The Crescenta Valley community turned out en masse Wednesday to celebrate the life of a boy that family members described as a doting brother, an outdoor enthusiast and a champion of the marginalized.
"He always wanted to take care of the underdogs, the ones that were kind of left behind," Cindi Rivas said of her nephew, Drew Ferraro, who authorities say committed suicide last week by jumping off a three-story building during lunch period at Crescenta Valley High School. "He would go over there and make himself one of them just because he didn't want them to feel uncomfortable."
The standing-room only crowd at Our Lady of Lourdes Church in Tujunga included hundreds of students and staff from Crescenta Valley High, where the 15-year-old was a sophomore, as well as dozens of officers from the Los Angeles Police Department North Hollywood Division, where his father works.
Drew was born without fear, his parents and two sisters said in an eulogy that was read by Montrose Church Pastor Gabby Leon, and by the age of 5 had withstood more staples and stitches than most adults.
He was sneaky and loved to scare people just like his dad, they said. He was also sarcastic and always ribbing those closest to him. They recounted a more recent stunt in which Drew stripped naked, wrapped himself in bubble wrap and ran down the street.
"For those not fortunate enough to know his laugh, it is a tragedy," his family said. "He had one of those laughs that made a person laugh even louder. It was infectious and wonderful. Drew's giggle was the most fantastic ever, it could bring a smile to anyone."
Although a proud heavy-metal music fan — his favorite band was Slipknot — Drew also indulged in a country song now and again, family members said. He loved snow skiing and paint ball, and regularly joined family and friends on boating trips to Buena Vista Lake and the Colorado River.
The teenager could be seen on any given day sporting a fedora, aviator glasses and his beloved Converse sneakers, they said. He was incredibly sensitive to the feelings of others.
"He was a really good judge of character," his family said. "He was good at sensing when people were hurting and needing someone to talk to."
The 90-minute service included a slide show of photos from Drew's life.
Members of the extended Ferraro family said that they have been overwhelmed by the outpouring of support in the wake of Drew's death.
"We couldn't live in a better community," said Drew's aunt, Kathlene Ferraro Francis. "I can't tell you how grateful we all are. We haven't wanted for anything."
Left unanswered has been what may have prompted the affable, caring Drew described by family and friends to jump to his death.
Glendale Unified and law enforcement officials have denied that bullying played a role in Drew's suicide, but it is a question that has been raised repeatedly during the last six days, perhaps most poignantly at the funeral Wednesday.
On the back of the program distributed to the audience was a picture of Drew, and the message "zero tolerance for bullying." It included links and telephone numbers to anti-bullying organizations. Small cards and blue rubber bracelets with a similar message were also handed out.
"We know what the officials are saying, but no one has asked us," Ferraro Francis said in reference to the back of the program.
She declined to elaborate, but said that the family intends to speak publicly on the issue soon.
For now, she and others said, they want Drew to be remembered as the wonderful boy he was.
"He was the light of his mother's life, and she will miss him dearly," his parents and sisters said in their eulogy. "His entire family will."