Community says goodbye to Alexandra Kogut
NEW HARTFORD, N.Y. (WKTV) - Friends, family and even strangers filled St. John the Evangelist Church in New Hartford on Thursday as a community said goodbye to Alexandra Kogut, a beloved young woman who had just graduated from New Hartford High School in June and was known to many as a ray of sunshine.
Cars lined Oxford Road well before the services for Alexandra Kogut even got underway on Friday, with many of those vehicles spilling over into numerous side streets, a small sign of just how much support poured out from the local community and beyond for the young woman.
Authorities say Alexandra was killed by her boyfriend, Clayton Whittemore, also of New Hartford, in her freshman dorm room at SUNY Brockport over the weekend. Whittemore, who is currently in custody in Monroe County, was scheduled for an appearance in the Town of Sweden Court at the time Alexandra's funeral service wrapped up. However, Thursday morning, that court appearance was cancelled.
Many of those in attendance at the service on Thursday wore both black and purple, along with purple pins, both on their person and adorning a number of trees in the area outside of the church. The purple ribbons symbolize awareness for domestic abuse.
Her friends and family members describe her as loving, kind, and a born leader. The 2012 graduate of New Hartford High School was the Captain of the Varsity Swim Team and a Community Lifeguard. Members of the swim team arrived at the funeral on Thursday wearing their swim jackets, a symbol of the solidarity they felt for their teammate.
"She may not have been one of the fastest girls on the team, but she, by far, had the most heart," said Paige Whitney, who was on the swim team with Alexandra. "She absolutely loved everyone on the team, not only New Hartford but also Brockport and she didn't even swim with us yet. Her love radiated to everyone she knew."
Among the many others sitting in the pews were Alexandra's New Hartford classmates, SUNY Brockport peers, teachers, family members and community residents who never met her, but say they came to pay their respects to a young woman who was a vital part of the community.
"We go on with our lives. We will be thinking about this, we will be listening to the news, reading the papers, but through it all we have to remember what took place today," said Halyna Gnap, Alexandra's Music Teacher. "Alex was a symbol of love and hope and we have to continue that on in our memory."
Alexandra was also the recipient of the Citizenship Award, which personified the selflessness, leadership, and willingness to always help others that was highlighted by almost all who knew her.
"It is very important to us that you do not harbor any anger," said a statement from Alexandra's parents, read by her Godparents at the service. "Our hope is that you celebrate her life and her love and not remembering the few moments that took her from us."
The Kogut Family had a statement in the program for Thursday's service, which read "we are humbled and grateful for the overwhelming outpouring of support and sympathy that we have received from the whole community. Every purple blouse, ribbon, Facebook post, balloon and even the tiniest purple painted fingernail reminds us of our dear Alex. Please know that it is your thoughts, prayers and love that have sustained us through these difficult days. We know Alex is smiling down in appreciation of the warmth and compassion you have shown. It is the memory of that beautiful smile that will ultimately heal us."