BROOKLINE — Hundreds of mourners squeezed into the Stanetsky Memorial Chapel Monday to say goodbye to 17-year-old Roee Grutman, a Newton South High School junior who was remembered for his big brown eyes, ever-present smile, and a genuine kindness his older brother said came to him “so naturally.”
In an emotional service conducted in English and Hebrew, members of his immediate and extended family, friends, and his high school calculus teacher spoke about the teenager who had said he wanted to study medicine.
“Something special about Roee was that he could be himself all the time; he never had to change to make people like him,” said a friend who spoke without identifying himself. “He was compassionate, friendly. . . . Everyone loved to be around him.”
Grutman’s family has said that he took his own life, say Newton school officials. With his death Thursday, he became the third Newton teenager to have died by suicide since October.
At a community forum at 7 p.m. Tuesday night in the Newton South High School Auditorium, city officials and mental health professionals will share information about talking to children about suicide, and discuss ways to support children and adults through tragic events.
David Fleishman, superintendent of schools, said the forum will include an opportunity for parents to separate into small groups to speak with school administrators, counselors, and mental health professionals.
In addition, parents will hear how the city, on a broader basis, is preparing to deal with the issue.
One after another, the speakers at Monday’s service told of a young man who lit up a room when he walked in, and despite his schedule busy with honors classes and sports, always had time for a friend.
One speaker told of talking to one of Grutman’s high school friends who said Roee had been there for him in his toughest hour.
“And thereafter, the stories just poured in from all directions,” the speaker said. “Roee was the one noticing everyone, befriending everyone, including everyone.”
The service for Grutman was filled with row after row of teenagers, and several teachers from Newton South. Although the service was streamed over the Internet, Fleishman said it was not shown at the high school.
Math teacher Tom Lee said that as a junior Grutman was taking the most advanced calculus class the school offers.
But his intellect is not what Lee said he and Grutman’s classmates will remember about the gifted student.
“It was his smile and kindness,” said Lee.
Lee said he sometimes worries about the pressure on some of his students taking rigorous course loads, but said that he never worried about Grutman.
“[We] count ourselves blessed to have been in the presence of our intelligent, kind, and energetic friend.”
Grutman’s family spoke passionately about their love for their son and brother, with his father saying, “we are in such shocking pain we can hardly speak.”
His younger sisters spoke, with one calling Roee “my brother, my friend, my wise one.”
His older brother Tal Grutman said that when he was younger, Roee would copy everything he did. But as they got older and Tal moved overseas, he realized the little brother was no longer in his big brother’s shadow.
“I knew Roee would one day surpass me in everything he did,’’ he said. “His work ethic has been my own motivation for a long time.”
“The most amazing thing,” Roee’s mother, Galit Grutman, said after the service, “is that every single kid there thought they were his best friend.”
In a statement released after the service, Grutman’s parents talked about his compassion for others, and how he wanted to start a tutoring service to raise money for people in need. They hope to make his plans come true.
“He wanted to change the world— that’s what he said to us recently — so we are going to do it for him with all the inspiration from him,” the statement said.
“There were so many people from the community that came together today in honor of Roee. Relatives and friends, young and old, American and Israelis, religious and nonreligious all sharing one common theme of how . . . a single individual can touch so many lives in his short seventeen years. It was heartwarming and sad at the same time.”