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Friends, family mourn loss of SJU Samaritan

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Men sought to control sobbing women even while straining to hold back their own tears at the funeral of the Fresh Meadows 20-year-old who was killed Feb. 20 in a freak accident along the Long Island Expressway in Shirley while being a good Samaritan to a stranded woman. Those who knew the St. John's University pharmacy student attested to her intelligence, her serious approach to school, her humble take on life and her unyielding generosity -- a quality made all-too apparent when she died."All the students had their qualities. Maria had the characteristic of being gracious," said Father Angelo Gavalas, who led the service at the Holy Trinity Cathedral where in the early 1990s he had Kaliakmanis as a Sunday school pupil. "For me she'll always be that child in the Holy Trinity school."On the steps of the Upper East Side Greek Orthodox cathedral after the service, friends rehashed fond memories of Kaliakmanis when they were together at Sacred Heart on Fifth Avenue.Meredith Cass, now a sophomore at Curry College near Boston, remembered a ski trip a group of them took to Vermont in ninth grade. They were trying to coax a bashful Kaliakmanis to get into a hot tub one night."She kept saying, 'I don't want to get in,'" Cass said, a smile stretching across her tear-stained face. "She was so embarrassed."Emily Nihan, a student at Baltimore's Loyola College, said Kaliakmanis had always saved a seat for her in class at Sacred Heart.Early that Sunday morning, Maria Kaliakmanis, her mother, Elena, and school friend, Gregory Voulgaris, were driving west on the LIE back to the Kaliakmanis' second home in Shirley when they spotted Charralene Kemp, of Riverhead, standing on the shoulder next to her wrecked car waving for help.Despite pleas from her mother not to stop in the snowy conditions, the young woman and Voulgaris stepped out to lend Kemp a cellphone. That is when police say an out-of-control Mitsubishi, driven by Corinne Fugueroa, 23, crashed into them, killing Maria and critically injuring Voulgaris. He is now in stable condition.Neither Kemp, 23, or Figueroa, of Bellport, were seriously hurt. Elena Kaliakmanis received minor back injuries. Though Maria Kaliakmanis left Sacred Heart after the 11th grade when she moved to Queens, many of the friends who traveled to the funeral from as far as the Midwest and New England still kept in touch with her."She was a serious student who worked hard but constantly had a smile on her face," said Lauren Johnson, a sophomore at the University of Chicago who spoke with Maria on the phone less than 10 days before she died. "I don't know anyone who had the slightest problems with her."Reach reporter Zach Patberg by e-mail at news@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 155.

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