son's funeral, the father of Niccolai Schuster urged parents to not let the tragedy in Berkeley stop their children from experiencing life.

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As hundreds gathered in Rathgar to say goodbye to young Nicc, one of six J1 students who was tragically killed in the Berkeley balcony collapse last Monday night, his father asked parents to not hold their children back, saying "Let your kids go, do not let this deter you."

"Let them have freedom, it will give them life experience," he added.

Mr Schuster said Nicc had had plans to spend six months in South America and said that if he had survived the accident, he would have continued with his travel plans "on one leg".

Nicc's parents John and Graziella Schuster, along with his younger brother Alexei, made a short, emotional address at the funeral mass, remembering their son as "magical".

"We have lost our magical son and we are devastated," said Mr Schuster, who asked investigators in California to leave no stone unturned to ensure what happened in Berkeley was never repeated.

"Leave no stone unturned in this investigation, this cannot happen again."

After the funeral both, Mr Schuster and his wife Graziella spoke of their heartbreak of telling their younger son that Nicc had died.

They described how Alexei got the news, screaming "I love you Nicc", and that the family had been left devastated.

The 21-year-old was one of six students who died when a balcony collapsed at a 21st birthday party last Monday night.

The funerals of Eimear Walsh and Eoghan Culligan took place yesterday, and Olivia Burke was also laid to rest later today.

The funeral service for Lorcán Miller’s will take place on Thursday, while the sixth victim Ashley Donohoe was buried in California on Sunday.

Speaking at his brother's funeral service, younger brother Alexei spoke about the bond between the siblings.

He laughed, that: “For some reason I was bursting with pride to be likened to him.”

“I looked up you more than you can imagine, the King of Tomfoolery. I gained respect in the school and nightclubs I’d gone to, just for the simple fact that I was Nicc’s brother and they thought I must be like him. I can only hope to be half the man you were Nicc.

"Now I know that I will never fear the next life because I will be reunited with my best friend."

Hundreds of mourners came to the Church of the Three Patrons in Dublin to pay their final respects to the young UCD student.

A line of pupils from his old school St Mary’s College in Rathmines were joined by his friends dressed in Bayern Munich jerseys, his favourite team, in forming an guard of honour as his coffin was brought into the church.

Friends and family at the funeral were led by his parents John and Graziella and brother Alexei, who is in fifth year at St Mary’s College, where Nicc was also a student until 2012.

Their hearts broken and heavy with grief, his father and younger brother carried his coffin with help from the young man's friends.

Among those attending were Health Minister Leo Varadkar and Micheal O Muircheartaigh.

The family of Eoghan Culligan, also killed in the balcony collapse and whose funeral took place yesterday, were also amongst the mourners.

A huge flag with messages and signatures was displayed at the front of the Three Patrons Church marked 'In Loving Memory Of Culli And Nick'.

Hundreds of those attending the funeral are J1 students, and a father of one of Nicc's friends said many of them had come home of their own volition and were "in bits".

Parish Priest Fr Joe Mullan said he was conscious of the five students still lying injured in hospital in California.~

In his eulogy, Chief Celebrant Fr Richard Olin said the mourners have "shared and gathered together so often this week".

In a special message to the injured students watching the funeral from their hospital beds, he told them that one of their greatest sufferings was not being home right now.

But he said they, too, were part of the companionship and "enfolded in the warm embrace of love".

He prayed Nicc was "now at home in God's house".

Niccolai Schuster (right)
Niccolai Schuster (right)

From Terenure in Dublin, the 21-year-old studied history and politics at UCD.

The young student’s funeral mass opened with the hymn ‘Time of our lives’ and friends and relatives brought forward items of meaning in Nicc’s life.

A photo of the student in Bangkok, of the Beechwood football team he coached last year, and a Bushy Park Rangers Jersey - a team he set up.

Mr Schuster described how Nicc had set up the Transition Year soccer team for Alexei, saying his son knew every player on the St Mary's team.

A bottle of orange squash and a Terry's chocolate orange were brought up representing Nicc's favourite treats.

"Graziella was always guilty of spoiling Niccolai with his favourite treat. There was nothing [he] craved more after a rough night out with the lads than a segment or two of Terry's and a glass of Mi-Wadi," said a speaker at the mass.

Mourners recalled his excellent tips at Cheltenham, his love of travel and the FIFA video game.

His younger brother Alexei brought up his Leinster Jersey.

The UCD arts student was a grand-nephew of the writer and playwright John B. Keane, and his father said Nicc loved to his stories from Kerry.

Two large collages of photos were place either side of the casket.

Nicc's uncle and godfather Ivan Schuster read a reflection, while his aunt and godmother Catherine Wakeford did the second reading.

Friends wearing St Marys and Bayern Munich jerseys form a guard of honour as the coffin is carried into the Church of the Three Patrons, Rathgar for the funeral mass of Niccolai Schuster. Picture credit; Damien Eagers 23/6/2015
Friends wearing St Marys and Bayern Munich jerseys form a guard of honour as the coffin is carried into the Church of the Three Patrons, Rathgar for the funeral mass of Niccolai Schuster. Picture credit; Damien Eagers 23/6/2015
Friends wearing St Marys and Bayern Munich jerseys form a guard of honour as the coffin is carried into the Church of the Three Patrons, Rathgar for the funeral mass of Niccolai Schuster. Picture credit; Damien Eagers 23/6/2015
Mourners wearing St Marys and Ireland rugby jerseys at the Church of the Three Patrons, Rathgar for the funeral mass of Niccolai Schuster. Picture credit; Damien Eagers 23/6/2015
Mourners wearing St Marys and Ireland rugby jerseys at the Church of the Three Patrons, Rathgar for the funeral mass of Niccolai Schuster. Picture credit; Damien Eagers 23/6/2015
a mourner wearing a Bayern Munich jersey outside the Church of the Three Patrons, Rathgar for the funeral mass of Niccolai Schuster. Picture credit; Damien Eagers 23/6/2015

Berkeley Tragedy Victims' Fund

The Irish Immigration Pastoral Centre in San Francisco has set up an online account to raise funds for the students affected by this tragedy and to assist the immediate needs of their families.

Click here to make a donation to the fund

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