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Friends, family recall fond memories of student who passed away
Honors student. Son. Brother. Coach. Friend. No matter what he did, Nathan Orsini touched many lives in his 21 years of life.
Nathan was a member of the School of Communications and the University Honors Program. He was a huge soccer fan and loved ballroom dancing, according to his friends. He always kept a positive attitude, even in the toughest of times.
On Monday, Nov. 30, Nathan passed away in his home in Belvidere, New Jersey, following a year-long battle with a rare, inoperable brain cancer. He passed peacefully while surrounded by his family, according to his obituary.
Nathan was diagnosed with Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma on his 20th birthday, according to the Nathan Strong Fund page.
Since his passing, Nathan’s Facebook timeline has been flooded with hundreds of reminiscent posts from friends and family. Rather than expressing grief though, many of these posts share stories, photos and videos of Nathan.
His father, Dan Orsini, has posted some of Nathan’s childhood photos, poems and even an elementary school project on his timeline. The project shows a sentence or two that his fellow classmates used to describe him – many of which said Nathan was very nice and a good friend.
Dan even posted a screenshot of the analytics from Nathan’s WordPress blog, “Inoperable,” which followed his experiences after being diagnosed. With just 38 posts in a year, Nathan’s blog had nearly 70,000 views.
Junior Syed Hashaum said Nathan made him a better person through the advice and perspective he gave.
“I can honestly say I have never met anyone like him, nor have I ever been such close friends, basically brothers, with someone in such a short span of time,” Hashaum said in a Facebook message. “Though our time was short, our bond was as if it had been for a million years. From the first day we started talking everything clicked, we were so alike it was like I knew him my entire life. He changed me.”
Junior Cayla Logan met Nathan during the Honors Program orientation and the two hit it off quickly. They stayed close since they lived in Ledges and had several classes together.
“[He was] literally the most genuinely good person I’ve ever encountered,” she said. “He managed to be funny without being mean at all, ever. The only time I’ve ever seen him upset is when he’s stressed about a project and even then it’s like he’s making the best of it. He was just that kind of person. And people tend to glorify people after they’re gone and that kind of thing, but he was honestly so nice and always trying to keep people happy and make jokes and so smart too. He had a good combination of all that stuff.”
Junior Stephen Mendez met Nathan during a film class they had together freshman year and bonded over the projects they had to work on. In the first semester of their sophomore year, they also took a rock climbing class together.
“He was my spotter [in rock climbing] and I was always afraid he was going to drop me, but I trusted him,” Mendez said. “And then on the car ride there he used to show me his raps that he was working on because he wanted to be some sort of rapper and he would always just spit these bars in the car on the way there and it was always so fun.”
Both Mendez and Nathan were a part of Q30 Television. Mendez and a couple friends went to Nathan’s funeral services over the weekend and gave the Orsini family a soccer ball signed by Q30 producers.
Soccer was one of Nathan’s passions. Even after his diagnosis, he continued to play. Senior Maria Gracia Gauto said she and Nathan instantly bonded over their passion for the sport.
“Early on it was clear to me that he was a great guy and that we would be great friends,” Gauto said. “We both loved soccer, we played it all our lives and were convinced it’s the greatest sport in the planet.”
Nathan even coached a girl’s soccer travel team back home called the Independence Comet despite his illness. Gauto said she wishes she got to play soccer more with Nathan.
“One of my biggest regrets is never hav[ing] been able to actually play a one-on-one against him; he would always say he would beat me, I guess I never wanted to give him the chance,” she said.
Junior Chris Omara said one of his best memories with Nathan is when they did Quinnipiac’s Relay for Life together their freshman year.
“We ended up running for the Mr. Relay contest together,” Omara said. “Afterward we kind of realized the irony, that in all likelihood he was doing it with cancer at the time and didn’t even know it.”
In September, Nathan was a speaker at this year’s annual Relay for Life. There, he encouraged his fellow students to keep fighting for a cure.
“I couldn’t have done this without the support of my community, friends and family,” Nathan said in his speech. “You really don’t know how much you take for granted in life until you are faced with something like this. It is important to stay positive during the journey.”
Just a day after his passing, a Belvidere resident created a Go Fund Me page in order to support Nathan’s family. As of Tuesday afternoon, 48 people have raised almost $4,000 for the Nathan Strong Fund.
Despite his illness, Nathan still managed to keep up with his friends at school through texts and snapchats.
“It was always kind of comforting whenever I missed him to send him a text and know that he was still there,” Omara said. “He was always very interested in what was happening up at school and what he was missing. He was trying for everyone through the whole thing.”
Hashaum said Nathan was the kind of person who genuinely cared about everyone.
“He was a genuine friend,” he said. “You don’t find that often and some people never come across someone like that ever, and for me to have been blessed with someone like that, no words can describe it and no feeling can capture that emotion.”
Nathan even individually sent several of his friends their favorite Halloween candy this year, just before he ended up back in the hospital, junior Lindsay Fruehauf said.
“That’s the kind of kid he is who is feeling horrible at home and still wants to make us happy by sending us all our favorite candy,” Fruehauf said.
This was one of the ways Nathan tried to stay connected to his college friends, she said.
“It was hard for us obviously, but it must have been harder for him,” Fruehauf said. “Because he wanted to be here so badly so I think that was his way of staying in contact with QU in general is through us.”
Fruehauf said Nathan was the “glue” of their friend group, whether when they hung out their freshman and beginning of sophomore year, or when they visited him after he was diagnosed.
“The night that we found out that he passed six of us went to Acrop together just ‘cuz we couldn’t sleep so we all went,” she said. “And I just thought to myself ‘Wow, he’s even bringing people together when he’s not here.’”
Fruehauf, Hashaum and Omara were three of the pallbearers at Nathan’s funeral on Monday. Several other Quinnipiac students attended the wake and funeral services. The Honors Program even set up transportation to New Jersey for the services.
The friends said it was a hard and sad weekend, but they were glad to be there together because it gave them a chance to honor and remember their friend.
“After a bunch of us had gone through the building and we were just kind of grouping up outside, we had all the Quinnipiac people clumped together,” Logan said. “And we just got to this point where we had to quiet ourselves down because we started telling stories about him and we were all just dying laughing, honestly. It got obnoxious, we had to calm ourselves down to be polite….Everyone has a hilarious story to tell about that kid.”
Gauto agreed Nathan’s humor stood out to all who knew him.
“He was a huge jokester,” she said. “I remember on my 21st birthday he made a friend of ours interrupt a class I was in to give me a birthday card they had gotten me. I don’t remember a single day my face burning red as much as it did that day.”
According to Omara, Nathan made even the littlest things fun.
“Even just doing homework with him was fun,” he said. “When I was around him I would be happier and just more willing to try new things.”
And Hashaum said he will never forget the influence Nathan has had on his life.
“I know I will never be without him,” Hashaum said. “Above all he will always be one of the greatest men I have ever known, and I know each day I will continue to honor him by doing everything he told me I should and by showing him that it is because of him I continue to be better than I was the day before. A true brother forever and always, Nathan Orsini was a gift from God, a miracle on earth and the true meaning of friendship.”
Check out our Arts & Life editor’s first-person piece commemorating her friend.