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PITTSBURGH — Maddox Derkosh, riding in the car with his mother a few weeks ago, looked up at St. Bernard Church in Mt. Lebanon through his trademark glasses.
Most people would just see a building, but Maddox saw a collection of sand castles.
“There is nothing quite like the eyes of a child — so full of life and aglow with awe and wonder,” said the Rev. David Bonnar, the church’s pastor.
His eyes were one of Maddox’s most distinguishing features, Father Bonnar said in his homily at a funeral Mass on Friday.
“In his short life, he saw so much with those eyes,” he said.
The way Maddox looked at the world — and the way he could light up a room — will be the 2-year-old’s legacy, he said.
Friday morning, hundreds of people gathered within that castle, where Maddox was baptized and where his parents, Jason and Elizabeth Derkosh of Whitehall, Pa., were married, to say their good-byes to Maddox, who died at the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium Sunday.
The little boy was visiting the zoo with his mother when he fell into the African painted dog exhibit and was mauled.
The Derkoshes held each other as they followed their son’s casket up the center aisle of the church, trailed by a few dozen other family members and friends.
The church seats 800 people, and most of the seats were filled.
Father Bonnar, the only person to deliver remarks during the 80-minute funeral, has been a priest for nearly 25 years, but he said he had “never experienced such a heart-wrenching moment.”
Yet, he said, also unmatched in his quarter-century as a Catholic priest is the outpouring of support he has seen expressed toward the Derkosh family, especially in the thousands who have responded to their request for donations of toy trucks.
In life, Maddox was captivated by the bigness of trucks, Father Bonnar said, and even as they experience “unspeakable suffering and pain,” Jason and Elizabeth Derkosh thought of other children by asking for donations of trucks.
The trucks have arrived by the thousands, delivered to St. Bernard Church and to William Slater II Funeral Service in Scott in memory of Maddox. The bed of a pickup parked just outside the entrance of St. Bernard Church Friday overflowed with the toys, which will be donated to a children’s Christmas charity.
Block News Alliance consists of The Blade and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Kaitlynn Riely is a reporter for the Post-Gazette.
Contact Kaitlynn Riely at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1707.