‘We really come together at times like this’: Ryan Realbuto remembered at St. Bonaventure vigil

St. Bonaventure community gathers to remember Ryan Realbuto

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ST. BONAVENTURE, N.Y. — St. Bonaventure University officials say 181 people showed up to a candlelight vigil Thursday evening in memory of Ryan Realbuto, the Pittsford native killed in Washington, D.C. in what police say was a botched robbery.

In fact, they had to add two extra rows to accommodate all the people who came by the vigil at the Doyle Chapel of St. Bonaventure, where Ryan graduated last year. Students and faculty gathered inside the chapel to mourn and pay their respects to Ryan.

With every seat full inside the vigil, Ryan Realbuto’s life was remembered as one of faith, determination and love.

“We really come together at times like this — we celebrate our wins with our sports teams, but we also come together for each other at times of tragedy,” said Andrew Dombek, one of Ryan’s instructors at the university. He said he’ll never forget Ryan’s ambition and eagerness to learn.

“He was always the student who sat in front, always took copious notes, always asked a lot of questions,” Dombek said.

But outside the classroom is where Ryan’s friend Bridget Casey says he shone even brighter.

“He was a loving, kind soul. He would do anything for anyone — didn’t care where you came from kind of thing,” she said.

Casey got to know Ryan through the church choir and said that the attendance at the vigil would be proof of just how many lives Ryan touched.

Realbuto, 23, a 2019 Pittsford-Mendon graduate, was shot and killed while walking back with friends from a youth church event on Jan. 18, in Washington, D.C., where he was volunteering with a Catholic organization. Investigators say two men pulled up in a car asking them for money. A man got out of the car and demanded money from Ryan, and when none was produced he was shot and killed. No arrests have been made.

It was a senseless act of violence that has the close-knit community of students at St. Bonaventure coming together to mourn and remember Ryan.

The St. Bonaventure University campus community took part in a vigil Thursday to remember 2023 graduate Ryan Realbuto of Pittsford. (Photo provided by St. Bonaventure University)

“It shows me how much of an imprint Ryan left on everyone’s lives — everyone that I know is coming to this vigil, and everybody that I talk to, whether they knew him deeply or not, they were all touched by who he was, because he lived the life that we were taught to live on this campus. We have three main values that guide everything that we do and they permeate everything else in the university — wisdom, integrity, and compassion — and Ryan embodied all those,” said St. Bonaventure student Valentina Cossio, a friend of Ryan.

Father Steven Miminaugh says he first met Ryan at the warming house, the student- and faculty-run food kitchen on campus. He says that he’ll never forget Ryan’s determination and willingness to help anybody. He is hopeful the vigil will begin the healing process for many on campus mourning Ryan’s loss.

“Sadly, the tragic death and unforeseen death of a student is one of those opportunities where people, especially our students and faculty and staff, there is just a desire to experience something together and I really think that that is what is the driving force,” he said.

In D.C., Realbuto worked as an active member of the Capuchin Franciscan Volunteer Corps, a Catholic volunteer organization. He was a 2019 graduate of Pittsford-Mendon High School.

Remembering Ryan Realbuto

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Friends at St. Bonaventure remember Ryan Realbuto

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