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MU remembers the students who died in the past year

Thursday, April 7, 2011 | 10:03 p.m. CDT; updated 12:10 p.m. CDT, Friday, April 8, 2011

*Matthew Bazoian's family received his bone marrow donor card a few days after he died. An earlier version of this story misreported this information.

COLUMBIA — Flags at MU will be lowered to half-staff Friday in memory of 11 students who died during the past year.

MU Remembers is an annual commemoration of deceased students' lives. A ceremony will take place at 2 p.m. in Stotler Lounge, Memorial Union.

During the memorial, tower lights at the Union will be darkened.

The 11 include nine men and two women, both undergraduates and graduate students. One was a medical student, only a week from graduation; another had been commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Army. All had promising lives ahead of them.

Here is a look at those who will be remembered Friday.

MATTHEW BAZOIAN

Matt Bazoian had just completed his freshman year as a business major at MU when he died June 8 in a skateboard accident.

His friends called him "Baz," and they were drawn to his laid-back and clever personality.

“He loved being with people,” said his mother, Tracy. “We didn’t know how many people he really did know. It amazed us.”

She said he would often meet his family to tailgate before MU games and then go with them to Shakespeare’s for pizza or Booche's for burgers. His favorite class was honors philosophy.

He loved music, his mother said, liked going to concerts with friends and was proud when he was one of the few in the audience who knew all the lyrics to obscure songs.

His favorite band quote was by STS9: “Listen more closely to the subtle rhythms of life.”

Matt, who was 19, knew a lot about sports cars. His father, Scott, said he often knew more about them than salesmen at dealerships he liked to visit.

He once wrote a letter to the BMW Motor Co. in Germany suggesting changes in their vehicle line. It still amuses his family that the company wrote back.

“I think it sums up his creativity, humor and interest in cars,” his father said in his son's eulogy in St. Louis.

Matt loved family traditions and shared a close relationship with his sister and cousins, family members said.

A few days *after he died, they received his bone marrow donor card in the mail. He also became an organ donor. His mother said a 13-year-old girl received one of his kidneys.

MASON CUMMINS

Mason Cummins always looked a person straight in the eye, even if he had to bend his 6-foot-1 frame to do it.

The 29-year-old gifted photographer died suddenly in Columbia on May 8, one week before he was to graduate from the School of Medicine.

“We miss him a lot,” his mother, Donna, said, choking back tears.

Her son's interests ranged widely among the arts, but his passion was photography, his mother said. He was working to build a business and had photographed weddings, models and children.

He spent one summer in Hollywood pursuing an acting career before he decided on a career in psychiatry, she said. He was cast as an extra in one episode of "Sex & the City" and modeled for an agency in Kansas City.

He grew up in the small town of Sarcoxie near Joplin, which has fewer than 2,000 residents. But he was an inveterate traveler, spending summers in New York and Europe. The last trip with his family was to Greece.

Mason was musically gifted, as well, she said. As a boy, he would listen to music in the car and mime playing the piano, which he eventually learned to play by ear. It’s one of his mother’s fondest memories. He also played the saxophone and the guitar.

He had immense talent, but that will not be his legacy, his mother said. At graduation, a book was made about him, filled with stories of his kindness.

“He’ll probably always be remembered for his listening ear and his merciful heart,” she said.

ERIC KRIEGER

Eric Krieger graduated from De Smet Jesuit High School in St. Louis and was a business student at MU. He died suddenly on Jan. 29.

His brothers, Kurt and Todd, also attend MU. Eric was the son of Michael and Laurie Krieger and had a sister, Heidi.

On his Facebook page, his brother thanked friends and family for all their support.

CAITLYN LeCLERC

Caitlyn LeClerc was 5-foot-2 and fearless.

The 21-year-old student, who could jump out of planes and stop runaway horses, died in an automobile accident returning from a Labor Day vacation on Sept. 6.

Caitlyn stood out as a leader to her teachers and her students. She was active and popular in her large public high school in Leavenworth, Kan., even though she came from a small middle school.

“She walked into that high school and acted like she owned the place,” her mother, Teresa, said.

Her involvement included being in the National Honors Society and being commander of the honor guard of JROTC. Her bold personality led her to be voted prom queen her senior year.

