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The gathering at Bartel Pritchard Square said it all: teens with sullen stares and tear-stained faces delicately laying roses over pictures of a smiling 17-year-old palling around with his friends.
In the end, it was Sharif Abdallah’s love of his friends that led to his untimely death in Prospect Park on March 8 — the pictures, his friends said, were snapshots in time that professed this love.
Just as they hung by him in life, Sharif’s grieving friends and classmates at Xaverian High School planned to stand by the fallen jokester throughout the week during two memorial services.
Sharif collapsed and died shortly after midnight during a scrape in Prospect Park as he and his friends stood up for a girl in their group.
According to police and published reports, Sharif and his friends, an assemblage of boys and girls from his neighborhood, were hanging out in the park when another group of teens walked by.
The two groups began to argue when members of the other crew called one of Sharif’s female friends “fat and ugly,” officials said.
After the brief confrontation, the offending crew ran off.
They came back to the park a short time later — this time with one of their father’s.
The two groups argued again, even though the young girl at the center of the dispute had already gone home, officials said.
After a brief brawl, the two groups disbanded. When Sharif ran toward the Bartel Pritchard Square entrance to the park, he collapsed. He died a short time later at New York Methodist Hospital — the victim of an apparent heart attack.
Shattered family members told reporters that Sharif had a heart murmor.
As this paper went to press, a medical examiner has not determined an exact cause of death.
Earlier this week, several members of the group Sharif and his friends clashed with were taken into custody, charged with gang assault.
Those arrested — including the 42-year-old father and his two sons, ages 18 and 16 as well as a second 18-year-old -- were all from Carroll Gardens, officials said.
While cops had filed charges against them, the four suspects hadn’t been arraigned by late Tuesday.
Those putting together the brief memorial service on Sunday spent the afternoon recalling Sharif’s smile, sense of humor, as well as his strong sense of loyalty to his family and friends.
His grief stricken father told reporters that the young man who had dreams of becoming a graphic designer was planning to go to Jerusalem to for the first time to visit his grandfather.
“Family was very important to him,” he told the Daily News.
Although he was Muslim, Sharif was expected to graduate Xaverian High School this spring.
His graduating class was expected to attend a funeral service at the Beit Lmaqdis at 6224 62nd Street.
After the Islamic service, seniors will then walk to Our Lady of Perpetual Help on 59th Street and Fifth Avenue, where a mass will be held in his honor, according to Dr. Salvatore Ferrera, Xaverian High School’s president.
“He was a nice kid, very respectful and had a great sense of humor,” Ferrera recalled. “It’s really a shame because by every account, he didn’t do anything wrong.”
“He was standing up for a friend and he was put into a position where he had a heart attack.”
Ferrera said that the full senior class was informed of Sharif’s death Monday morning. Counselors were made available to the students if they felt they needed someone to talk to.
“The counselors are going to be available 24/7,” Ferrera said. “Some students have already seen them, but most seniors have egos and need to process what had happened.”
More seniors will talk to school counselors in the coming days, Ferrera predicted.
©2009 Community Newspaper Group
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