For five weeks, Shane Montgomery's family searched for him - posting "Missing" signs that still hang in store windows in Manayunk and miles beyond, tying green ribbons to telephone poles, standing vigil on the banks of the Schuylkill on frigid weekend afternoons as volunteer divers combed its depths.
That, Montgomery's uncle said Sunday, was the easy part.
On Saturday afternoon, Shane Montgomery's brother, Thomas LaCorte, was the first of the family to see a diver's hand emerge from the water during the final search of the river - a sign, at last, that something had been found.
Hours later, LaCorte and his uncle, Kevin Verbrugghe, identified the West Chester University student by his Celtic cross shoulder tattoo at the city Medical Examiner's Office.
Montgomery's death was ruled accidental. His body was released to his family. On Sunday, his mother sat down to write his obituary.
"We know the hard part is in front of us," Verbrugghe said Sunday.
He had just come from an emotional meeting with Shane Montgomery's parents, Karen and Kevin Montgomery, and a funeral director, he said, "but with God's help, and Karen and Kevin's courage leading the way, we'll be able to get through the next phase of what's to come."
For now, that means funeral services for the 21-year-old from Roxborough who disappeared early Thanksgiving Day. A wake has been scheduled for 5 to 9 p.m. Thursday at St. John the Baptist Catholic Church in Manayunk. A viewing has been set for 9 a.m. Friday at the church, followed by a 10 a.m. Funeral Mass.
Interment will follow in Calvary Cemetery in West Conshohocken.
Shane Montgomery's cause of death will be further specified on his death certificate, which the family will receive Monday, Verbrugghe said.
The young man's disappearance had stretched from Thanksgiving to New Year's. A senior at West Chester University, he and friends had gone partying in Manayunk, as did many college students in the region on Thanksgiving Eve.
He had been drinking at Kildare's Irish Pub, where a misstep into a DJ's table brought an invitation to leave the crowded bar shortly before closing time. Kildare's owners later said he was not visibly inebriated and that he had racked up only a $17 bar tab.
With freezing conditions outside, he left the bar wearing only a hooded sweatshirt. When he failed to come home, his parents reported him missing Thanksgiving Day.
A massive search ensued, involving the FBI and Philadelphia police. Hundreds of community members blanketed the neighborhood and beyond with fliers and green ribbons to show support for Montgomery and his family.
Leads were scarce for weeks, until video from a nearby nail salon emerged showing Montgomery, around 1:50 a.m. Thanksgiving Day, crossing a small footbridge leading to a parking lot near the river in Manayunk.
Philadelphia police sent their marine unit to search the Manayunk Canal adjoining the river and to do surface searches by boat of the river itself. For broader underwater reconnaissance, Montgomery's family enlisted the Garden State Underwater Recovery Unit.
Detectives from the Philadelphia police Northwest Division were a constant presence during the searches, and they shared in the family's pain, Verbrugghe said.
Lead Detective Lisa Collins was visibly upset during those searches, Verbrugghe said.
"You could actually see the anguish in her face at times when the divers would come up with nothing," he said.
The all-volunteer, donation-funded unit had conducted two previous searches of the river, one of which brought up the missing student's keys on Dec. 21.
Gerry Boylan, captain of the Garden State team whose divers found Montgomery, said the body was submerged about 10 feet from shore, in water three to four feet deep. He was about a half-mile downstream from Kildare's and 800 yards from where his keys were found.
"Before we find someone . . . there's always hope that he's still alive," Boylan said. "And, unfortunately, when we do find someone, it removes all that hope. It's a double-edged sword for us, because we have to take that last remaining hope away from the parents."
After Montgomery's body was found, supporters lined the edge of the canal towpath in Manayunk with dozens of votive candles. At the river's edge, someone placed a green-and-white Celtic cross and a single bouquet of red roses pinned with a loop of green ribbon.
And at the Montgomery family's parish, St. John the Baptist, parishioners prayed for the family and the repose of their son's soul.
Verbrugghe, Montgomery's godfather, described his nephew as quick-witted and fun-loving, with a passion for the Eagles and popular music - "There wasn't a song you could put on the radio that he didn't know," he said, laughing.
Shane Montgomery had hoped to graduate this year.
Verbrugghe said Karen and Kevin Montgomery were overwhelmed and grateful for support from friends and the community at large.
"It's good to see people coming and going out of [the Montgomery family's] house, and although they are exhausted, the love they're still being shown is still outstanding," he said.