“Her teachers thought she lived at the high school,” her mother said.

At home, reading and sleeping were Caitlyn’s two favorite things, she said. Her twin siblings, Thomas and Grace, thought she was nocturnal.

Her mother said Caitlyn loved horses and worked at a stable during high school. She demonstrated  supreme courage when a horse escaped and began circling the stable. Her mother panicked, but Caitlyn calmly went up to the horse with a handful of corn and calmed it down.

“She just stood there with one hand on her hip and the other one holding the corn,” her mother said.

One of her daughter's primary interests was the military, and she was a commissioned second lieutenant in the U.S. Army.

She had received an associate degree at Wentworth Military Academy and was a member of the Missouri National Guard. She earned her wings from airborne school, jumping out of at least five airplanes.

“She was a short little thing, but she wasn’t afraid of anything,” her mother said.

MICHAEL MILLER

The play "Spirit's Traveling Salvation Show" will be performed Sunday as part of the Mizzou New Play Series, but the author will not be there to see it.

Michael Miller battled muscular dystrophy all his life and died Jan. 27 at the age of 22.

His aunt Lindsey Testerman described him as a "standard college kid" who loved theater and film. Three of the walls of his bedroom had shelves full of DVDs and CDs, and he volunteered at the True/False film festival for three years.

He used a wheelchair, and because of that, he wore plain, unfashionable shoes, Testerman said. At the beginning of his freshman year at MU, she gave him a pair of Converse tennis shoes.

"He wore those shoes until he died," Testerman said. "Now I have them tattooed on my arm."

Michael never got down on himself about his illness, she said. He did not let it hinder an exceptional writing gift.

His Southern Gothic style and love of language resembled the work of Tennessee Williams, said David Crespy, director of undergraduate studies in the theater department.

Michael wrote volumes of plays, and they were just beginning to win awards when he died. He was always coming up with new ideas for plays, and Crespy said he marveled at the passion and imagination in them.

"He always seemed very fragile, and yet he was a really dramatic, powerful writer," he said.

Michael was always smiling, Crespy said, and was a ray of sunshine in the theater. Despite knowing he was ill, death was a shock.

"He was a miracle while we had him," Crespy said.

JONATHAN MORGAN

Jon Morgan invested hard work and dedication into his education. A biochemistry student, he died Jan. 8 after completing three years at MU.

Jon was deeply invested in school, said his father, Al Morgan. Jon studied diligently, tutored his classmates and interned at the MU Research Reactor.

“He strove to be the best at whatever he did,” Morgan said.

He grew up in St. Louis, and his father said he trained as a runner, once winning the St. Louis Marathon for his age group.

One of his goals was opening a practice as a brain surgeon with the help of his siblings, Jessica and Emily Reed, William and Conner Morgan and Ashley Boes.

His father said there was a nine-hour visitation for his son after he died, and that people who knew him continually filed through the room.

“It was amazing that a young man at 21 would have that much effect on so many lives,” he said.

NORMAN "PAUL" NOLEN

Paul Nolen was a 27-year-old MU research fellow, affectionately called "Bam Bam" by his family, after the "Flintstones" character. He was found dead in his car March 23 on the Interstate 70 exit ramp at Midway.

“He was short and strong,” said his sister, Lashundra Finley. “Just like Bam Bam.”

She described her brother as a leader who put smiles on others' faces. When he came home from college, he spent time with his family instead of partying. He put people first.

“I’m the big sister, so I tried to put him first,” she said. “But he wouldn’t allow it.”

He was considered the genius of the family, she said, and he put a lot of pressure on himself to realize his lifelong dream of being a veterinarian.

“He said he didn’t want to work with people because he thought they talked too much,” Finley said, laughing.

He was adventurous and discovered a love for salsa dancing, skydiving and country music.

“He wasn’t an oddball, but he made his own path,” Finley said.

DANIEL SCHATZ

Daniel Schatz, a reserve quarterback for the Mizzou football team, died in a truck-school bus crash on Aug. 5. His family and friends remember him as a man who loved the outdoors and helping others.

"He kind of had that Southern-boy way," his teammate Ashton Glaser said. "He was always nice to people and always willing to help out."

