Appreciation for William "Billy" Zimmermann, just a few weeks shy of his 20th birthday, along with support for his family in Bernards Township, were offered by the hundreds of mourners who attended his funeral Mass on Tuesday morning at St. James R.C. Church.
Family members and local friends crowded into the church in downtown Basking Ridge alongside supporters from the overlapping school communities that had been part of Zimmermann's life, including supporters from Villanova University, Seton Hall Prep and township schools thanked by his father.
Zimmermann was a sophomore at Villanova University in Pa., and had been on a spring break trip to Mexico when he was killed last Thursday in a car accident that also injured four other Villanova students, according to reports.
His father, Bud Zimmermann, said the tragedy was a reminder that parents should remember to hug their children, "and I know why."
"I gave Billy a big hug when I dropped him off at the airport, and... when I put him on the plane," he said of his son.
In his eulogy, Zimmermann also thanked the many friends and family members for their presence, including those from Villanova, his own alma mater, Seton Hall Prepatory School in West Orange, from which William Zimmermann had graduated in 2011, and from township schools, including the Oak Street School, Ridge High School and others.
"We could not be able to do this without you," Zimmermann told those who have been offering the family support now, and for the future.
Sue Zimmermann is mother to Billy and his five siblings, Meghan, Kaitlin, Shannon, Shawn and Brian, according to a brief publication celebrating "the life of Billy Zimmerman." The vestibule of the church also was decorated with many photographs and mementos of the family's times together and their son's involvement in sports starting when he was a child.
"Growing up in a house with six kids, there was always something going on...something with a ball," Bud Zimmermann said.
More information on Billy Zimmermann's many sports accomplishments is included in obituary information.
Bud Zimmerman recalled a few of the joyful moments spent with his son, whom he said had shared a special bond with each member of the family.
Zimmermann also remembered how happy he was when his son chose to attend Villanova, and how he had recently visited his son at the school. He said that Billy had introduced him to about 30 other students he described as "one of my best friends."
Zimmermann said he had his son for 20 years. "I wouldn't trade that for anything."
The homily and gospel for the Mass were delivered by Msgr. Michael Kelly, who said he had written a letter of recommendation to Villanova on Zimmermann's behalf.
Kelly noted that for some in the church, the experience of losing a vibrant young friend might be the first such loss in their lives.
The family left notecards in the vestibule asking friends and family to share memories or stories about their son and brother. Friends also may send memories to firstname.lastname@example.org.
In lieu of flowers a scholarship has been established in memory of Billy Zimmermann at Seton Hall Prep. Please send donations to Seton Hall Prep, 120 Northfield Ave, West Orange, NJ, 07052 in memory of Billy Zimmermann, Class of 2011, according to obituary information.