Martha Corey-Ochoa's funeral draws memories, tears

Family and former classmates gather and console each

Family and former classmates gather and console each other at Immaculate Conception Church in Irvington for the funeral of Martha Corey-Ochoa, 18, who died after falling from her 14th floor dorm room at Columbia University. (Sept. 1, 2012) (Credit: John Meore)

On summer's final Saturday, dozens of black-clad students hugged and wept as they arrived at an Irvington church to say goodbye to Martha Corey-Ochoa, the Dobbs Ferry High School valedictorian who fell from a 14th floor dormitory at Columbia University Monday night.

About 150 people gathered in Immaculate Conception Church's airy, modern pale brick chapel.

The 18-year-old's parents each eulogized their daughter separately and offered readings from the scripture.

"She was smart, beautiful and kind," said father George. "She was like a supernova that shines brilliantly but briefly and then goes out. She has gone out and the light has gone out of my life."

He said that from the time she was very small, they would bat around ideas during her bedtime about philosophy and theology.

"The best thing about Martha was her goodness. She was conscientious, kind, thoughtful."

Mother Melissa remembered her daughter as gentle, intense.

"Not like a child but like an old soul who read at 3 and started Shakespeare before she had become a teen. ... Hamlet's tragic fall was a guidepost."

Corey-Ochoa was destined for greatness had she lived, her mother said.

"In all things, Martha sought greatness, be it through her writing, her thinking or her ultimate fall from a tall building at Columbia University. But more than that, I see the greatness of Martha in her largesse to a world that was often either too big or too small for her.

"And I see her greatness in the light of her feelings and ideas which she shared with the world. May this light, Martha's light, go with you for the rest of your journeys. That is Martha's legacy."

Father Roy Chettany said Corey-Ochoa is now with the saints and angels.

"We have every reason to be happy for the soul of Martha, a soul that is in heaven that will never come back because of the joy of being in the presence of God."

And to Corey-Ochoa's parents: "Be proud of your daughter. The family of Immaculate Conception Church is indebted to her."

Classmate Suzanna Halatyn returned home from Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster, Pa., to attend the service.

"I think the funeral was reassuring to me because everybody came together in support and it made me feel more like a family," said Halatyn, who sat with her parents at the service, hugging her mother as she wept.

Family friend Mary Case Friedner of Tarrytown said she keeps photos of Corey-Ochoa through her too-brief years, photos sent by her parents Melinda and George for the holidays.

"I'm just grief-stricken, heartbroken, just staggered by this, poor family," she said. "They're special people."

Corey-Ochoa was set to begin her freshman year of college when she jumped from the 14th-floor window of her Manhattan dorm room. She was a violinist, an involved and hardworking student and valedictorian of her class, friends and family said. Her suicide shocked people who knew her.

"She really was brilliant, one of the brightest students in Dobbs in a very long time," friend and classmate Marty Ascher, 18, told Newsday on Thursday. "She could have gone on to do great things in so many different areas. It's just a shock and a huge loss for the entire Dobbs community."

Corey-Ochoa attended elementary, middle and high school in the Dobbs Ferry district. She took rigorous courses and worked on independent projects, including a political romance novel set in the 17th century and a sonata for violin, officials said.

In her valedictory speech, Corey-Ochoa talked about love, referencing physics and mathematics principles as well as history and literature.

"May the love that has united us for these four years endure within us and around us for the rest of our lives," she told her classmates.

Corey-Ochoa's parents have asked that contributions in their daughter's memory be made to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

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