PERU, N.Y. – Hundreds of friends, family members, teammates and faith leaders packed the gymnasium at Peru High School on Wednesday to remember Dalton Criss, a recent graduate who died following a car crash.
Dalton’s father, Dexter Criss, a SUNY Plattsburgh professor and director of the Plattsburgh State Gospel Choir, said his son’s spirit and love transformed everyone he knew.
“I personally thank each and every one of you for taking my little son in and making him part of your family, especially these young men right here,” Dexter Criss said, gesturing toward members of the Peru High School football team sitting before him.
Dalton Criss was set to begin classes at SUNY Plattsburgh when he and his mother, Barbara, were involved in a crash August 19 on Route 3 west of Plattsburgh. Dalton died the following day in a Burlington hospital. Barbara Criss suffered serious injuries,
At Wednesday’s memorial, Dalton’s time as a member of the football and wrestling teams was a point of reflection for many. Peru High wrestling coach Mike Hogan described him as “community-minded, big-hearted, and a family-first, fun-loving guy,” and he recalled Dalton’s victory in a sectional tournament at Saranac High School.
“As the referee was raising Dalton’s hand to signify the match winner, I saw a quick flash off to my right,” Hogan said. “It was Barbara, Dalton’s mom, in high heels running out to the center of the mat. She said she wanted to be the first to hug her champion.”
His former football coach, Ryon O’Connell, recalled the day Dalton was late to practice because he had an allergic reaction to a bee sting. The doctors had given him a pediatric dose of epinephrine.
“He said with a straight face, ‘Coach, do I look like I take a pediatric dose?”
The lighthearted memories were often followed by somber moments. O’Connell paused and offered a quote from Vince Lombardi that he felt Dalton would appreciate.
“After all the cheers have died down and the stadium is empty, after the headlines have been written and you are back in the quiet of your room, the enduring thing that is left is the dedication in doing with your life the very best you can to make the world a better place in which to live,” O’Connell said.
Others described Dalton as a joyous young man whose faith was a guiding principle. Several local faith leaders spoke at Wednesday’s service, including Pastor Leonard A. Oates of the Faith Tabernacle Baptist Church in Glens Falls, who shared an example of Dalton’s kindness to others.
“There was one of the elderly members of our church trying to make it down the stairs, and Dalton got out of the van and ran back and helped the person down the stairs,” Oates said. “That’s Dalton.”
Several years ago, Dalton had registered as an organ donor. His father said this decision furthers his son’s legacy of giving.
“They took Dalton’s heart out, and within four hours, it was in someone else,” Dexter Criss said. “It’s amazing.”
The memorial service was followed by a vigil on the football field.