Saturday evening, Zachary Zarbo was immersed in something that he loved -- singing in the Grand Island High School Concert Choir. The group had performed in front of an audience during the New York State School Boards Association's convention in Buffalo.
Sunday morning, Zachary's mother tried to wake him so that he could participate in another one of his passions, Bible study, but he didn't get up. Zachary, 16, a passionate artist who was active in the student theater group and choirs, had died unexpectedly at home. The death of the Grand Island High School junior sent shock waves and grief throughout the school and community.
"Zach is going to be missed," said Principal James Dempsey. "He was a first-class individual who was well-liked and well-respected by students, faculty and staff. May he rest in peace."
Dempsey said grief counselors have been at the school all week to help students deal with the loss. More than 1,100 people attended Zachary's wake Wednesday in Kaiser Funeral Home, with many of them waiting more than an hour in a line that stretched a block. Trinity Methodist Church also was full Thursday during his funeral.
"It's unbelievable how many people he touched," said Debbie Zarbo, Zachary's mother.
Zachary was born in Buffalo General Hospital and raised on Grand Island. He had attended William Kaegebein Elementary School and Veronica E. Connor Middle School. During those years, he was interested primarily in athletics, playing baseball, hockey, soccer, running cross country and swimming.
He discovered his love of the arts in high school.
"He was such a sweet kid, so nice to everybody," his mother said. "Out of all of our boys, he marched to the beat of his own drum. The other boys are into sports, but Zach pursued the arts."
Zachary was the vice president of the Spotlighters, a student theater group. He was to play the character "George" in the group's upcoming production of "Go Ask Alice," which will be performed Nov. 19 and 20. He was a singer and had recently started taking piano lessons. He was a member of three student choirs -- concert, jazz and Madrigal. Eighty choir members sang at his funeral.
Zachary also soared academically. He was an honor roll fixture and was taking Advanced Placement courses in English and U.S. history. He was a past member of AWANA Bible Club.
Besides his mother, he is survived by his father, Mark T.; three brothers, Mark Thomas, Matthew and Joey; and his grandparents, Robert and Joyce LoTempio of Webster, and Thomas and Elisabeth Zarbo of Grand Island.
Burial was in White Haven Cemetery, Grand Island.