NJ Penn State student remembered as ‘sunshine’ at funeral

Family and friends gathered on Saturday to remember the short, beautiful life of Justine Gross, the Summit High School graduate whose bizarre death in a garbage chute at Penn State last week has become both a mystery. and a test of faith for many who knew her. .

St. Theresa’s Church in Avila was packed for the midday funeral, the altar adorned with bouquets of white carnations adorning a large portrait of the 19-year-old Penn State sophomore and many mourners dressed in black.

“We are shocked, hurt, perplexed,” said Mass celebrant Reverend Nico Quintos. But Christians, he said, believe death is not the end. He urged mourners to love each other the way Justine loved them, calling the former Summit High cheerleader “that ray of sunshine, that cheered you on.”

“So early, so young,” he wondered. “Basically, we ask ourselves’ why? Death seems to have the last word, but we who believe in God are not silent in the face of death. The priest added that when a husband loses a wife, we call her a “widow” or a “widower”.

“But there is no word to say when a parent loses a child,” the priest said. “And that’s because when a child dies, part of the parent dies with him.”

Justine’s mother, Françoise, and her father, Jawanza, both offered touching praise to their daughter. Justine’s brother, Joseph, and her sister, Jasmine would later go up to the altar to bring the bread and wine for Communion.

Françoise spoke of the “burst” that accompanies the loss of a child and the spiritual call that accompanies it. She compared her daughter’s death to that of Jesus, and said that none died in vain.

“I am ready to fight for the truth for you,” she said, apparently referring to Justine. “I like the truth.”

What exactly happened to Justine on the night of November 10, which allegedly caused her to climb into a trash can on the top floor of her building in College Park, remains largely a mystery. His body was found two days later when a garbage hauler who emptied the dumpster from the Beaver Terrace apartments went to dump his load at a nearby landfill.

Police at State College in Pennsylvania initially did not disclose any details of the incident, before calling the young woman’s death “accidental.” Police say the investigation is ongoing; Françoise Gross said she was not convinced her daughter’s death was a simple accident.

Françoise says she spoke to Justine’s roommates the day after she disappeared. They, in turn, put her in contact by telephone with a man Justine went to see that night and who lived three floors below her on the seventh floor.

According to Françoise, the man told her that he had offered Justine a “blunt”, a cigar filled with marijuana, and that Justine had had a “bad reaction”. Françoise, who arrived at Penn State on Nov. 12 after Justine’s discovery, said police showed her surveillance footage from the hallways of Beaver Terrace that showed her walking unsteadily with a man on the 10th floor, then running alone on the 11th floor. , where she rushes into the room with the trash and is never seen again.

Françoise does not believe that her daughter was a drug addict. In an interview with NJ Advance on Thursday, she wondered why, even though her daughter was in a drug-induced panic, the man who says he gave her the drug didn’t stay with her. She said there were time intervals in the video footage police gathered from the apartment’s surveillance cameras.

“She was found in the dumpster,” Françoise told NJ Advance. “Either thrown in the dumpster in the dumpster, or fell. “

There was no mention of the gruesome details on Saturday at church, just a call to faith and love.

“The most important thing in this tragic time is to pray for Justine and ourselves,” said the priest. “You are surrounded by so many friends and neighbors.”

Our journalism needs your support. Please register today at NJ.com.Richard Cowen can be contacted at [email protected].

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