A somber rendition of Hank Williams’ “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry” filled Battell Chapel Saturday as some 200 family members, friends, teammates and classmates of Kyle Burnat ’05 gathered to remember the Yale student who unexpectedly lost his life just one month ago.
Burnat, 19, of Atlanta, and a pitcher on Yale’s baseball team, was one of four Yale students who were killed after their sport utility vehicle crashed into a jackknifed tractor-trailer rig in the early morning of Jan. 17. Andrew Dwyer ’05, Sean Fenton ’04 and Nicholas Grass ’05 also died in the crash.
At Saturday’s memorial service, each speaker — a baseball coach, an English professor, many friends and a proud father — represented a part of Burnat’s life. They all agreed on one thing: Burnat knew how to live life well.
“Kyle had a knack to make everyone happy and to make everyone laugh,” said Steven Duke ’03, captain of the baseball team and a member of the Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity. “Kyle was the life of the party and he made sure that we all had a good time.”
DKE President Nick Sinatra ’03 said Burnat told him the night of the accident that he was having the best night he had had in a long time.
Remembering Burnat’s warm sense of humor, Sinatra said he was walking to class past Payne Whitney Gymnasium one day after the crash when he slipped and fell on a piece of ice. He said nobody saw him fall, but he knew Burnat was looking down on him, saying, “What a jackass.”
“[After the crash] I found myself so emotional,” Sinatra said. “Sadness became appreciation — an appreciation for knowing Kyle, Nick, Sean and Andy.”
Rabbi Lina Grazier-Zerbarini gave the opening words at the service and reminded the audience that there is both a time to be born and a time to die, a time to forget and a time to remember. She said Saturday was a time to remember.
The Rev. Cynthia Terry also emphasized the importance of joining together in memoriam.
“[We] are marked by his death and more importantly by his life,” Terry said. “And so may we laugh and cry and remember — together.”
Friends and teammates were not the only ones in attendance Saturday. Yale President Richard Levin and his wife, Jane, and Yale College Dean Richard Brodhead and his wife, Cynthia, came to give their condolences. In addition, English professor Timothy Robinson shed light on Burnat’s academic achievements.
“[Kyle was] the son, the brother, the teammate, the friend who always put others first,” said Robinson, who taught Burnat’s freshman English class. “I’m grateful to have known him. There is no more to say.”
Burnat’s father, Larry Burnat, was the last scheduled speaker and spoke about his son’s life at Yale.
“He knew immediately that Yale was the place for him,” said Larry Burnat. “He loved every minute he spent here. It was unbelievable how many friends he found here and how he liked it here on all accounts: academically, athletically and socially.”
Larry Burnat asked audience members to “keep a special place in [their hearts] for Kyle.”
“Kyle would really like that,” he said.