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  • Jon Dusza

Canisius Remembers Josh Betts

By: Jon Dusza, Managing Editor

Josh Betts was a father of three, veteran of the US Army and a biology major at Canisius University on a pre-health track. He died on February 29 of this year. On March 14, there was a memorial service for him held on the Canisius campus at Christ the King Chapel.

The service, which was officiated by Rev. Dr. Jonathan Lawrence, featured memorials from four different speakers: Dr. Allyson Backstrom, Josh’s pre-health advisor, Nina Cartone, Olivia Metzger and Alexie Philippone, all friends of Josh’s. Dr. Backstrom described Josh’s motivations for his pre-health education — to help others. She described how Josh, after seeing destruction in the army, wanted to help and heal others. On a service trip to Belmont, New York, near where Josh grew up, Josh gave healthcare to a number of his old high school classmates, and expressed gratitude at having the opportunity to do so.

Following that, Nina Cartone, one of Josh’s classmates, shared her memories of Josh. “I don’t think there are enough words in the English language that I can use to describe how much Josh has impacted my life,” she said. She described how “Josh was one of those guys who you could say anything to, and he’d never make you feel any type of way about it.” She told the story in her speech, and later in an interview with The Griffin, of how she was studying in the library, overwhelmed by the difficulty of the subject of the test. In the midst of her struggle, Josh came up to her, asked if everything was okay, and “proceeded to give [her] one of the top three hugs of [her] life.” “Because of you,” she concluded, referring to Josh, “I’m stronger than before,and I can’t wait until the day when I can see you again.”

The next speaker was another one of Josh’s friends, Olivia Metzger. Metzger highlighted Josh’s role as a father. “He always talked about his kids,” she said, “and there’s no doubt in my mind that they were the light of his life.” Metzger recalled studying with Josh at Tim Horton’s. “We just had the best time studying,” she said to The Griffin. “We weren’t doing anything fun, we were just studying, but it was just so fun.” She also talked about Josh’s loyalty as a friend. “He would never leave his friends,” she said.

The last person to speak at the service was Alexie Philoppone, also one of Josh’s friends. Philoppone recalled sending an email out to her classmates on the first day of class, trying to set up a study group. The first response she received was from Josh. “Now, looking back,” she said, “I see how that totally encompasses Josh’s character. Someone who gave it his all, and for that, I’ve always admired Josh. And I always told him ‘I don’t know how you’re a full-time student and a full-time father.’” Philippine also explained to The Griffin that Josh’s experience as a father manifested in his friendship, walking his friends back to their cars at night, and offering advice from a more mature perspective.

Cartone, Metzger and Philoppone were all asked to describe Josh in one word, and each said in turn “caring,” “loyal” and “determined.”

For Josh’s friends, the memorial service served as a way to get closure and peace. Philiopone said to The Griffin, “We needed a way to say goodbye to him. … I think not only us, but a lot of other students needed a place [to mourn] on campus.” 

“It was definitely needed,” Nina Cartone said, also to The Griffin. “It was definitely a sense of ‘I’m glad I got to say what I had to say,’ seeing his family there, seeing how many people showed up for him [at the memorial] was just amazing.”

Despite that, the grief is still there, as all three of the memorial speakers expressed to The Griffin. Going through that grief as a community, however, has helped. As for fellow students, Philoppone said that throughout the grieving process, “a lot of people who you didn’t think knew him or weren’t as close as me [to him]. People reached out that you would never think about… I think everyone’s more united.” 

On the professors’ side, Metzger said, “Any time we needed anything, whether it came to an extension, or when I had to miss class for the memorial, all my professors were so great about it. They all were like, ‘Yeah, no problem, don’t worry about it.’”

The Griffin sends its deepest condolences to all of Josh’s loved ones, especially his friends and family.

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