MILLENNIUM PARK — Bobby Cann inspired the people around him when he was alive. And his life has become an inpiration for those who knew him, said the Rev. Alan Taylor Saturday.
His "emotional vulnerability was what allowed him to empathize with others who struggle, allowed him to fearlessly engage all kinds of people, and then inspire others to follow their passions," Taylor said. "If you want to honor Bobby, discern what you are passionate about, connect with others who share your passion and have fun finding collective ways to make your hopes and dreams real."
More than 200 of Cann's friends and family gathered on a rooftop terrace in Millennium Park to remember the 26-year-old, who was fatally struck on his bike by an alleged drunk driver May 29.
There was no doubt to Cann's family in New Hampshire — his home state — that he would need both a Midwest and East Coast memorial service, said Cann's uncle John Santini Jr.
"My family and I must not pass up this opportunity, what might be our only opportunity, to meet this amazing congregation that was Bobby's family, here in Chicago," Santini said.
Santini said the Canns were overwhelmed by the support that poured out of Bobby's adopted city. After his death, cyclists held a memorial at the location in Old Town where he was killed and dedicated a Critical Mass bike ride to him. Groupon, where he worked, started a fund with Active Transportation Alliance to build more protected bike lanes across the city.
"Crashing over our heads, with the waves of grief, was this bright thunder of energy and love. It poured in from all directions," Santini said.
Friends shared memories Saturday of Cann's insatiable wanderlust and search for adventure.
"If someone said to him, 'I don't know,' he'd say, 'Go do. Find out,'" said friend Aaron Orsini. "'If someone asked, 'Where to?,' he'd say, 'Anywhere, just go.'"
Cann's girlfriend Catherine Bullard said he was unafraid to point out the amazing things he saw in the world around him — he'd shout about the beauty of the moon, or stop in an ice storm to take a picture of the lakefront from his bike.
"When an adult can do that, especially an adult who has seen how cruel the world can be, and can still stand up in front of a group of people he doesn't even know and say, 'That is beautiful,' I think that is courage, and I think that is so rare and so precious," Bullard said.
Friend Phil Bird said he and Cann connected over their love of cycling.
"Bobby's energy and appetite for life has made us all better people," he said. "Bobby loved everyone, and wanted everyone to know and love each other. And that's his legacy."
Bird said whenever he felt like taking the CTA over cycling in the dead of winter, he'd ask himself, "What would Bobby do?"
The answer was always to ride.
When Cann set out on a bike trip from the Northeast to Chicago and realized he had forgot to plan any stops, he just laughed, said Taylor.
"He just figured that he'd figure it out on the way," he said.
Cann's thirst for adventure was equalled by compassion for others. He was awarded a scholarship in high school named for one of his classmates who had died of cancer.
Cann wrote a thank-you letter to the girls' parents, which his mother, Maria, read Saturday.
"When my father died last February, it was an incredibly hard time, but I was given the most precious gift I could have ever asked for," Cann wrote. "I realized that I lived in the most amazing community... filled with so much love and compassion, just flowing unrestricted through every being in it."
Cann wrote that he recognized that same outpouring of support when the community mourned his classmate, who died so young.
Even at a young age, he marveled at the world around him.
"I was in awe of the beauty of a town united to mourn and to help."