By Aaron Bertram
"HE WAS always jolly, always smiling, always had good vibes around him."
That's how a close friend of Fr Charles Kakumanu described the man who, along with his colleague Fr Stephen O'Donnell, was killed in a car accident on Tuesday, April 3, which sent shock waves though the local Catholic community.
"We used to watch movies together and eat curry," firm friend Eddie Sharma told The Northern Star. "He was crazy for chilli. You couldn't make it hot enough for Charles.
"He loved downloading Indian movies off the Internet, but had to stop when the church Internet bill came back with 300 times more usage than normal," Mr Sharma recalled with a faraway smile.
Fr Charles touched the lives of everyone who met him, said another close friend Harish Reddy.
Indeed, more than 1000 mourners turned out to pay their respects to the two men who were killed when their sedan collided with a four-wheel drive near Woolgoolga.
Mr Reddy, who moved from India to Lismore in 2004 to study at Southern Cross University, described Fr Charles as an inspiration, and the warmest person he'd ever met.
"He was the first person I met when I came here. We became very close friends. He is like my brother."
The actual brothers of American-born Fr O'Donnell were also present at the memorial service, and older brother Paul described a man who had extended the love he gave his own family to encompass the whole world.
Stephen O'Donnell's work had taken him to places as far afield as Nigeria, India, Spain and Italy, "...but he was never happier than he was this past year in Australia," Paul O'Donnell said.
While Fr Charles was buried at Lismore Lawn Cemetery, Fr Stephen's remains were set for cremation, to make his last journey home an easier one for his grieving family.
"We've come to bring him home," brother Paul solemnly told mourners.
"Because we miss him, and we need to be near him." Paul O'Donnell went on to thank everyone present at the service, emphasising the fondness his beloved brother felt for Lismore and 'generous Aussies' as a whole.
Apart from Fr Stephen's family, who flew in from Washington, mourners came from as far away as Sydney and Melbourne to bid their treasured friends adieu.
A three-vehicle police escort accompanied the two hearses to the cemetery for a private service for friends and family.
Fr Stephen's ashes will travel back with his family for interment in his homeland.