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WESTMINSTER — It was a bittersweet evening for the Class of 2022 of Bellows Falls Union High School.

There was joy at graduating and starting the next stage of their life.

But there were tears Thursday evening for a classmate who wasn’t there. Vincenzo “Vinny” Ruggiero died three years ago from injuries he sustained in a car crash, and his death left an enormous emotional hole in the school.

Class Valedictorian Kathleen Dole asked her classmates and guests gathered on Hadley Field to remember Vinny with a moment of silence as Dole, her voice full of tears, tried to start her speech, “Title: Undecided.”

But the loss caught up with her.

“I would also like to thank someone who should have been here today,” Dole said, after thanking her parents. “A person whose kindness and laughter had a profound and everlasting impact on my childhood and this entire community. This one’s for you Vinny,” she said, her voice breaking.