Kristen Milano’s family and friends held a 20th birthday party for her on Tuesday at the Hillside Cemetery in Cheshire where she is buried.
This wasn't the celebration they imagined a year ago, but they said not remembering her birthday wasn't an option.
“We’d always have to celebrate like a week for her, instead of just her day. It was like a week or it's her birthday month, basically,” said Kayla Cima-Yarnell, Milano’s best friend.
The Southington teen died earlier this summer in a fire at her family’s apartment.
“It’s very sad but I wasn't expecting it to be a happy, happy day. I knew it was going to be a tough day,” said Joshua Zatulskis, Milano’s 10-year-old brother.
He and his family got through it with a few tears and hugs, along with a lot of flowers, decorations and cake-eating.
“She always said she had the worst birthdays ever, so we wanted to show her a good time this year and I know that she's up there celebrating and we're doing the same for her here,” said Milano’s sister, Melissa.
Party-goers wore shirts bearing Milano’s name, brought special pink gifts and wrote her happy birthday messages on balloons. They released the birthday wish-balloons after singing her Happy Birthday.
“When they get there, she's going to grab them all and read them and she's, she's going to be happy,” said Zatulskis.
Milano died from smoke inhalation on June 22. Police say a family friend, Eric Morelli, is responsible for the fire. He’s accused of throwing a lit firecracker into her home and faces manslaughter and reckless endangerment charges.