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Family, friends mourn teen killed on Little Neck Bay

Tears flowed steadily among the hundreds of Little Neck and Douglaston residents who gathered at St. Anastasia’s Church Friday morning to remember 17-year-old George Lawrence Jr., one of two people killed July 11 in a boating accident on Little Neck Bay.

Lawrence was in a boat piloted by his friend, Douglas Manor teen Robert Arnold, when Arnold’s boat collided with another craft operated by Long Island man John Kondogianis. Kondogianis, 35, also was killed in the crash and his wife, Marisa Rodgers, 29, was critically injured.

In the week after the fatal accident three charges lodged against Arnold that he was boating while intoxicated at the time of the incident were dropped. On Friday Arnold, 18, served as a pallbearer for his friend and was one of hundreds of teens who came to St. Anastasia’s to mourn Lawrence.

Monsignor Michael Cantley, who presided over the funeral service with the Rev. John Gribbon and the Rev. John Costa, urged the weeping mourners to remember that George “is now at peace.”

“You will bring George with you the rest of your lives,” Cantley said.

Lawrence, a Little Neck teen who was one of George and Deborah Lawrence’s four children, was eulogized by his two sisters and his uncle as brother Michael sat with their parents.

Older sister Jessica read from her brother’s journal, crying and laughing as she recalled her parents bringing George home from the hospital and his penchant for rearranging the family Christmas presents under the tree.

“Every day of my life, for the rest of my life, part of it is for him,” she said, her eyes tearing up. “He had such passion. He laughed harder than anyone else, he worked harder and he played harder.”

Younger sister Catherine wrote a letter in honor of her brother in which she remembered George Lawrence as her “best friend.” The letter was read for Catherine Lawrence by a relative.

“I have so many memories of George and I’m really happy I have them because that’s how he’s going to live on,” Catherine wrote. “He’s going to live on in our memories, in our dreams and in our hearts.”

The Lawrence family has insisted it has no anger toward Arnold because of the accident, and the only references to the incident came when a man who identified himself as George Lawrence’s uncle and godfather gave the eulogy.

“I don’t want to be told this tragedy was God’s will,” he said. “That’s too simple for me.”

Lawrence’s uncle told the teenagers in the audience, which filled St. Anastasia’s to capacity, to reach out if they needed to talk to someone about their grief.

“Remember George’s example, his ability to enjoy life,” his uncle said. “Do not lose your hope, do not lose your joy.”

George Lawrence Jr. is survived by his parents, three siblings and other relatives. The family has established a scholarship fund in Lawrence’s memory. Donations can be sent to Benjamin N. Cardozo High School, Attn.: George J. Lawrence, Jr., Memorial Scholarship Fund, 57-00 223rd St., Bayside, N.Y. 11364.

Reach reporter Kathianne Boniello by e-mail at Timesledgr@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 146.

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