Family, friends mourn a life taken too soon

"Mikey lived like Christmas, that time of the year ... when you hold the door [open] a little longer, when you smile a little brighter."

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As friends and family tell it, 25-year-old Michael Schaab was a compassionate therapist to his elderly patients by trade and a jokester in life, the one they often looked to when they needed cheering up.

That was apparent Tuesday, as more than 500 people packed the St. John Baptist de la Salle Church in Delmont to share their grief over the seemingly senseless end to his life in the lobby of Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic in Oakland, where he was fatally shot Thursday.

Because even in their overwhelming grief, some managed to crack a smile when they remembered his childish enthusiasm and his antics. And his love of silly T-shirts.

"Today, there are no words that can bring the comfort and the healing this family and this community truly needs," the Rev. Michael Sikon said, addressing attendees in a homily.


"I know that every person here today has a story" that shows "his compassion ... his sense of humor," he said. "They are stories that remind us of how blessed we really are."

The somber service began with the toll of bells under gray skies, as a group of young men serving as pallbearers ushered in the casket, some of them weeping openly. As a parade of darkly clad mourners entered the church, Mr. Schaab's fiancee, Megan Shively, to whom he was engaged on Valentine's Day, stood out donning one of his shirts, a green oversized cotton tee with a dinosaur printed on the front.

Police have yet to offer any explanation into why 30-year-old John Shick, a former biology graduate student at Duquesne University, entered the clinic and fired indiscriminately. And at the funeral for Mr. Schaab, a Greensburg native who lived in Regent Square, those who gathered to mourn his death struggled to find meaning in it.

The Rev. Joseph Bonafed, who got a glimpse of the young man's personality as friends shared anecdotes at a vigil on Sunday, expounded on the need for people to learn from the way Mr. Schaab lived -- as a lighthearted man whose enthusiasm touched many.

"Many times, after the funeral is over, family and friends like to figure how to memorialize him ... People buy plaques and benches, and that's all appropriate," he said. But, he added, "the best way to memorialize somebody is to live the way they did."

Joe Giacobbi and his wife, Amanda, who had known Mr. Schaab since high school, said they took the lesson to heart.

"Mikey lived like Christmas," said Mrs. Giacobbi, "that time of the year ... when you hold the door [open] a little longer, when you smile a little brighter."

Mr. Giacobbi said he was still in disbelief over his friend's death and he struggled knowing that the one he often relied on when he was down was now gone.

"It's unfathomable," he said tearfully. "And to not have him here to cheer you up."

But Mrs. Giacobbi said she felt his presence Tuesday in the occasional laughter. She and her husband smiled when they recalled his love of T-shirts, in particular the X-Men ones. He was buried in a red T-shirt from an adult softball team he played on with his father.

"We know that he's here with us," Mrs. Giacobbi said.

Moriah Balingit: 412-263-2533.


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