Community gathers in ‘Celebration of Life’ for crash victims


Photo courtesy of Charger Bulletin/Erick Cuatzo.

Posters commemorating Ms. Gullapally and Mr. Patamsetti, West Haven, Nov. 9, 2022.

The Beckerman Recreation Center was filled with people from across campus gathered on Wednesday to celebrate the lives of Mr. Sai Narasimha Patamsetti and Ms. Pavani Gullapally, two graduate students who were killed in a motor vehicle accident on Oct. 25.

As mourners gathered, the Indian flag flew over flower-covered pictures of the two students. A table lined with candles lit the space between them.

In her opening remarks, Ophelie Rowe-Allen, dean of students, said that those in attendance “gathered to celebrate the lives of two Chargers: Sai and Pavani. These two individuals were a part of our Charger community. Unfortunately, they are no longer with us physically, but they will always be in our hearts.”

Interim President Sheahon Zenger spoke on behalf of Chancellor Steven H. Kaplan and the Board of Governors, and said, “It is devastating when the lives of young people with so much potential are ended too soon.”

The ceremony began with the Pujari, a Hindu temple priest, Jagadheesh Sharma, leading a reading and a prayer. Later in the afternoon, he chanted Hindu mantras. The first mantra, Om Namah Shivaya, is one of the most important in Shaivism, and is read in Sanskrit. It infuses positive energy and has five syllables, which represent earth, water, fire, air and ether. The second mantra chant, Sthula Panchakshara, indicates the Lord’s dance, which is responsible for birth.

At the end of the chants, Sharma said, “Let us hope and pray that tragedies such as this do not repeat.”

Of Mr. Patamsetti, Rowe-Allen said the graduate student was a “fun-loving, jovial guy who wore sarcasm on his sleeve always.” She said, “He was ever-present virtually to all his family and friends…he shared a loving bond with everyone he touched.”

She told the crowd that Mr. Patamsetti was the first person from his village in India to make it to the United States, and that Mr. Patamsetti “set the path for others to follow” with expectations that his friends would follow in the coming years.

Rowe-Allen described the graduate student’s strong connection to his family. Mr. Patamsetti is survived by his father, sister and mother.

A message from his family was read, which said, “We request all of you to have him in your prayers and always remember his smiling face when his name pops up in your memories.”

Selina O’Toole, executive director of enrollment operations, spoke about Ms. Gullapally, the first member of her family to leave before marriage, and that she was a “very clever and hardworking woman.”

O’Toole said Ms. Gullapally was a motivating figure and role model in India, and that she had many dreams, but the ceremony highlighted that her biggest dream was to make her parents proud. O’Toole said Ms. Gullapally made a promise to go home to build her parents a house that she would have designed.

A message from the family said, in part: “Pavani was a precious sister, daughter and sister-in-law. We are trying to be strong because we miss Pavani very much. Please pray for us on a daily basis.”

The Indian Student Council President Amna Jalali and Secretary Yashpreet Singh Malhotra also spoke about the students. Jalali said, “Though they were here for a very short time, what we know is that they enriched our lives.”

“We all come together as a community, as a UNH family, to remember them and to gain strength and hope from each other and from the lives that they lived,” said Malhotra.

The president of the Graduate Student Council, Prateek Mansingh, said, “Those who leave never come back, only their memories come back. We are all here to mourn, but at the same time I also implore you to celebrate their life; their dreams, aspirations, expectations, goals and their potential.”

A slideshow was played for Mr. Patamsetti and Ms. Gullapally that highlighted e memories of their lives. The room sat silent and attentive as they watched the recap of these two young lives, attentively viewing the numerous images of them with their families back home, and intimate pictures that showcased their personality and values.

Both Mr. Patamsetti and Ms. Gullapally were expected to graduate with master’s degrees in 2023.

In closing, Rowe-Allen said, “Thank you for the knowledge, the love and the care that you have given to Pavani and Sai.” and she said, “Once a Charger, always a Charger.”

Pujari Jagadheesh Sharma reads a mantra at the ‘Celebration of Life’ ceremony, West Haven, Nov. 9, 2022. (Photo courtesy of Charger Bulletin/Erick Cuatzo.)