UTICA, N.Y. – To her friends and family, Bianca Devins was a talented artist with a beautiful soul, the type of person who wanted the world to be a better place.
To Frank Williams, her maternal grandfather, Devins was “Beanpot” — a nickname that dates back to when she was small and would swing for hours on end at his house, sometimes in mittens and boots.
Williams delivered a composed, poignant eulogy Friday at the Church of Our Lady of Lourdes in Utica, where Devins was remembered during a 90-minute Mass celebrated by the Rev. Joseph Salerno, the priest who baptized her as an infant just 17 years ago.
Devins was murdered Sunday morning on a dead-end Utica street, where her accused killer, Brandon A. Clark, 21, uploaded photos of her slain body onto Discord, a chat app used primarily by video gamers.
The photos quickly spread across social media, and the case drew international attention as several platforms struggled to rein in the grisly images.
The funeral Friday focused almost entirely on the bright spots of Devins’ short life, with the lone exception coming when Williams led the 300-person crowd in a brief chant of a three-word lesson Devins’ family intends to spread in Bianca’s memory.
“Love, not violence,” he chanted as the crowd joined in. “Love, not violence. Love, not violence.”
Devins’ body was encased in a pewter-colored casket, which was complemented by white and pink flowers (pink was her favorite color) when placed near the altar by her cousins and uncles, who served as pallbearers.
Two large photos — one of Devins, the other of her recent graduating class at Proctor High School — were on display.
In his homily, Salerno recounted how all of those mourning Devins’ death were joined together by three things: sorrow, faith and thanksgiving.
“Your mere presence is a source of healing grace for Bianca’s family,” Salerno told the congregation.
Gianna Rosato, Devins’ sister-like best friend, and Olivia Devins, her biological sister, delivered a brief, joint eulogy, fighting through tears as they remembered her as a “beautiful girl with a beautiful heart” while Williams stood close by to console them.
Williams followed with a eulogy on behalf of Devins’ family, recounting how he got to watch his granddaughters grow as Bianca, Olivia and their mother, Kimberly, lived with him for a period of time.
Pausing only briefly to compose himself, Williams recalled Bianca’s love of the color pink, a color she often dyed her hair, “much to the chagrin of her conservative-dressing grandfather.”
Williams spoke of Bianca’s love for the family’s 23-year-old cat, Belle, who died a month before she did.
At one point, Williams said he and his partner had decided to cremate Belle and bury her remains with whomever died first. Instead, they buried the cat’s ashes with Bianca during a private interment at Forest Hill Cemetery in Utica, which followed the funeral.
After graduating from high school last month, Devins had been set to attend Mohawk Valley Community College, about a mile down the road from the site of her death, in the fall.
Williams said she was going to pursue a career in psychology.
During his eulogy, Williams remembered Devins’ smile as a “beacon of light … that shows what love, what understanding that girl has.”
After Devins and her sister moved out of his home years ago, Williams’ neighbor approached him about purchasing his swing — the same swing Devins used as a little girl.
“Not for sale,” Williams said.
When the neighbor approached him again, he relented with one condition: The Devins girls and Rosato would get to use it any time they want, 24 hours a day.
The girls gave Williams grief for selling it. Now, a new swing will mark Bianca’s memory.
“We bought you a new swing,” Williams said, choking back tears. “It will be yours forever. I promise.”
Utica Police have charged Clark, 21, of Bridgeport, Onondaga County, with Devins’ murder. He was treated at St. Elizabeth Medical Center — right across the street from the church where Devins’ funeral was held — and is now being held at Oneida County Jail.
Follow Jon Campbell on Twitter: @JonCampbellGAN
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