April 30, 2002

Cornell Graduate Student Mourned

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Approximately one hundred students, professors, family members and friends gathered at noon yesterday in the Hans Bethe Auditorium of Clark Hall to remember and celebrate the life of Raphael Kapfer. Kapfer’s parents, Bruno and Elisabeth Kapfer, as well as his sister Christelle, traveled to Cornell University from Longueuil, Quebec, Canada, to be present at the informal gathering.


Kapfer was killed April 20, after being struck by a car while riding his bike on Route 13 . He was 24 years old and a graduate of McGill University in Montreal. Kapfer was working on the Cornell High Energy Synchrotron Source project as a graduate student in the physics department.

According to reports from the Cortland County Sheriff’s Department, 82-year-old Joseph Cinquanti struck and killed Kapfer while he was turning on to Route 13. Cinquanti was issued two tickets at the time of the accident for failure to yield the right of way while making a left turn and for operating a motor vehicle without proof of proper insurance.


“I don’t foresee anything further,” said Captain Marty Coolidge at the Cortland County Sheriff’s Department. “We’re still waiting for lab results. It is unlikely that alcohol was involved.”

A funeral was held on Saturday in Longueuil.

“Ten days is hardly enough time to dull the pain that many of us feel,” said Prof. Sol Gruner, director of the Cornell High Energy Synchrotron Source, in opening the event.

He further addressed Kapfer’s parents and sister by adding, “We hope the pain will be dulled by the love of this community.”

Marcus Collins grad, a friend and colleague of Kapfer, also addressed the gathering first in French and then in English.

“We are here today, because our friend Raphael has died and all of us will live on,” said Collins. “I will think not of his death, only his life.”

Collins further addressed Kapfer’s family, “I thank his family for giving us this wonderful gift of knowing their son and brother.”

The room was filled with an assortment of luncheon foods and with several large displays of photographs and memories of Kapfer that his friends and colleagues prepared for the occasion. Several of Kapfer’s friends and colleagues stood near the pictures that they had prepared and recounted their memories to Kapfer’s parents. Many pictures showed Kapfer engaged in sports or traveling.

Some people commented on past experiences with Kapfer.

“Raphael was one of the nicest people,” said Michael Weinberger grad. “He used to baby-sit for our pets when we were out of town.”

“What I remember most was Raphael’s back. Every morning when I walked in he was sitting at his desk, and I saw his back, that’s what I remember of him. His back and the particular way in which his hair was cut,” Collins said.

“I want to tell people to for god’s sake look left,” Collins added. “Cyclists have the same rights — we’re all on the road. Raphael was always safe and careful, it’s utterly ridiculous and now my friend is dead.”

Kapfer’s mother, Elisabeth Kapfer, commented, in translation, “We want to thank everybody for their support, their great support and help. Sorrow cannot be shared; there are no words. We appreciate that all of the people that have supported us and taken care of us. The University has taken all actions to make this as easy as possible.”

Prof. Peter LePage, chair of the department of physics, unofficially closed the event by reading a prepared statement from Kapfer’s parents.

“We are amazed at all of the people that came on Saturday in Montreal, and we are really touched by this outpouring of emotions,” LePage said.

LePage also expressed the Kapfer family’s interest in staying in touch with the Cornell community.

Archived article by Chris Mitchell