AMHERST — Dozens of friends, family and community members gathered together on the town green on Friday night to light candles in memory of Josh Savyon, a fourth-grader who was killed by his father in a murder-suicide last Sunday.
During a supervised visit at the YWCA in Manchester, Muni Savyon, 54, shot and killed his son, Josh, 9, before turning the gun on himself.
The community of Amherst, where Josh lived with his mother, Becky Kendall Ranes, and his stepfather Ben Ranes, has been reeling since the shooting. The candlelight vigil was organized to give people a place to share their grief and remember Josh, said organizer Mike Costolo.
"Amherst is a tight community, not just people who share a zip code," said Costolo. "The idea for the vigil started on Facebook and just grew from there. More than 50 people jumped in to help."
Candles, donated by the Amherst WalMart and the local Boy Scouts, were lit in memory of Josh, who was preparing to start fourth grade at Wilkins School.
Principal Gerry St. Amand, who addressed the crowd, said the boy was looking forward to the new year with the teacher he really wanted, Mr. Wright. St. Amand told the story of how Josh campaigned to get into Mr. Wright's class, talking to other staff and St. Amand as well about his desire to have a man for teacher.
Josh's wish came true by luck of the draw, said St. Amand, but the boy only got to spend one day with Mr. Wright at the end of the last school year.
"He meant so much to all of us at Clark-Wilkins," said St. Amand. "We are not used to losing children the way we lost Josh. He will always live in our memories."
The past week has been difficult for friends and classmates of Josh as their parents grappled with telling their children about the tragedy.
"Every now and then, he just bursts into tears," said Cherina Cohen, whose son Malachi was friends with Josh.
"You always see these things on the news," said Cohen, whose husband Jay led Josh's Cub Scout pack, "but when it's a community tragedy like this, it hits home a lot harder."
Town Adminstrator Jim O'Mara told the gathering that though the events that occurred last Sunday can't be changed, his friends and family should, "Cherish and hold dear those times you got to spend with Josh."
The boy's step-grandmother, Sharon Kendall, tearfully expressed gratitude for the public support, and family member Martha Hongisto recalled the smile that Josh always wore.
"He just took such joy out of so many different things," she said. "It was just fun to watch him."