WILTON - A month shy of his second birthday, Gregory Paul Prince Jr. was bid farewell by family and friends who gathered Saturday to celebrate his life.
The 23-month-old, who was also known by his nickname, Buggie, died of smoke inhalation during a fire at his grandparents' New Ipswich home a week ago.
He was the only child of Kaila Prince and Greg Prince Sr. of Greenville.
Speaking about her son during the service at the Michaud Funeral Home, Kaila Prince said, "I love him to death. I will never stop bragging about my son. I miss my son very much."
Gregory Jr. had a joyous, happy face that allowed him to get away with anything, she said.
"Greg loved everyone no matter what they looked like or who they were, and he taught me that's what you have to do," she said.
"Gregory Jr. defined for the people around him the word 'joy,'?" said the Rev. Mark Brockmeier, pastor of the Second Congregational Church of Wilton, who led the service. "It is a sad day, but we remember the joy and the life that was Gregory Jr."
The death of a child - especially so unexpectedly - is almost unspeakable, Brockmeier said. But to not speak of and remember Gregory Jr. would be a disservice to him, his memory and the effect he had on so many people around him, Brockmeier said.
"Gregory Jr.'s time with us was full and lively," he said. "He loved to be outside at every opportunity and wonder at everything around him. ... He could light up any room simply with his presence. There are so many memories, all qualities not measured by the clock. And I am sure you all have some memories of this precious little boy. Those memories will endure, making sure he is never forgotten."
Nobody knows why such tragedies happen, Brockmeier said, and though Gregory Jr. is now in "God's loving arms in heaven," he remains in the hearts and memories of his friends and family on earth.
"If he were here right now, he'd be smiling just like he'd be in life," Brockmeier said.
About 200 people attended the service was attended by about 200 people. The Princes have a large extended family in the Greenville and New Ipswich area.
Gregory Jr. died in a house fire at 36 Huse Road on Dec. 23. The cause of the fire, which destroyed the home, is still unknown.
The toddler was staying overnight at the home of his grandparents Rich and Beth Prince as part of an early family Christmas celebration.
Rich and Beth Prince lived in their Huse Road home with several of their adult children. The Princes and three of their children were hospitalized after the fire. Their 26-year-old son, Joshua Prince, perished in the fire with Gregory Jr.
Outside the funeral home, family member Missy Drouin of Greenville said Joshua Prince died attempting to rescue his nephew.
His brother Sean Prince had rescued Rich and Beth Prince that night.
"Joshua and Sean, Sean is still with us thank God, but they are indeed beyond heroes. Sean got his parents out, and Joshua went back in to get the baby," Missy Drouin said.
"Kissed his girlfriend and said, 'be back.' He didn't even think twice," said her husband, Richard Drouin.
Drouin said she was very close to Joshua Prince, who was 3 years old when she married into the family.
"I'm beyond proud of him. There are no words to express how proud," Missy Drouin said.
Buggie was exceptional in every way, she said
"He was beyond a comedian. Legit, never really heard that baby complain at all. ... He was always happy, happy, happy," she said. "The whole thing is beyond a tragedy."
- - - - - - - -Meghan Pierce may be reached at email@example.com.