NORWALK, Conn. A common theme was struck Friday during the funeral for a young Norwalk man who died last week after being hit by two cars: it's not the number of years a person lives but the impact that person has on others.
It's clear that James "Kuta" Shaw, 21, had an impact, as it was standing room only at First Congregational Church of Norwalk, which has a capacity of 600, according to an usher.
Shaw was killed Dec. 23 when he was struck by two cars while running across the Route 7 connector just before 1 a.m. He was a 2008 graduate of Brien McMahon High School, where he played football, lacrosse and basketball.
Local leaders stood at the front of the church Friday. The Revs. James Ingraham, Nellie Mann and Carleton Giles, a Norwalk Police community policing officer, were among those offering their support to the family. The Rev. Roosevelt Ewell officiated, welcoming the crowd to "celebrate the life of Kuta, all that he meant to each one of us, how we affected us in his various ways."
Louis DeRosa, a contemporary of Shaw's, remembered him as "a true friend" and recalled their adventures together, bringing hearty laughter to the crowd. "Me and him, we just did crazy stuff," he said, after telling a story that involved a high school fashion show where they pulled off the outrageous clothes they had bought.
DeRosa said he would avoid clichés like "one of a kind," and "light up a room when he walks in."
"He had that energy, where it didn't matter if you grew up in the hood, if you grew up in the suburbs, Rowayton, whatever Kuta, he just clicked with people," he said.
He was followed by the Rev. James Carter, executive director of the Norwalk Children's Foundation.
"His nature had a way of bringing many people together from all walks of life," Carter said. "It was his spirit that propelled many people to want to make a difference, not only in his life but also in the lives of many different people living in Norwalk."
Carter said Shaw was enrolled in mentoring programs while he was a student at West Rocks Middle School and touched the hearts of people from New Canaan, who felt that he was "somebody special." They brought the "I Have a Dream Program" to Norwalk.
"It's now going on seven years, and as a result of James' personal power, several million dollars have been given to help young people in Norwalk," Carter said. "Had it not been for James, the Norwalk Children's Foundation, which I am executive director of, would not exist. Last year alone we gave more than $1 million to the Norwalk school district.
"James' life was tragically short, but his impact on those who supported him was huge, and he played a major role in their determination to do more for the children and youth of Norwalk," he said. "So when we see some of the young people who are going to college now and who have gotten scholarships, it's a direct result of James."
Giles called upon Jesus Christ during his comments. "Today we bless your name for the impact (Shaw) had on all of us through his life, through his love, through his laughter, through his athleticism on the football field, on the lacrosse field, and his various endeavors he did at Brien McMahon and in college," he said.
"Oh, God, if you would keep us ... that we too might try to make an impact on humanity. It is not in the number of years we have lived but on the way we impact people."
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