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Many gathered in the St. Thomas of Villanova church last Thursday to celebrate the life of Andrew Accardi. For 15 years, Accardi bravely battled cancer. On Oct. 31, he sadly lost his battle.

After he was diagnosed with cancer at the age of five, Accardi spent much of his life making trips in and out of the Children’s Hospital of Pennsylvania. He had neuroblastoma, a rare type of cancer that almost always occurs in infants and young children.

Accardi never let his illness define him. Those around him knew him as a funny,  smart and outgoing business student as well as a brother of Sigma Phi Epsilon.

At just 20 years old, Accardi learned how to balance hospital trips with a full academic schedule. Majoring in finance and marketing, Accardi found a home at the University.

At the Vigil Mass for All Saints Day celebrated in Accardi’s honor, the first pews were full of men donning suit jackets and khakis.

These were Accardi’s Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity brothers as well as his closest friends at the University.

His brothers and close friends did not focus on his history of illness and gave him some of the best days of his short life.

“Andrew Accardi was the most kindhearted person I ever had the privledge of meeting,” junior Keith Piwowar said. “No matter how bad your day was going, he would find a way to bring a smile to your face. Although his time on Earth came to an end too soon, his legacy and memory remain immortal.”

University President Rev. Peter M. Donohue, O.S.A., described Accardi in one word as a “saint.” He explained that Accardi was the picture of hope, always optimistic even in the face of hardships. He never let his hardships define him and he radiated positivity and inspired everyone around him.

“Andrew was the kind of guy to just brigten the day of everyone around him. He never let the cards he was dealt hold him back and he truly lived life to the fullest and the way we all should,”  junior Connor Burke said.

The rest of the church was packed with students, faculty, staff, friends and acquaintences.

Some did not know Accardi personally but knew others whose lives were touched by him.

It was a dream of Accardi’s to attend the University, his first-choice school. To those around him, this desire was obvious. Donohue said how much Villanova meant to him and emphasized his love for the campus by noting that even when he was unable to take classes here, he wanted to hang out and be a part of the community.

Donohue talked about how much Accardi’s friends and fraternity brothers at the University meant to him. Those men made an immense impact on his life and Accardi surely returned the favor.

“Accardi was one of my best friends,” junior Billy Gulino said. “I was lucky enough to meet him my first day of freshman year. In just over two years, I grew to admire his courage, strength and selflessness. He never let anything get to him and even on his worst day, he wore a bigger smile than most.”

He added, “he honestly was the strongest, most genuine person I have ever met. I’ll never forget him. The kid is an absolute legend.”

“I have never met someone quite like Andrew; he was an angel on Earth. We need more people on Earth like Andrew,” junior Gina Mancini said.

“Andrew was singlehandedly the most courageous and inspirational person I have met in my life,” junior Derek Chin said. “I will remember him for the rest of my life as my favorite person to run into on the dance floor and one of my dearest friends. His memory will live on through the fraternity and friends that embraced him and the family that loved him and raised him.”

The Accardi family held a private wake and an open funeral Mass was held yesterday in Accardi’s honor at St. Anthony of Padua Church in Fairfield, Conn.

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