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Family of Zachary Marr reflects on his death

The father of Zachary Marr, Matthew Marr, became emotional as he spoke to the media at a press conference at the police station in Harvard.
The father of Zachary Marr, Matthew Marr, became emotional as he spoke to the media at a press conference at the police station in Harvard. John Tlumacki/Globe Staff

HARVARD — Ten relatives of Zachary Marr filed into a conference room Wednesday afternoon at the local police station, some sobbing quietly as the young man’s father stepped forward to speak about the grim discovery of Marr’s body in the Charles River.

Matthew Marr described the mixture of heartbreak and relief that attended confirmation of the fate of his 22-year-old son, who disappeared in Boston last month while celebrating his birthday with cousins.

“Although it is not the outcome that we were praying for, we are grateful that Zach is coming home,” Matthew Marr said.

The search began with friends, family, and police canvassing Boston streets and distributing fliers after Marr disappeared from the Bell in Hand Tavern early Feb. 13 without his coat. But in recent weeks, the case had focused on the Charles.

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Police said a surveillance video appeared to show Marr falling into the river, but aquatic teams searched the water for days and turned up nothing. Finally, two passersby spotted him in the water about 5:45 p.m. Tuesday.

A day later, Matthew Marr urged anyone listening to be aware of the dangers of hypothermia.

Though investigators have not arrived at an explanation for how Marr wound up in the river, it was extremely cold the night he disappeared.

Jake Wark, a spokesman for the Suffolk district attorney’s office, said preliminary evidence does not suggest violent trauma or foul play.

“While the medical examiner has not yet opined as to a cause or manner of death, the preliminary evidence is consistent with a fall into very cold water,” Wark said.

Matthew Marr said the tragic episode should underscore the need for family members to cherish every bit of time they have together.

“A missing child is every parent’s worst nightmare. I understand children and young adults have to live their lives in order to learn and grow,” he said.

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“I believe we should teach our children and ourselves to enjoy life and live it to the fullest every day, with love and humor, because you never know how quickly it can change.”

Marr’s disappearance was trying for Harvard, a Worcester County community of 6,500 where the young man was well known.

“In a small town like this, everybody tends to band together when something like this happens,” said Harvard Police Chief Edward D. Denmark, who helped Marr’s family organize a news conference at the station to discuss the death.

Down the road at Harvard General Store, at least three people stopped owner Scott Hayward to ask if he’d seen the news.

Marr, like many young people in town, had worked at the store on Harvard common. He left about a year ago, Hayward recalled, so he could pick up more hours at his night job while continuing his college education.

Marr was good at his job making sandwiches and other dishes at the upscale country store. He got along with everybody, smiling and joking despite the demands on his time. Hayward tried to keep him, but the schedule didn’t work out.

Marr was a student at Mount Wachusett Community College and a full-time employee at Quiet Logistics, which helps fulfill shipping orders for high-end brands.

Like his patrons, Hayward is mourning the loss of Marr.

“You’re just shocked by the whole thing,” he said. “There’s this really nice kid, and bad things happen to good people.”

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Unidentified family members wept during the press conference in Harvard.
Unidentified family members wept during the press conference in Harvard.John Tlumacki/Globe Staff/Globe Staff

Andy Rosen can be reached at andrew.rosen@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter at @andyrosen.