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Hilltowns Archives —The Altamont Enterprise, October 9, 2008

Community says goodbye to ‘Ry-Guy’

By Zach Simeone

KNOX — Last Thursday, friends of Ryan Slingerland gathered near the gazebo in the center of Altamont. It had been almost 24 hours since Ryan died in a car crash.

The village park was his favorite hangout spot, his mother said. There, they blew up balloons to honor the 16-year-old Berne-Knox-Westerlo sophomore.

Just a few minutes before 4 p.m., they simultaneously released their balloons, allowing them to float up towards the sky — towards Ryan, one friend said.

Before releasing the balloons into the field of crystal-clear blue above, his friends wrote messages on them. Most thanked him for always being there for them, no matter what.

Robert and Matthew Prusinski, twin brothers, say they were two of Ryan’s best friends in the world.

“He’s been our best friend since second grade — like a brother,” Robert said, his brother next to him, both boys fighting back tears with bloodshot eyes. “He was there with us every day.”

“We used to go to the playground over there and do back flips all the time,” Matthew said, his finger trembling as he pointed down the street towards Altamont Elementary School.

“He was such a wonderful kid, so full of life,” said Nicole Prusinski, mother of Robert and Matthew. “He’ll be missed tremendously.”

“He always put me in a better mood,” said Kelsey Evans, a friend from Altamont. She remembers hearing Ryan’s daily impersonations of characters from South Park, the popular TV pop culture parody. “He loved to imitate South Park,” she said.

“He always put others before himself,” added Kaitlyn Butler, another friend from the village. “He was, like, the biggest teddy bear,” she said, her voice cracking with emotion. They called him “chipmunk,” though, because that’s what he looked like, she said. “We’re never going to forget him. He’s a legend — a hero.”

Though he was a hero to some, Slingerland was also an everyday kid, his family and friends say.

“He was Ry-Guy,” said his sister, Shannon Slingerland. “He was just a normal 16 year old. He was my big-little brother…He grew up so fast.” He loved to be at the center of attention, always cracking jokes, she said. “He always would try and put a smile on somebody else’s face before his — to make them happy if they were sad.”

Drawing was one of his favorite things. He drew on his homework, in his notebooks, when he was talking on the phone, when he was sitting at the computer.

“All around my house, we have little odds and ends that he drew on — little pieces of paper lying around,” said his mother, Lindy Slingerland. “I saw a matchbook that he drew his name on. He doodled all types of things: crosses, graffiti-type stuff. It all looked really good,” she said.

He had a sketchbook full of drawings, too. “I think he got the drawing from his older brother Shawn,” his mother said. “Shawn loved to draw.”

Ryan also loved to listen to music, and play video games. His mother said that he always had an iPod on his head. But, most of all, he loved his family and friends. “They made him who he was,” his sister said.

“He would go hang out with them just about every night,” his mother recalls. “Then, he would call me to come get him,” she said, her voice quivering. “He was just such a kind person, and you would always see him smiling.” Ryan was her youngest.

On Monday, friends and family gathered at Fredendall’s Funeral Home, a stone’s throw from the park in Altamont, to say goodbye to Slingerland. There, they heard from Pastor Will Balta of the South Westerlo Congregational Christian Church, who read excerpts from the Bible and offered comforting words.

“We know that he is one who has made many people here laugh,” he said of Ryan. “And we ask, dear God, that your hand be upon each one here that has been touched by Ryan…Ry-Guy.” The mention of his nickname spurred a bit of laughter, and for a moment, the crowd was smiling.

“We know this is one of the greatest fears that any parent can have,” Pastor Balta went on. “Remember the family after today, and, those of you who know others who were really close to Ryan — remember them, because, after this is all over with, it’s like a vacuum. The pain is really going to set in, and you need to be there for them.”

Slingerland was buried in Knox Cemetery that afternoon.


Ryan Slingerland is survived by his parents, Lindy and Michael Slingerland of Knox; his brothers, Shawn Slingerland and his wife, Megan of Central Bridge, and Cory Slingerland of Knox; and his sisters, Shannon Slingerland and her husband, Matthew of East Berne, and Nicole Slingerland of Knox.

Also surviving are his nephew, Christopher Slingerland of Guilderland; his niece, Madison Slingerland of Central Bridge; his grandmother, Rose Tubbs of Knox; and several aunts, uncles, cousins, and dear friends.

His paternal grandparents, James Slingerland and Dolores Slingerland Curro, died before him, as did his maternal grandfather, Merlin Tubbs.

Memorial contributions may be made to a charity of choice.

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