Beloved Orange Coast College baseball coach John Altobelli, his wife Keri Altobelli, and their daughter Alyssa Altobelli were remembered Monday at a public memorial at Angel Stadium. The family members were all killed in the helicopter crash that also took the life of retired NBA superstar Kobe Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna. The helicopter carrying nine people was headed to Bryant's Mamba Sports Academy last month when it crashed and killed everyone on board.
The emotional service filled with tears, laughter and music began with a reading of the names of those who died as flowers and photos covered the podium. As the two-hour service ended in the early evening darkness, family friend and pastor Erik Rees asked the crowd of about 4,000 to shine the lights of their phones toward JJ Altobelli, 29, John's son and Keri's stepson, and Alexis Altobelli, 16, Alyssa's older sister.
Three family members – John, Keri and Alyssa Altobelli – who were killed in the helicopter crash that also claimed the lives of Kobe and Gianna Bryant, were remembered at Angel Stadium Monday, @miguelnbc reports. pic.twitter.com/1ZZkLIIcOJ— TODAY (@TODAYshow) February 11, 2020
"JJ, Lexi, I know the time you had together with all of them doesn't seem like it's enough, but I know you'll cherish it," said Buck Taylor, the former San Marcos Palomar College coach and current Kansas State pitching coach who was a longtime friend of John Altobelli, as reported by the Los Angeles Times. "You two are strong enough to work through this."
"I mean, look around. You have the support of so many great family members, friends and people here. I want you to understand that you're always a part of our family."
Taylor was one of 15 speakers to remember the Altobellis, including University of Texas coach Bill Pierce, a college teammate of John's at Houston, several former OCC assistants, longtime friends of Keri as well as her brother, and friends and teammates of Alyssa. John Altobelli, 56, coached baseball for nearly 30 years.
"If it wasn't for him, I would have never had the opportunity to get back to the game and meet my best friends," one speaker said, according to CBS Los Angeles.
"Anaheim Stadium couldn't be more appropriate because all those angels are looking over us," another said.
Alyssa Altobelli, 14, was a sharp-shooting point guard on the Newport Beach-based Mambas, an elite eighth-grade travel basketball team coached by Bryant.
"No matter how many times she got knocked down, she always got up stronger and fought harder," Mambas teammate Allison Eadie said of Alyssa, as reported by the Los Angeles Times. "She was not only a great player but an amazing teammate. We planned on going to Oregon together and being a force to be reckoned with. This was our dream, and I will live it for the both of us."
Sammy Forbath, one of Alyssa's best friends and neighbors, admired her sense of humor, her dedication and for having "the hardest work ethic I've ever seen," but she also saw a softer side.
"She was an animal lover," Forth said. "In sixth grade, she thought the turtles in science class were being mistreated so she took them home from the classroom as pets. She had the biggest heart."
Keri Altobelli, 46, known as "K" to her family and friends, was remembered as a fiercely loyal wife, mother, sister and friend who virtually attended every OCC baseball game, home or away.
"She immediately embraced JJ as her son and loved him like he was her own," said Lori Lever, who called Keri a best friend and mentor of 30 years. "She was strong, direct, real, unapologetically bold, hard-working and brutally honest because she cared. She stood up for herself, her family and her close inner circle."0comments
JJ Altobelli, a scout for the Boston Red Sox, spoke briefly during the service alongside his fiancée Carly Konigsfeld and younger sister Alexis Altobelli. "On behalf of me, Lexi, Carly, I can't thank everyone here enough," JJ said. "The amount of love and support we've received these past few weeks has been truly amazing. Each text, call, donation or act of kindness has not gone unnoticed. It really shows the impact my dad, K and Alyssa had on everyone here."
Photo credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea / Stringer / Getty