Friends of Nicklow recount his life during candlelight vigil

Nicklow is the second Greek student at MU to die this semester.
Stephen Hagen and Anna Winzenburg sit on a wall outside Sigma Pi fraternity following the candlelight vigil for Chris Nicklow on Tuesday, Oct. 22, 2014. Hagen was Nicklow's roommate last year.

The air outside Sigma Pi was chill and somber Tuesday night.

More than 200 people gathered in front of the fraternity house to mourn for Chris Nicklow, who died two nights earlier. Nicklow was a sophomore from Medina, Minnesota, and a member of the fraternity.

MU and Columbia police officers watched over the crowd to preserve the peace, but only faint whispers and sniffles broke the silence.

As they passed the candlelight to one another, those in attendance also rekindled their memory of Nicklow’s life through their favorite stories and moments. They found comfort in each other's arms and shoulders to ease the pain and burden of their loss.

Nicklow’s fraternity brothers slowly emerged from the house, quiet in remembrance and grief. Some tried to keep their shoulders high and hide the tears, but could not hold back the flood for long.

Chris Coco, a sophomore and Sigma Pi member, said he had known Nicklow since his freshman year when the two pledged together. He said Nicklow had since become one of his closest friends.

“He was the most down-to-earth guy I’ve ever met,” Coco said. “He was the most carefree guy ... I’ve never seen him be mean to anyone or put someone down. He was a great, loyal brother and taught us all how to love one another unconditionally.”

Coco placed his hands inside his jacket pockets, took a deep breath and paused to reflect on his time with Nicklow before recalling his fondest memory of Nicklow.

Coco said Nicklow was passionate about animals and the outdoors, and spent hours in nature. He said just four weeks before Nicklow’s death, the two had gotten puppies from Kansas. Nicklow had named his dog Snoop.

“He had so many aspirations to take (the dogs) up north to the cabin he was building, and take them fishing and camping,” Coco said. “He just never got to see that.”

Current members and alumni of Sigma Pi addressed the crowd, speaking in low, glum voices. Joey Tosello, a fraternity alumnus, remembered the days he had spent with Nicklow.

“During homecoming, me and a couple of other guys would let him off during his pomping hours with his pledge brothers to come hang out with the older guys,” Tosello said, scarcely containing his tears. “We felt like he was already one of our brothers, and it just goes to show how easy it was to get along with him and how likeable he was even before I got to know him.”

Tosello went on to describe Nicklow’s personality as a goofy and playful one.

“You might remember it if you were in the house when it happened,” he said. “I was studying one night during a party … at one point, Nicklow and a couple of guys came down, and he started chasing me around the first floor, yelling, ‘I’m going to kiss you!’ He did it for a solid 10-20 minutes … I think it goes to show how carefree and goofy his personality was, and I know we all love that about him.”

Before retiring from the mic, Tosello told the crowd to learn from Nicklow and love others unconditionally.

Ben Baker, sophomore and chapter president, said Nicklow had never ceased to keep a smile on his face since the two first met, when they both pledged at Sigma Pi.

“He was someone I had always looked forward to seeing,” Baker said. “He always had a good attitude and a smile on his face. I liked to walk (with) him into the house as he carried his dog in one arm.”

The vigil continued with a prayer and a song performed by Nicklow’s fraternity brothers. A slideshow looked back at the times Nicklow had spent at the house, laughing and smiling.

The brothers of Sigma Pi concluded the ceremony by reciting the fraternity’s creed in unity, and opened their doors to all visitors who sought to reminisce on Nicklow’s memories and escape the frigid October wind.

Tosello reminded Nicklow’s friends and loved ones to look upward amid their grief.

“For the past few weeks, it’s been raining … Since Nicklow passed away, we haven’t seen a single cloud in the sky,” he said. “I think that’s his way of showing us from upstairs that we should still be happy, that we should still have smiles on our faces, despite everything that’s happened,” he said. “I know that’s what he would have wanted — for everyone to be happy.”

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