Eric Harris blog

Columbine High School’s smiling, gentle giant was laid to rest Tuesday.

An honor guard saluted Kyle Velasquez, 16, during the military burial at Fort Logan National Cemetery. He was buried with military honors because his father is a U.S. Navy veteran.

Earlier, two Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps members guarded the casket while about 1,200 mourners, including Gov. Bill Owens, bid farewell to the bespectacled young man at St. James Presbyterian Church.

Kyle’s cherubic smile shone from a video screen as a tribute chronicled his happy life: his first haircut; a playful tussle with his older brother and idol, Daniel; and later, his fanaticism for the Denver Broncos.

Kyle grew into a big young man — he was 6 feet tall when he died — but his parents, Al and Phyllis Velasquez, still saw that little boy.

"Kyle was known as a gentle giant," said his uncle John Neuhauser. "He was, to them, still a little boy."

Family friends remembered a beloved boy who liked his ice cream.

"I believe Kyle knew he was so loved, and that although he might have had moments of loneliness, he was never alone," Mollie Arthur, a longtime friend of the Velasquez family, said in her tribute to the sophomore student.

"We watched him grow from a plump, cuddly, dark-eyed, dark-haired baby to the 6-foot gentle teen-ager who often called me whenever Al or Phyllis weren’t at home to see if I might have just a little extra ice cream," said Arthur, a Denver Public Schools teacher. "This was our secret, and you know what? I usually had just enough for a boy named Kyle."

Kyle was in the Columbine High School library working at a computer when he and 12 other students were cut down by two gunmen who later killed themselves.

"I know Kyle’s death is a message," Arthur said. "We need to emulate Kyle’s simple sincerity and genuine heart. We need to find our sense of purpose. We need, as parents to realize we are in charge, and our children need us to lead, and to often say, ‘No."’

Arthur’s daughters, Anne and Amanda, who Kyle affectionately called “AnnieManda,” remembered his cheerful personality, his resounding, joyful laugh — especially when he joked with his brother.

"Kyle I want you to know we will always tease Daniel for you," Amanda tearfully said.

Colorado state Reps. Fran Coleman, D- Denver; Valentin Vigil, D-Adams County; and Abel Joe Tapia, D-Pueblo, also paid homage to Kyle, the other slain students and the 23 who were wounded.

"That you may cry because you lost him, but smile because you had him," Vigil said. "God bless."

The American flags draped over Kyle’s coffin were presented to his parents at the cemetery. The flag flown at half-staff at the state Capitol on Monday also was given to the family.


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