Some 500 mourners gathered for a candlelight prayer vigil in UC Berkeley’s Sproul Plaza Friday night to say goodbye to Henry Treadway, a sophomore who died Tuesday at 20 after jumping from the sixth floor of a dormitory.
It took 30 minutes to seat the seemingly unending stream of people who packed into the campus multi-cultural center afterward to share and listen to anecdotes – some hilarious, all touching – that created a picture of a gifted, funny person who bonded with others and to whom friends felt comfortable opening up.
“He was incredible -- a genius, a philosopher,” a friend named Eric said, stepping to the mic. “He helped me at a difficult time in my life, and it hurts my heart that I won’t be able to do the same for him.”
Former neighbors, teachers and Boy Scout troop leaders joined classmates, dormmates, and lifelong friends. With some he had played music, with others, basketball; one he met chatting online about sneakers. Henry Treadway, it seemed, had no casual acquaintances. To meet him once was to become his friend for life.
Danny Schumacher met Treadway when they played in the school band, and they remained friends into their adulthood. Schumacher recalled a time when Treadway laughed too loudly at an inside joke during class. The teacher sent him to the principal’s office, but because Treadway had never been in trouble before, he had to come back to the class to ask for directions.
He last saw Treadway about an hour before he died. He signed off as he always did, with an easy “all right, dude.”
Several speakers, voices quavering, wondered why they hadn’t recognized his despair. Some urged those listening to reach out to friends on shaky emotional ground. Before sharing his own memories of Treadway, Andres Melendez asked the mourners to hug or shake the hand of someone sitting nearby.
Before the memorial began, journalist Chris Treadway, his face etched with grief, described how his son, born four months premature weigh 1 pound, 12 ounces, spent the first weeks of his life in the intensive care unit.
“The happiest day of my life was the day he came home,” Treadway said.
An Eagle Scout and an honors student, Henry Treadway never missed a day of school from kindergarten through high school graduation at El Cerrito High. He played the clarinet. He twice took first place in the district science fair and once at the Bay Area Science Fair.
The only child of Chris and Diana Treadway, Henry sold Christmas wreaths in his neighborhood to raise funds for needy children, said Father Bill Edens, a staffer at the campus Newman Center, who led the gathering in a silent prayer.
“Segmented within him was this despair that no one knew about," Edens said. "It’s a tragedy for our whole community.”
A celebration of Henry Treadway’s life will take place from 1 to 4 p.m. Sunday, June 3 at the El Cerrito Community Center organized by family friends.