Emotional memorial for Curtis at university

POSTED: 06/5/14 5:05 PM

Memorial at USM

University president Annelies Oliver-Van den Assem reads a tribute to the late Curtis Heyliger. Photo Today / Milton Pieters

St. Maarten -Since the news of the car crash that claimed the life of Curtis Nathan Heyliger last week, tributes have been pouring in. The son of Debbie Zwanniken-Richardson and United People’s Party leader Theo Heyliger, was a student of the Associate Degree in Business program at the University of St. Martin (USM).

Last night, the university paid tribute to the 22-year-old, in a solemn, emotion-filled memorial that was held in the garden of the school’s campus. In attendance were students, faculty and other supporters, all of whom lit candles, adorned Heyliger’s portrait with flowers and attempted to console his mother.
President of USM Annelies Oliver-Van den Assem  said that the loss of the young man has left a void and caused many great pain.
“At the news of his death, USM, the SGA, his classmates and the ambassadors took the initiative for this memorial tribute. Curtis was a special student at USM because he was also the grandson of Claude Wathey, cofounder of USM and a nephew of Al Wathey; board member of USM. In our human understanding of things, of course he was much too young to leave us. He had his dreams, hopes and ambitions like us all. One of those ambitions was doing his education at USM. It is still too early for answers on why he met such a tragic end. We feel your pain and sorrow and wish that you did not have to face this loss; not have to face the emptiness that is, where Curtis once was,” Oliver-Van den Assem said to Debbie Zwanniken-Richardson.
Tributes for Heyliger in song and poetry were plentiful.  Many reflected on him as being a generous, good natured and humble individual.
Still others recalled him as a serious student.
“He came to school early and although I was much older than him, he was always respectful. He was one of those students who asked a lot of questions in class, he was precise when asking about assignment requirements. He was always the first person to submit his assignments even days before the due date. He would always be polite and helpful. He never even gave a hint that he was Theo Heyliger’s son. When I saw his picture on the internet I was a total mess for the entire day,” Ms. Carty said.
“When he was in class and we were all making jokes, he would put his head down behind his computer so that no one saw he was laughing too. He was a very ambitious person because if he didn’t understand something in class, he would go to whomever understood it and ask for an explanation, in order to get it correct,” another classmate shared.
One USM student who attended high school with Heyliger, recounted his first experiences with the deceased as a new student of the tertiary institution.
“When he joined USM he came into the new student orientation to tell us that he would not be able to attend because of another engagement. Usually students would just not turn up. But he actually came in to say he could not attend. That was very rare.”
A close friend and classmate, Tracy Aaron burst into tears as she shared her fondest memories of Heyliger, with his mother.
“He was always quiet, was a very cool person. My fondest memories would be that whenever a class mate made birthday and he was our chaffer for the night, it would be a night we would never forget.”
The memorial ended just as serenely as it had started, with Debbie Zwanniken-Richardson uttering a choked thank you to all who are sharing the burden of her son’s loss, and attendees  holding hands in a circle around Heyliger’s shrine. While they all stood in silence, an instrumental melody of Draw Me Close to You heard in the background, linked their hearts.
“It was our own English 111 teacher’s yard that he crashed in. Only God knows how he ended up there,” one grief stricken student told Today.
A wake was held for Curtis Heyliger last night and he will be laid to rest today.

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