Daniel, who grew up in Sullivan, competed in a number of sports in high school and college, but his passions were hunting, fishing and just being outside, his father said. 

"He was a country kid," Dave Schatz said. "He liked wearing cowboy boots, overalls and camouflage."

His family buried him in overalls because of how much he loved to wear them.

Daniel, who was 19, had a quiet temperament, but those who knew him say he also had a mischievous side.

As a child, he was always scheming and played pranks, his father said. In Mizzou's quarterback room, he like to joke around with the other players, said his teammate.

What struck people the most was his consistently kind personality. He was his parents' pride and joy, and his character constantly impressed them.

"I couldn't ask for anything more in a son," his father said. "He is sadly missed."

SCOTT SCHMITT

Scott Schmitt was a senior at MU, planning to graduate this spring. He died on Aug. 29.

He was pursuing a major in political science and a minor in journalism, according to earlier interviews.

Scott hoped to go to law or graduate school and planned to take the LSAT, according to an interview with his father in The Maneater.

He also considered a journalism career in radio or broadcast.

Scott was living in the TRUE Scholars house and community adviser Nathan Winters said he was involved in different activities around the house.

"He was getting ready for life after Mizzou," his father said in an obituary that ran in The Maneater.

IAN THOMAS

Ian Thomas was known as a complex individual with both a serious and silly side. He died on Valentine's Day, Feb. 14.

Ian's friend Kenny Wiley said he recognized his wit immediately.

"His humor was biting," Wiley said.

Ian's jokes put him in the spotlight whenever he spent time with his friends.

"You could be in a room with a whole bunch of people, and no one else but Ian would talk," said his friend, Dan Cornfield. "Everyone would be rolling on the floor laughing."

Ian grew up in Philadelphia and was a fan of Penn State and Mizzou football, friends said. In his junior year, he discovered a love for writing and movies. He took writing classes and wrote short stories and poems, and he made a movie for the Silverscreen Film Festival.

An arts and science major, he was also a senior staff writer for The Maneater. The week before he died, he posted this comment about the big February snowfall:

"Hear me out: At first, it’s all white and picturesque, draped across lawns and rooftops like a thick, wooly quilt. It’s pristine! It’s beautiful!

"Two days later, it’s the color of poisoned coffee, especially around sidewalks. Stupid cars. Snow, if you’re going to be pretty and white, please stay pretty and white."

Wiley valued this serious side of Ian because they shared a passion for reading and writing.

"We had some great conversations about writing, and I really miss that," he said.

Both Cornfield and Wiley described Ian as challenging. He was blunt and knowledgeable about the world, and he expected his friends to be the same way, Wiley said.

"He was a very memorable person. People didn't forget meeting him," he said. "And he challenged us, too."

CAITLIN VALORA

Caitlin Valora's compassion won her many friends and persuaded her to study sociology at MU.

She died Aug. 9 in a motorcycle accident near East Nifong Boulevard. She would have been a junior this year.

Caitlin wasn’t involved with many organized activities on campus, but her family said she was deeply invested in the friendships she made.

“People were her project,” said her father, Michael.

Caitlin loved working with children. During high school in Manchester, she spent time with children at daycare centers and Easter Seals United Cerebral Palsy. Her father said she had a strong desire to continue working with children after graduation.

For a long time, he said, his daughter was certain that working with orphans was her purpose in life.

“Since she was a little kid — maybe 10 — she was talking about orphans in Eastern Europe or Africa,” he said.

“She had a huge heart for kids,” her father said. At home, she frequently talked about the children she was helping and loved sharing pictures of them.

Travel was another dream, and she was anticipating a class in Russian last fall.

Her choice to attend MU came after visiting a friend during her senior year of high school. As soon as Caitlin arrived, she was hooked on MU, he said.

“For her, it was a perfect fit,” he said. “She loved the small town feel and the buzz of activity.”

Her impact on the people she befriended was evidenced in the hundreds who came to her funeral. Her father said people will most miss a smile that lit up the room.

“She spent time and effort to get to know people no one else did,” he said. “That is really her legacy. It’s her friends.”

 


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Comments

Rachel Lijewski April 9, 2011 | 1:43 p.m.

I just wanted to personally offer my sincerest condolences to all the families and friends of these students. My thoughts are with you and yours.

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