For one last time, Bradley D’Oyley brought SUNY Buffalo State basketball fans, friends and loved ones to their feet in a roar of applause.
“Ladies and gentlemen, Bradley D’Oyley!” cried out Tom Koller with all the enthusiasm of a professional sports announcer.
The applause turned into a standing ovation and it was as though D’Oyley was once again with them, even though he had died a week ago from a mysterious illness. The beauty of the moment put aside concerns that the Brooklyn native’s death might have been the result of an off-campus fraternity hazing prank, though police have found no evidence to support foul play.
More than 350 mourners were transformed into spectators in the college’s Houston Gym on Wednesday afternoon, acknowledging the young man’s life and perhaps his greatest strength, the ability to bring joy to others, whether it was on the Bengals basketball team or as the “Dance Hall King” in the Caribbean Students Organization.
In an inspired moment, Koller, the college’s senior associate director of athletics, had let himself go, urging everyone to pretend they were welcoming D’Oyley onto the court one last time as part of the Bengals’ starting lineup.
Moments later, when the service concluded, no one appeared eager to leave. How could they leave? D’Oyley’s bigger-than-life spirit had warmed their hearts on a day when a cold, heavy rain poured from the heavens as they gathered to grieve and celebrate his life.
So moved was one of D’Oyley’s brothers that he went up to the lectern.
“This basically proved what we already knew, that he was in good hands,” Gavin Sandiford said.
There were other moments.
Like when Fajri Ansari, head coach of men’s basketball, recalled putting the team through an intense workout and D’Oyley wryly saying, “Hey, coach, that was fun.” Ansari, amused, said he responded, “Well, we could do that again.”
D’Oyley’s own words, taken from a social media post, also filled the gymnasium as a college administrator spoke them.
“… The one thing everyone knows is I’m generally a caring person and would do anything to help someone. And that’s just something GOD blessed me with. Thank you everyone who showed me love today. …”
He had written those words last year when he turned 21 and reading them aloud was Yanick H. Jenkins, director of the college’s educational opportunity program. She urged his friends not to lose heart.
“It’s up to you to work hard and finish your time at Buff State, move out, move on, move forward. You now carry his spirit, his legacy, and he wants you to live as he did enjoying and relishing every single moment,” Jenkins said.
Before reading a poem, college President Katherine Conway-Turner assured everyone D’Oyley would live on in the halls, basketball courts and common areas of his “beloved Buffalo State.”
The poem, in part, asked:
“Did we remember to thank-you enough for all you have done for us,
“For all the times you were by our sides to help and support us. …
“If we have forgotten to show our gratitude enough for all the things you did,
“We’re thanking you now. And we are hoping you knew all along how much you meant to us.”
As the mourners finally trickled away, amid tears and hugs, the heavy rains outside had stopped, at least for awhile.