It was sunny most of the day on Friday, Feb. 28. But by 4 p.m. an unexpected rainstorm had set in. Nevertheless, by 5 p.m. about 100 people gathered near Autzen Stadium to remember University of Oregon student Griffin Felt one week after his death. @@name [email protected]@
Against the gray sky, people huddled in small groups, sharing memories of their friend. They gathered on the Autzen footbridge, bouquets in hand. They threw roses and flowers dyed blue, green and orange into the river, the colors brightly juxtaposed against the gray waters.
Felt, a junior pre-journalism major, was found in his apartment and confirmed dead on Friday, Feb. 21. He was 20 years old. His cause of death is still under examination by the Lane County medical examiner’s office. There were no signs of foul play.
Sophomore Haley Coveny lived on the floor below Felt in their apartment complex. After meeting him the summer before her freshman year, Coveny considered him her best friend at the university. @@name [email protected]@
“He defined my college experience,” Coveny said. “He was a magic person. He lit up my life.”
Coveny and Felt had a morning routine — Coveny would go upstairs to wake Felt (he often slept through his alarm). The pair would then make a Starbucks run, where Felt would usually order a green tea iced lemonade and a toasted chonga bagel with two cream cheeses. Often, the two would end the day in Coveny’s apartment, binging on episodes of “The O.C.”
On the morning of Wednesday, Feb. 19, the two spent the morning together as usual. That night, Coveny stayed in to study while Felt went out with friends.
The next morning, Coveny didn’t hear from Felt. It didn’t seem unusual — Felt suffered from insomnia and would periodically spend a day catching up on sleep.
By Friday morning however, there was still no word from Felt. Coveny began to worry.
As she did nearly every morning, she went upstairs to wake him. As she reached his apartment, she noticed packages piled at his door. She could hear his alarm blaring from outside.
Coveny went downstairs and called the police.
In the days following his death, one look at Felt’s Twitter page proved how many lives he touched. “RIP Griffin,” many tweets read.
Jim Felt and Jody Hills, Griffin’s parents, said they are proud their son impacted so many. Jim Felt believes that the reason Griffin had so many friends was because of his kind and open nature. @@names not [email protected]@
“Griffin was, in my mind, so different than most people in that he was totally open and totally trusting,” Jim Felt said. “He couldn’t believe there might be bad people out there.”
Felt was something of a celebrity around campus. Coveny said they could not walk through campus together without Felt stopping to say hello to at least 10 people.
“He’s a bit of a socialite at the UO,” Coveny said. “Everyone knows him. That was just him, and I loved watching him be him.”
This popularity was what Felt was known for.
“Trying to say hi to Griffin is like trying to say hi to Obama on his day off in the streets,” a tweet from UO Bro Code read, posted a week before Felt’s death.
Felt was known to carry two phones — a Blackberry for close friends, an iPhone for acquaintances. He often had 20 text messages in his inbox at any given time.
Despite the number of friends he had, Felt found time for every one of them.
Junior Samantha Garcia remembers Felt bringing her chocolate cake and Starbucks at 3 a.m. whenever she was pulling an all-nighter at the library. @@name [email protected]@
“He was the most selfless person in the entire world,” Garcia said. “Griffin had the most friends of anyone I knew. There were so many people in his life that he cared about so deeply.”
According to family friend Greg Shantz, people were drawn to Felt because of his postive nature.
“He was a kind and gentle soul, which anyone could recognize immediately,” Shantz said. “He didn’t have that wall of filters and biases. He reached out to everyone. He accepted people for who they were and just gave to them. That’s unusual. Most people aren’t like that.”
Felt dreamed of becoming a celebrity publicist — Lindsay Lohan and Britney Spears were two with whom he had a lifelong obsession. Shantz doesn’t doubt that he could have achieved his goal.
“I tell a lot of people I saw an image 10 years from now of turning on the TV and seeing him reporting for Hollywood for ET,” Shantz said. “I wouldn’t have been surprised because he could accomplish anything he wanted.”
Spears and Lohan would not have been Felt’s first encounter with a celebrity. In 2012, Shantz gave Felt tickets to see David Beckham play against the Portland Timbers for the last time.
“(When I dropped off the tickets to him), he said, ‘I am going to have dinner with David Beckham tonight,’” Shantz recalled. “And I said in disbelief, ‘Okay, Griffin. Have a lot of fun.’”
As Shantz was climbing into bed at 10 p.m., however, his phone went off. It was a text from Felt. Shantz opened it to find a picture of Felt with Beckham.
“That captures everything Griffin was about,” Shantz said. “He had an energy and purity that made him believe anything was possible. And for him it seemed like it was.”
For those who knew him, these moments are what they will remember most about Felt.
“He brought so much joy to my life and so many people’s lives,” Coveny said. “He’s made me see the world so differently.”
When Jim Felt remembers his son, Griffin’s obsession with lights as a child stands out. From Christmas lights to lanterns, Griffin would hang anything with a power cord on the walls of his childhood home. As Griffin grew older and lost interest in them, however, Jim collected the lights and hung them on a wall for him.
Nowadays, Jim is keeping them lit more often. As long as he lives in the house, he plans to keep the light installation intact.
“It’s both comforting and hard to see them now so merrily carrying on without a care in the world,” Jim said.