An overflow crowd jammed St. Bernard Church Friday, as Hope Hartnett was remembered as a girl who loved her community, her family and her friends.
The 13-year-old eighth-grader at John F. Kennedy Middle School died of smoke inhalation during a raging fire at her home on Hassmar Road in the Shaker Pines Lake area of Enfield on Oct. 24.
Nelson Rodriguez, president of the Shaker Pine Lake Association, said, "That little girl was a shining light, not only to that family, but to that lake. She led by example to those kids, and little kids looked up to her."
Fr. John Melnick presided over the funeral service.
"She will always be a valued treasure to her family, her friends, and most importantly, to Almighty God," he said. "We are mindful of Hope's infinite value today, for each and every one of us is unique, is precious, is unrepeatable, and her name is so very significant, for the virtue of hope leads us to strong faith. For hope is the virtue where love is everlasting, and where love can never be extinguished. For our Hope, our love is everlasting, and we're grateful for having known her despite this very brief time. We think of how she was kind and caring, how she was there to keep our spirits up when we were feeling down."
Patrick Hart, Hope's uncle, thanked everyone for their outpouring of support for the family. He also thanked police and firefighters who risked their lives attempting to save his niece.
A fire engine containing several members of the Shaker Pines Fire Department, in full dress uniform, led the procession to St. Patrick's King Street Cemetery.
"Hope loved Shaker Pines Lake - she loved to fish and swim," Hart said. "She was full of life and joy, and always had a song in her heart. She never had a bad word to say about anyone, and she was the first to step up and help her friends and family. I know a lot of the girls are saying they were Hope's best friend, but in reality, her best friend was her big brother Nick, whom she looked up to and adored. They were always inseparable from day one. He was her hero, and she was very proud of him serving in the U.S. Air Force."
He read a quote from his favorite movie, The Wizard of Oz, in which the Wizard says to the Tin Man, "A heart is not judged on how much you love, but on how much you are loved by others."
Hart concluded by reciting a portion of a poem from an unknown author, entitled "If Tears Could Build a Stairway":
No farewell words were spoken, no time to say goodbye.
You were gone before we knew it, only God knows why.
Our hearts still ache in sadness, secret tears still flow.
What it meant to lose you, no one will ever know.