More than 400 people came to Orchard Park Saturday to bury Scott S. Krueger, a young scholar and athlete who died from too much drinking at a college fraternity party.
Friends, neighbors, teachers and classmates joined the Krueger family in an emotional service in St. John's Lutheran Church, remembering a young man whose death last week focused national attention on the issue of underage drinking.
At 18, Krueger died much too soon. But hopefully, he didn't die in vain, said the Rev. Dennis Conrad, St. John's pastor and a close family friend.
"Scott didn't have to die in vain. Our mission needs to be ending these alcohol tragedies on campuses," Mr. Conrad said. "Scott was killed by a system that is supposed to educate but which also funnels young freshmen into fraternities, which build brotherhood and manhood partially by the consumption of alcohol. People abuse people, and alcohol abuses our youth.
"Never again can a young man or woman go off to college as a scholar and come home in a box."
The Krueger family asked the news media not to quote anything that was said during the funeral, but Mr. Conrad read portions of his sermon during an interview afterward. The pastor grew angry when he discussed the senseless nature of Krueger's death.
He and others who attended the service said they hope Krueger's death -- and other recent campus incidents -- will prompt colleges and universities to take strong action to prevent underage drinking.
"I hope it makes kids think more about it, too," said Norm Marshall Jr., 13, a friend of the Kruegers. "It's the only good thing that could come out of this."
Krueger, described by friends as a fun-loving "math genius," died Monday, two days after he lapsed into a coma after a drinking party at a Massachusetts Institute of Technology fraternity house. His blood-alcohol level reached 0.41 percent, five times higher than the legal limit for drivers in Massachusetts. Police in Boston, Mass., are investigating the circumstances of the death.
Mr. Conrad said the death, and its resulting publicity, have been extremely hard on Krueger's close-knit family -- his parents, Darlene and Robert, his brother, Jeff, and sisters Kelly and Katie.
"They are having many emotions right now . . . enough to fill a whole boat," Mr. Conrad said. "There's a lot of anger at the system and at the news media. They're drawing strength from each other and from the Lord."
Mrs. Krueger said the family is not giving interviews because "we're just too horrified right now."
The mourners who attended Saturday's service were described by church officials as perhaps the largest crowd in the 27-year history of St. John's Lutheran.
The church overflowed, with people standing in the aisles and the balcony. A closed-circuit television system was set up to allow other mourners to watch the service in the basement, which was also packed.
Halfway through the service, a busload of students from MIT arrived, adding to the crowded conditions.
Afterward, the mourners walked in silence, following the hearse for several blocks up South Buffalo Street to a brief graveside ceremony at Woodlawn Cemetery. Standing with their heads bowed on a beautiful sun-splashed fall day, many wiped away tears.
Among the hundreds who came to pay their respects were County Executive Gorski and Orchard Park Supervisor Dennis J. Mill.
"I hope and think we will see colleges take some action on this problem," said Mill as he walked out of the cemetery. "We can't just ignore it. We can't take the attitude that, because some of us drank when we were young, we're going to let our kids make the same mistake."
"There are already laws on the books against underage drinking," said Gorski. "It's really a question of changing society's attitudes."
In Massachusetts, Krueger's death has already led MIT to overhaul its policies involving student housing and drinking. The state's acting governor, Paul Cellucci, has called on every college in the state to crack down on underage drinking.
Friends recalled Krueger as a funny and hard-working young man who always found time to help others with their problems. They said he loved mathematics and was among the brightest math students to graduate from Orchard Park High School in recent years. He was also a student leader and an athlete who won letters in wrestling, soccer and lacrosse.
Krueger also was deeply devoted to his faith, Mr. Conrad said.
"He was not a big religious crusader. He was quiet about it but he had strong beliefs," Mr. Conrad said. "I did not find this out until after Scott died, but he would read the Bible every night before he went to bed.
"Through Christ, Scott is already in heaven. Despite all the tragedy and pain, we're looking to the cross of Jesus Christ. . . . Scott knew Jesus very well."