The Collegian
Tuesday, May 28, 2024

UR Holds Memorial for Christopher Elvin

Friends and family left items representing Elvin's life and interests on an altar at the front of the hall.
Friends and family left items representing Elvin's life and interests on an altar at the front of the hall.

Since the death of Christopher Elvin Jr., a sophomore at the University of Richmond, those close to him have encouraged the community to strive to be more like him every day. On April 27, as nearly every seat in Camp Concert Hall filled for his memorial service, his lasting impact was on display as those who crossed paths with him over the years gathered not to mourn, but to celebrate every stage of his life. 

The memorial was organized by the Office of the Chaplaincy with the help of Elvin’s closest friends, who provided input on what the celebration would look like. 

Throughout, the light gave the room an orange tint–Elvin’s favorite color. Attendees also wore orange pins that stood out against each black suit or dress, each for him. 

“Orange is the color of vitality, so what does that mean?” Ny’Asia Flowers, a UR senior and friend of Elvin’s since middle school said at the memorial. “Vitality is defined as the power giving continuance to life. In this place right now, as we honored grace and his legacy, we must realize that Chris left us more than just memories. He has given us a demonstration of how fragile life is and a reminder that we now have the opportunity to make amends with those we are fortunate enough to still be able to grab and speak to.”

Elvin’s younger brother, Christian Elvin, presented his lifters, a pair of blue and gray shoes that Christopher used for powerlifting. The other symbols, presented by Elvin’s close friends, all tied back to his diverse passions. 

“If anyone knows anything about powerlifting or Olympic lifting, it embodies everything that his dad bestowed into Chris,” Darlene Clovis, Elvin’s stepmother, said. “The thing is that you accept everyone as is and you push everyone as far as they can. In lifting you are taught patience, perseverance, understanding, calmness, acceptance, and of course speed. Unfortunately, Christopher spent his lifetime and is no longer with us, but he remains with us today.”

By the end of the procession, the altar included a banner from his high school, a Taiwanese flag, a logo for the Wight Foundation, his camera, his framed ultimate frisbee’s jersey, a flower crown from the Solidarity Organization for Latinx Students, a picture from West Indian Lynk, a Jamaican flag, and a framed picture of the silhouette of New Jersey. 

A scholarship was also started in Elvin’s name by an alumna, University Chaplain the Rev. Craig Kocher said. Christian Elvin wants the scholarship to be awarded to future students of Caribbean descent who come from economically disadvantaged backgrounds, he said.

Elvin and Chuck Mike, a professor of theater at UR, served as inspiration for each other, especially after Elvin appointed himself to be his mentee, Mike shared at the memorial. 

“I’d ask him, ‘Wat a gwaan?’, or ‘what’s going on?’ [in Jamaican Patois], and Chris would look over at me and say ‘you’,” Mike said. “How inspiring to be told that you are what is going on, that you are somebody, that you mean something. What a celebration of humanity, what an invocation of being there.” 

Most of the members of the Spidermonkeys, UR’s men’s club ultimate frisbee team, were in attendance, some wearing their jerseys beneath their suit jackets. Senior Jeffy Joshy, a member of the Spidermonkeys, recalled spending spring break with Elvin and the team this last March. He shared a moment between him and Elvin, where he had somehow scaled up the side of the house and onto the balcony–almost a 10-foot climb–to sit besides Joshy and stare out into the distance together in silence.

“Only you would do something like that,” Joshy said, as if he were speaking to Elvin rather than the crowd of attendees. “You always greeted me with the same crazy smile and this instance was no exception. And after we just made eye contact for a second, he just sat down next to me. No words were exchanged; he just sat there until a little while later when he got up to leave. The words he said were ‘I love you’, and then he hugged me. That's all the interaction was and all the interaction needed to be.”

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The reception afterwards was full of Elvin in every possible way. Jamaican food and pancakes were catered, and live steel-drum music echoed from the second floor of the Modlin Center for the Arts. The orange glow from the auditorium continued into Modlin with the flowers and pins, and the halls were practically overflowing with those who care about him, some crying, others laughing as they shared a story over a bite of his favorite food. 

“I think that's a lesson that maybe [Elvin] taught us–that we should be more openhearted to one another, more curious about one another,” Kocher said. “We should seek to share our lives with others and to be open to them sharing their lives with us. And I hope that that's part of the legacy that he will have offered to Richmond. And in that sense, I hope his life brings us closer to one another.” 

Contact news editor Caitlin McCormack at Managing editor Son Tran contributed to reporting.

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