The overwhelming motto of 2016 was in regards to how many monumental lives were taken from our world. David Bowie, Carrie Fisher, Prince…to name a few. My biggest celebrity loss came in the form of a 6′ 9″ vivacious man named Leroy Walton; whose beautiful soul was taken from our tangible world and brought to another one year ago today.
On April 7, 2016, I sat at St. Luke’s Hospital amongst my closest friends, former classmates, professors and strangers with my heart in my stomach, as we all collectively tried to cope with the fact that we were about to lose a friend.
I met Leroy in the fall of 2011 when he entered our theater program at Western Connecticut State University. There was nobody like Leroy. Standing at 6′ 9″ with the personality (and voice) to back it up, no one could dim that light. He gave the best hugs. I don’t think anyone could have drawn a bigger crowd that day at the hospital than Leroy. He made a lasting impression on everyone he met. I’ll say it again: there was nobody like Leroy Walton.
For a person whose life was filled with complications, Leroy made the most of every moment. Nothing…and I mean nothing stopped him from pursuing his dreams. He had so many obstacles and roadblocks that could have easily discouraged or inhibited him at every turn, and he never gave into them. Leroy was a gracious and compassionate fighter.
I could go on and on about the countless times he made me laugh. I could describe in detail the last time I saw him; and how I wish I could have stayed sitting across from him at brunch had I known it was the last time I would talk to him. I could take you through the moment we all found out he had passed at Mel’s Burger Bar that night.
But I believe, today and every day, Leroy would never want us to dwell in his loss, but in his light. He may no longer be tangible, but each day he lingers in beautiful reminders of his brief but brilliant time with us. He is undoubtedly up in the clouds, drinking a margarita, cackling at every bad date we go on, crying with us when we’re down, and giving us standing ovations for our triumphs.
I miss you, my sweet friend. April 7th will forever be my reminder to choose joy.