At the beginning of what would become a best-friendship, Nikki Oliveri saw Cody Byrnes wearing a cowboy hat at the mall. That night, Byrnes asked Oliveri if he looked silly.
“I told him he was the best looking cowboy out there,” Oliveri recalled last week. “And that is where we came up with our theme for homecoming… I was Jesse and he was Woody.”
Half Hollow Hills High School East Class of 2011 graduate Cody Byrnes, 21, died last Thursday after battles with Ewing Sarcoma and leukemia.
“A hero is defined as a person, typically a man, who is admired or idealized for courage, outstanding achievements, or noble qualities,” Oliveri wrote in a Facebook post. “That’s what you were Cody Byrnes.”
Byrnes’ Facebook wall was overtaken last week by posts from friends and family.
Hills graduate Rachel Karmel, who wrote one of the many posts, told Long Islander News last week that she regrets not seeing him more frequently.
“In kindergarten he was my first ‘boyfriend’ and we always used to joke about it,” she said. “After that year he moved schools, but we always kept in contact.”
He was an “all-around kind person,” she said – a person she was glad to know at all.
For Oliveri, the loss was one of a best friend.
“There’s nothing that I can write that can possible [sic] describe the emptiness that I feel right now,” she wrote in a Facebook post. “I didn’t think a friendship like the one we had was possible.”
After his diagnosis in 2008, Byrnes saw public support as he went through chemotherapy and extended stays in the hospital. In 2009, as a part of the National Hockey League’s “Hockey Fights Cancer” initiative, Byrnes was able to leave the hospital and head to Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale. There, the then 16-year-old met the players of his favorite team, the New York Islanders. Byrnes shook hands, smiled for pictures and was even able to drop the puck on the ice for the matchup between the Islanders and New York Rangers.
Byrnes was honored at the Dec. 20 Islanders game.
A funeral service at M.A. Connell Funeral Home was scheduled for Tuesday, Dec. 23, after press time, followed by cremation by Long Island Cremation Co. in West Babylon.