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Lawrence teenager killed in gas explosion is mourned at funeral

LAWRENCE — The family of Leonel Rondon held each other tightly as mourners filed into the church. Many wore shirts that read “RIP Leonel” and “It’s Leo’s world, we’re just living in it.”

At the teenager’s funeral Wednesday, mourners lived out the message that Father Carlos Urbina delivered to those gathered inside Saint Mary of the Assumption Parish here: When pain is shared, it is less painful.

They cried in each another’s arms and said goodbye to a brother, a son, and a friend. Rondon’s cousin, Leomary Colon, said every time she saw him, Rondon would grab her cheek and tell her to “be safe.”

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“He took care of everyone,” Colon said. “You knew you were in good hands with him.”

She would miss his laughing smile, his voice, and catching up on the phone, she said. She shared her favorite memory of him, which happened at a homecoming dance.

“I asked him to dance with me since I wasn’t enjoying the dance. I was the only senior at a freshman dance,” Colon said. “He said, ‘You got to live it until it’s gone.’ ”

Rondon, 18, died last week after a gas explosion toppled a chimney onto the car he and three other friends were sitting inside. He was the only fatality in the series of explosions and fires that rocked the Merrimack Valley.

The Rev. John F. DelloRusso presided over the funeral and encouraged the community in English and Spanish to consider how much more powerful love and compassion is than death.

“Last Thursday afternoon, all hell broke loose in our city,” DelloRusso said. “There was fire and explosion and all of those things, very scary, very powerful. But in the midst of it, people helped one another out. Some people did some things that were very heroic. Other people stood by their neighbors.”

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He acknowledged the questions arising from his death: Why Leonel? But he noted that through their sadness, people stopped by the Rondon household with food and prayers.

“In ourselves we found power, compassion, love,” DelloRusso said. “Not just through the events of last week, but especially to help Leonel’s family and his friends through probably the most difficult moment of their lives right now.”


Cristela Guerra can be reached at cristela.guerra@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @CristelaGuerra.