If you can judge a man’s fortune by his friends, Pierre Zakrzewski was indeed a lucky man: such was the number, variety and sincerity of those gathered to bid him their final farewell. But maybe this was more causal than coincidence. Pierre did not just attract interesting, interested and passionate people: his friendship with them helped make them that way.
With a funeral mass and ceremony which were dignified and beautiful, but with a suitable soupçon of irreverence, like the man himself, the Zakrzewskis remembered their son, brother and uncle with a few prayers and readings and many tales. For our part, the St. Conleth’s community rallied around as we always do, a testament to the life-long nature of being a Conlethian, but this time with an unprecedented intensity of both grief and joy. In particular, Ronan O’Kelly, Stephen O’Dea, Mick Heaney and the rest of the Class of 1984 did the school and Pierre’s legacy proud.
The almost equally legendary (and with a good bit more than a soupçon of irreverence) Ronan ‘Hingo’ Hingerty spoke for all Conlethians when he joined Pierre’s brother Stas and his colleague Tim Santhouse in trying to capture the outsized humanity and humour of the man. Hingo channelled the spirit of Pierre and rose to new rhetorical heights, somehow referencing both Mr. Kelleher and Borat in his reminiscence. Of course, there was also true and raw emotion, and all three speakers acknowledged the tragedy and the loss that are present in this story, too. But as you can see from the eyes and the smile below, Pierre demands a celebration not a dirge, and he got one for the ages, as the memories and stories continued to be told long into the night. Rarely has one photo captured the light, warmth and humour of a man so well. The Class of 1984 will leave one chair empty at their gatherings in the years to come, but the story of Pierre will always be told, with a few tears and many smiles.