I had met Duffey when I was going into sophomore year of high school, 2009. His real name is Eric, but everyone called him Duffey. Or Hank. He was my brother Zach’s roommate. Duffey was this bubbly, energetic, smiley, tall red headed, skinny guy. He was a typical pasty white, red headed Irish guy. I think the first time my dad met him he called him string bean.
When I would go visit Zach, Duffey was just like another brother. He picked on me the right amount, and made me laugh enough to balance it back to even. But he always had my brother’ back.
He would walk in the apartment door and say “Honey, I’m home” every damn time. His smile could light up a room. He was never afraid to be himself, be a complete goofball or do something that would make someone who was feeling down laugh. And he could recite every line to Anchorman and Super Troopers.
The last time I saw Duffey, we went to Little Cesar’s and each got our own pizza. We proceeded to eat them and then drink cheap booze and play drinking games. I’m pretty sure we played drinking Jenga. I’m also sure he taught me how to play this stupid card game called Ride the Bus. I’m sure many people know it by a different name, but that’s what he called it. It’s a probability and complete guessing game. He got me so trashed that night but he still made sure that I took ibuprofen and had a glass of water before I passed out on their nasty apartment floor.
I remember that week as if it was yesterday. Duffey went out for his 21st birthday, and never made it home.
His parents went up to spend his birthday with him, but when they got there, he was nowhere to be found and no one had heard from him. So the search began.
That Monday, it had made all the news stations across the state. A good friend of mine, Will, his sister was attending Stevens Point at the same time as my brother and Duffey. It was right before the first bell on Monday morning. I was standing in the commons talking to a couple of swim girls, when he came up and said “Hey Sarah, did you hear about that kid missing from Stevens Point?” Right then and there, I collapsed to the ground and Kristin was trying to hold me up. I started bawling and the entire commons had turned and looked at me. I remember looking up at him in the midst of me trying to stand up and he just looked so mortified and felt so bad.
The rest of the day, I spent my time in and out of my Yearbook teacher’s classroom, trying so hard to keep it together. By the time fourth block yearbook had rolled around I had gotten myself together enough to give out jobs and have my staff start working for the day. I took a two-minute break and checked Facebook. The first thing that popped up on my timeline was the NBC 15 News posting that they had retrieved a body and believed it was Duffey’s. Before I could think about it, I let out a yelp and the tears just started streaming. I went next door to my Marketing teacher’s classroom, curled up on her couch and just cried. I literally couldn’t believe it.
It’s been three years. There isn’t a day where I don’t think about his smile, his ability to light up the room, or his voice and laugh.
It’s so hard to accept something that you don’t want to be true. I don’t know how else to explain it. People aren’t supposed to die when they’re 21.
Duffey touched so many lives, and made such a huge impact on so many lives and still does to this day. There will forever be a hole in our hearts, but even from above, he’s guiding us through life.
Happy 24th birthday, Eric. We miss you. May your light shine forever on. #rememberedjoy