Remembering the Kristjan who 'made everyone feel like a friend'
“As long as you live, you have to enjoy life” is what Beth Smith said Kristjan Ndoj would always tell his mother. And, according to friends, family and clergy who knew the Shelton teenager, he did just that.
Kristjan, 15, was remembered at funeral services Thursday in Shelton. He died on March 20 from injuries gunshot wounds he had suffered five days earlier.
He was “a young man who really did stand out in so many ways,” Monsignor Christopher Walsh said in remarks at St. Joseph’s Church to the hundreds of people who came out to say their goodbyes.
Walsh said Kristjan was athletic, smart, good-looking and “a bit of a flirt."
“Above all,” Walsh said, he was “a teenager who stood out for being so kind.”
'We have such a broken heart'
Smith, headmaster at Shelton High School, and Walsh gave eulogies to honor the teen. Kristjan was a sophomore at Shelton High.
“We all feel so bad here in Shelton... that we could not protect him,” Walsh said. “We have such a broken heart.”
“It was Kristjan’s kindness and goodness that should be the thing we celebrate today,” Walsh said.
Kristjan came to the United States in 2008 from Albania, the Eastern European country where his family is from. Walsh relayed what Kristjan’s father Fran said about that time — “he was in a blooming time of life.”
The Ndoj family was introduced to St. Joseph's Roman Catholic Church in downtown Shelton when Kristjan knocked on the back of the parish door with his father and his mother, Rudina.
Kristjan, not quite a teenager at the time, held himself with poise and responsibility as he helped translate for his parents during that initial conversation at the church.
“Kristjan, I know... would help wherever he could,” Walsh said.
Made everyone 'feel like a friend'
Smith agreed. She said Kristjan was friendly with everyone at Shelton High School.
“He made everyone he encountered feel like a friend,” she said. “If you were sad, he made you happy. He would purposefully tell his friends that they were going to go sit with students who were alone in the cafeteria to make them feel welcome.”
He also wasn’t afraid to ask for advice, Walsh and Smith said. The two relayed similar stories.
“In fact, he asked his father how he could charm the girls,” Smith said. “He father told him to compliment them.
"During a recent Valentine’s Day, Kristjan visited [a school office], took a handful of candy hearts and gave one to every girl in his ELL class," she said.
A zest for life
Kristjan wouldn’t be afraid to compliment people. Something, Walsh said, that isn’t necessarily commonplace in today's society.
In words that seemed to speak the loudest about what was said about Kristjan’s love of life, Smith told mourners: “We need to reflect on a posting on Kristjan's Facebook page that stated, ‘There is beauty in everything, but no one really sees it.’ We have been blessed by knowing the beauty of Kristjan Ndoj for the past 15 years.
"At the Shelton High School's interfaith gathering this past Sunday," Smith continued, "Father Nick referred to Kristjan as ‘the gift from God.’ Kristjan was truly our gift, someone whose zest for life was contagious.”
Visiting an immigrant family
Police continue to investigate the shooting of Kristjan. On March 15, just before 9 p.m. shots were reportedly heard in a driveway on Agawam Trail, in the city’s Pine Rock neighborhood.
That is where police found a badly wounded Kristjan Ndoj and he was rushed to the hospital. He was listed in critical condition until his death on March 20.
During funeral services, Walsh said Kristjan was going to visit the home on Agawam Trail to help welcome a new immigrant family into Shelton.
Anyone with any information about the case is asked to contact the Shelton Police Department at 203-924-1544. Calls may be kept confidential.