‘His Gentle Sparkle’: Family, Friends Remember Toby Woods at Well-Attended Funeral

When he was little, Toby Woods was very cuddly, his mom recalled Sunday. He’d give his parents “enormous tight hugs, wrapping his arms around us, and laying his head on our shoulder,” Kristina Woods told hundreds of people gathered at First Presbyterian Church of New Canaan for her son’s funeral service. “He loved snuggling with his stuffed animals, and climbing into our bed in the middle of the night,” she said. “As he grew older, he still gave the tightest, most wonderful hugs.”

Described by family and friends as intelligent, thoughtful, talented, compassionate, loving and fun, Toby Woods died Feb. 21 in Williamstown, Mass.

PHOTOS: New Canaan Marks Memorial Day with Parade, Ceremony

The Rev. Dr. R. Scott Herr of First Presbyterian Church of New Canaan addressed more than 300 residents gathered at Lakeview Ceremony following Monday morning’s Memorial Day parade to “remember and give thanks for the patriots who have given their lives in service to our great nation and the service of peoples around the world who desire justice, freedom and peace.”

“Today we honor those men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice to defend our Constitution and our democracy,” Herr continued during an opening prayer to the ceremony organized each year by the Howard M. Bossa and Peter C. Langenus Post 653 of the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States. “We are free to worship here today because they were brave, and we live by the light of the flame of liberty they kept burning. As we remember those who gave their lives to defend our freedoms, we also pray for other peoples in the world who seek democracy—especially the people of Ukraine and Russia, and pray for a just and lasting peace between those people. We also remember those innocent victims in places like Buffalo and Uvalde, and how truly fragile a free a peaceful society is. As we honor those from all races and religions who served in the Armed Forces, we pray for courage and wisdom to be a people who heal our divisions, right our wrongs and bring unity here at home.

‘The Best Dad Any Kid Could Ever Ask For’: Family, Friends Gather To Remember Steve Benko

Lindsay Gardner talked to her dad, Steve Benko, for the last time just a few days before he passed away. 

The two sat in his hospital room, unsure of what to say, Gardner recalled Thursday. “So I asked him, I said, ‘Dad, what do you want us to do?’ We didn’t know what to do. Who knows what to do? This isn’t something we’re groomed for,” Gardner told hundreds of congregants gathered at First Presbyterian Church of New Canaan for Benko’s memorial service, and hundreds more watching a livestream online. “What he told me was, he just wants all of us to go out and be happy.