Family, friends, teammates, and well-wishers gathered on Wednesday morning to celebrate the life of Grace Rett, a Holy Cross rower who had turned 20 last week. A day after her birthday, Rett was killed in a car accident in Vero Beach, Fla., where her rowing team had traveled for a week of winter training.
Mourners flooded into St. Mary’s Church in Uxbridge, Rett’s hometown, joining a line out the door before the service began. The crowd was so large that some had to watch the ceremony from a screen in a separate room, one attendee said. Holy Cross buses and cars lined the streets near the church.
“We have been blessed beyond measure to have had Grace Mason Rett in our lives for twenty years,” the family wrote in the program. “We would never have been able to get through these past days without the incredible love that has been shown us.” A single purple balloon was tied to the front steps of the stone church.
A sign outside echoed a Bible verse that Rett had tattooed on her arm: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Rett, who attended Catholic middle and high school before Holy Cross, was deeply religious and attended Bible study each week, according to an obituary written by her family.
Of the dozen other people injured in last week’s crash, one remained in the hospital in Florida, according to Tiffany Woods, a spokeswoman for Lawnwood Regional Medical Center, where the survivors of the crash have been treated. That person, a Holy Cross student, remains in critical condition.
On Monday, Hannah Strom, a Holy Cross sophomore from Marion who was also injured in the crash, was airlifted from Lawnwood to Mass General in Boston “to continue her recovery,” the college said.
The crash devastated communities from Boston to Vero Beach, where a vigil for Rett was held on Sunday.
The family had asked that funeral attendees wear “the school/team colors or uniforms that they held in common with Grace. She would want all who attend to be comfortable and spirited.” Many of those at Wednesday’s Mass wore Holy Cross purple shirts and sweatshirts.
Grace’s younger sister, Brianne, spoke at the funeral, describing her as “loving and so caring,” said Theresa Trettel, 18, after the service. Trettel attended middle school with the Rett sisters.
“She looked up to her sister so much,” Trettel said of Brianne. Rett’s mother, Mary Jo, sang a hymn at the service, Trettel said.
Outside the church, mourners lined both sides of the sidewalk after the service, gripping each other as pallbearers carried Rett’s coffin to a waiting hearse. Rett’s mother wore a purple Holy Cross T-shirt, and Brianne held a bouquet of flowers.
Strains of “This Little Heart of Mine,” sung by the Holy Cross Chapel Choir, floated out the church doors. After the family drove away, members of the Holy Cross rowing team, in purple shoes and shirts, walked two by two to the waiting bus, and church bells rang into the silence.