"I was going to get up here and talk about my dad, K, and Alyssa, but there's no way for me to put what they meant to me into words," JJ Altobelli told the crowd
John, Keri and Alyssa Altobelli were honored in a public memorial Monday evening at Angel Stadium, a fitting venue for the “first family” of Orange Coast College baseball, where John coached for almost 30 years.
The three family members perished alongside Kobe and Gianna Bryant, Sarah and Payton Chester, Christina Mauser and Ara Zobayan two weeks ago in a helicopter crash as they were all on their way to a basketball tournament at Bryant’s Mamba Academy in Thousand Oaks, California.
The sun shone on the attendees at the stadium on Monday, where a video montage honoring the Altobellis was played at the beginning of the service. Over the entrance to the home plate gate read a banner that said, “In loving memory of Alto, K, and Alyssa.”
After the montage ended, Lexi, JJ and his fiancé Carly Konigsfeld approached the microphone on a stage covered in flowers, baseball jerseys with John’s No. 14, photos of the family, and more tributes. Next to the podium was a plate from a baseball diamond, a basketball and a trophy.
“This is pretty cool,” JJ, 29, told the crowd. “Thank you guys so much for coming, it really means a lot to all of us.”
“On behalf of me, Lexi and Carly, we can’t thank everyone here enough. The amount of love and support we have received these last few weeks has been truly amazing. Each text, call, donation or act of kindness has not gone unnoticed. It really goes to show the impact that my dad, K, and Alyssa had on everyone here. I was going to get up here and talk about my dad, K, and Alyssa, but there’s no way for me to put what they meant to me into words,” the Boston Red Sox Scout said.
“The legacy they left will continue to live on through all of us. But for tonight, let’s all live by my dad’s favorite motto: you drinkin’ or thinkin’?”
Several people then followed, including Keri’s brother and best friend, and John’s best friend, to talk about the impact of all three on their lives and their community.
Keri’s best friend said that she “left the world better than she found it,” and spent her last day on Earth doing “exactly what she loved: going to a basketball game with her bright light of a daughter Alyssa, alongside her warm and funny husband Alto.”
Alyssa’s best friend Sammy Forbath remembered her as “the funniest, most caring girl I have ever met.”
“She always had my back and supported me no matter what. She always put others’ needs before hers,” Forbath continued, remembering her as a “devoted” basketball player. “Alyssa had the hardest work ethic of anyone I’ve ever known.”
Forbath also remembered many afternoons spent after school at the Altobelli’s house, where she said there was “never a dull moment.”
In addition to her love of basketball, Forbath remembered Alyssa’s love for animals and other people. “I already miss her so much,” she said. “Her smile, her sarcastic personality, and pretty much just everything about her. Alyssa, thank you for eight years of friendship, eight years of laughter and eight years of smiles. I will always do my best to make you proud. I know you will always be cheering me on.”
Derek Sanders, Keri’s brother, took the podium next, recalling how his nieces Alyssa and Lexi changed his life.
“I’m incredibly saddened and devastated by these losses,” he told the crowd in his emotional speech.
John’s friend Buck Taylor took the stage saying John “would have really loved this — if we were at Wrigley Field,” bringing some laughs from the crowd.
The memorial on Monday was just one example of the outpouring of support for the Altobelli family since the fatal helicopter crash.
A GoFundMe campaign set up for JJ and Lexi has raised more $353,000.