Throngs of mourners attend funeral for slain Warwick High School graduate

| 15 Feb 2012 | 11:28

In his life and in his death, Kevin Kless draws community together WARWICK — On Saturday, Jan. 21, throngs of mourners braved the very first snow storm of the season filling Warwick’s United Methodist Church to capacity. They were there to attend a funeral service for Kevin Kless, 23, the son of John Kless of Highland Falls and Kendall Kless of Warwick. The previous day approximately 1,000 people, waiting on long lines, had offered their condolences at a viewing held in Warwick’s Lazear-Smith funeral home. Many had traveled thousands of miles from as far away as California and in one case from Australia. It was a testimony of the outpouring of love and affection that relatives and friends felt for the young man, a 2006 graduate of Warwick Valley High School, who was senselessly beaten to death on the streets of Philadelphia. Kless, who recently graduated from Temple University, had been living and working in Philadelphia when on Jan. 14, at approximately 2:30 a.m., he, his girlfriend, and another female friend were hailing a taxicab. They had just left a local restaurant and lounge in the city’s historic district. Investigators reported that Kless had flagged one cab whose lights were on, signaling it was free. The driver, however, refused the fare and Kless shouted to him angrily that he should turn off his lights. According to investigators, four men in another car apparently thought Kless was yelling at them. Three jumped out, and rushed the young man. After a vicious assault, the men, left their victim lying on the sidewalk, jumped back in their car and sped away. Kless never regained consciousness and died later that evening at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital. Passersby had ignored the attack and the screams of his companions. The three men have since been arrested by Philadelphia Police and charged with murder. The young man’s spirit Rev. Jeff Quinn, pastor of the Valley Bible Church in Bellvale, conducted the funeral service on Saturday. In their eulogies, Kless’ brothers Matthew and Tim spoke about the generosity, spirit, friendly personality and great sense of humor that explained why their beloved brother had so many friends. Several of Kless’ friends, including Dexter Dethmers, who had traveled all the way from Australia to be at the service, then offered testimonials. Following internment at Warwick Cemetery approximately 300 guests were served at a repast organized by family friends and held in the Warwick Conference Center. Community Kevin’s mother, Kendall, reported that in anticipation of the sudden and extraordinary task of feeding a huge crowd, friends had gone door to door petitioning local restaurants, markets, businesses and others for donations of food and refreshments and no one turned them down. “The tremendous outpouring of support from family, friends, and strangers,” she said, “has kept us going during this incredibly difficult time. Kevin’s circle of friends extends across the country and even the globe. They have enveloped us with their love of Kevin and their determination to seek justice on his behalf. “We’d also like to extend our sincere and deep appreciation to our beloved Warwick business community, which has helped to take care of all of our needs,” she added. “We are fortunate to live in such a caring, giving community and we are forever grateful for your kindness.” 'He brought excitement and joy' “When I think about Kevin, there are three words that come to mind: Unique, dynamic and focused. Kevin was hilarious, competitive and a perfectionist. A combination that made him both successful and an incredible friend. He was one of a kind and will forever be remembered as a legend to anyone who had the privilege to meet him.” Dexter Dethmers, a close friend who traveled from Australia to attend the funeral service “Kevin was one of my son’s best friends. Their relationship was special. Kevin spent a lot of time with our family and our two daughters loved him like another brother. He added a nice dynamic to our family dinners as he engaged with us. Kevin’s comedic timing was cause for much laughter. He brought joy into our lives.” Janine Dethmers, family friend “If there was one thing to expect with Kevin Kless, it was the unexpected. This is why everyone always wanted to know where he was and when he was arriving. He brought excitement and joy to every person he met. I for one am a much better person for having known him, and will forever miss him.” Brendan Grace, close friend who traveled from Nevada for the service “I thought that the outpouring of support from so many people whose lives were touched in some way by Kevin was a great source of comfort and support for the family. As I looked out into that sanctuary full of young people who had come to support this family at this time, I was proud to live in this community.” Rev. Jeff Quinn, pastor of Valley Bible Church “I think our entire community is grieving with family. The utter brutality and senselessness of this attack has left us all in a state of shock. We collectively pray that Kevin’s family find solace in how much he meant to so many here in Warwick. We hope that justice is served on those responsible.” Town of Warwick Supervisor Michael Sweeton “What a tragedy to lose Kevin. As a community we grieve and are stunned by the senseless violence that caused this loss. We are all touched in some way and our hearts are truly broken. This is the moment that being connected to a community helps. I know as a community we send our love and sympathy to the Kless family. My hope is that it will help and give them strength in the days ahead.” Warwick Mayor Michael Newhard