Sixteen-year-old Alexander Zander Venezia was always one for creating a big splash, and today was no different as hundreds gathered at the Coral Ridge Memorial Gardens for one final wave to the junior pro surfer who died on September 5 doing what he loved best – surfing.
Today there was no actual seafaring, but an unmistakable and endless ocean of love, as members of the surfing community and many of Zander’s former schoolmates came together to support his grieving family and friends.
Tears flowed freely; so too did the cherished memories of a jovial, quirky, fun-loving young man, who simply lived and died by the ocean.
His sister Bella was very emotional as she paid tribute to her beloved brother in poetry. A second poem entitled The Wave Of Your Life was read by Daniele Tempro, and written by Simon Warren, recounting the final moments of Zander’s life in which he took on “a raging beast” of a wave from the east that hitherto had only been “tamed by a few”.
“We will forever miss you,” Tempro said.
“. . . Now as we wave goodbye, Knowing, You will forever be happy, Riding your last wave in the sky,” she added.
The former St Winifred and St Michael School student was always one to go after the big waves which is why he was at Box by Box in Cattlewash, St Joseph on September 5.
Unfortunately, he could not boast of conquering the waves on that occasion, but for former pro surfer and surfing instructor Alan Burke nothing could erase his fond memories of the “little daredevil” whose life, though brief, was impactful and had a positive ripple effect on others.
Delivering the eulogy, an emotional Burke, said that Zander’s kindred spirit and outgoing personality were evidenced by the outpouring of support on social media since his passing.
He also revealed that following his death, the executive director of the National Scholastics Surfing Association (NSSA) had driven to California to hand over the red contest jersey that Zander was wearing when he recently won the NSSA Open Junior Regional Champion competition.
“I brought this for Lou,” Burke said, while indicating that the jersey would go to Zander’s father Louis Venezia.
“This is the jersey he [Zander] was wearing,” Burke said, while fighting back tears.
“This is what he lived for buddy,” he added in another direct comment intended for the boy’s grieving father.
Even after spending countless hours with Zander, riding waves overseas and in Barbados, Burke said he had not realized how loved the aspiring Olympian was until his death.
“You have raised a world class surfer and an outstanding child that made the surf world feel as though they too personally lost a son,” Burke said for the benefit of both of Zander’s parents, including mother Lisa.
“Zander lived an amazing and wonderful life travelling the world, representing his country, while sharing his love and positive presence. For that, I say #LivelikeZander,” Burke added.
In his message, pastor Nicky Marshall told those in attendance that there was no explanation for their loss, but he indicated that God would be with them along the way.
“I don’t think there is any easy answers or explanations for this. Bad things just happen. They happen to good people, to happy 16-year-old kids. In this life we have trouble, but Jesus doesn’t end there. He then says: ‘Take heart, be encouraged. I have overcome this world,’” Marshall added.
“Right now, we are all feeling the trouble of this life. The shock, the gnawing ache of losing a child, brother, friend that no words can ease at the moment. But if you can be encouraged, God weeps with you. But God also did something about our suffering. He defeated it. Death does not have the last word. God’s love and power and forgiveness will have the last word,” he added.
Marshall also reminded the Zander’s family of how impactful and meaningful Zander’s life was to all he interacted with.
“Lou, Lisa, again I am so sorry for your loss. You raised an amazing young man . . . We have all seen how many people Zander touched with his joy and positive attitude, his warmth and friendliness. Not even death can take that away from you,” he said.
The teenager’s body was due to be cremated following today’s service.