Beloved physics major, a capella singer and Recreation Center employee David Propp was memorialized by hundreds of students, friends and family members at the Rec Cen basketball court on Wednesday as 21 Storke Tower bells rang out to mark each year of his life.
Propp’s memorial service opened with Recreation Department Director Jon Spaventa welcoming and thanking everyone for attending as Rec Cen employees handed out wallet-size pictures of David and bracelets bearing his name. Event organizers handed out half sheets of paper for friends to write stories about Propp — who died on Nov. 9 after falling from the cliffs along Del Playa — to share with his family.
Born March 1, 1991 in Wichita, Kansas, Propp had lived in Iowa City, Iowa and Rapid City, South Dakota until the age of 10. In 2001 he moved to Missoula, Montana, where he attended Valley Christian Junior High, then Big Sky High School, graduating as valedictorian in 2009. He was active in soccer, wrestling, tennis, choir, drama and enjoyed singing and playing the piano.
“[David] was what I call a sunshine-maker,” Spaventa said.
Propp’s roommate and fourth-year history major Adam Courtin, coordi- nator of the candlelight vigil and memorial service, spoke to attendees and remarked on his friend’s infectiously joyous and inspirational personality.
“He’s just a selfless guy … such an optimistic guy, just brings joy to people so easily, so instantly,” Courtin said. “He was a huge part of my col- lege experience. He’s just a huge inspiration for everything, [from] focusing on campus activities [to] working out at the gym.”
Along with staying active, Propp continued to pursue his love of music by playing a lead role in last spring’s production of “Grease” and participating in the a capella group Brothas From Otha Mothas. In honor of Propp’s memory, BFOM sang Billy Joel’s “For the Longest Time” with Courtin after he concluded his eulogy.
Some of Propp’s fellow Rec Cen employees — including fourth-year psychology and philosophy major Angelo Catalano, who shaved the words “Smile for Propp” into his the back of his head — read their letters to Propp’s parents aloud during the ceremony.
“[David] was naturally a beautiful person. … David was handsome, strong and hardworking, talented, down to earth; the list goes on. … He represents my faith in humanity when I wonder if there are any good people left,” Catalano said. “Your son is one of the most remarkable men I’ve ever met, and I’m not just saying that. … I thank God for 21 years of his presence.”
Propp’s coworker and fourth-year sociology major Kristen Rowland reflected on Propp’s knack for brightening people’s days.
“When I thought I should just give up and go home … David would unplug my headphones from my keyboard … plug it into his, and play me a song,” Rowland said. “It always cheered me up.”
Another coworker, fifth-year chemical engineering major Haleigh Auck, said David inspired those around him by living each day of his life to the fullest.
“If we look at life as a collection of joyful moments, instead of as a duration of time, then David has outlived us all,” Auck said.
Propp’s parents, Dan and Sarah Propp, embraced their son’s coworkers and proceeded with words of their own.
“It’s impossible for us to tell you how much David loved UCSB. It was a problem for us because he never wanted to come home,” Dan Propp said to some chuckles from the audience.
Dan Propp joked that he resented Santa Barbara a little bit because of it, but that he now understood why his son found so much attachment and happiness here.
“His intention was to meet every student on campus,” Dan Propp said. “Thank you so much for loving him back.”
He and Sarah Propp shared multiple stories about David’s childhood, emphasizing his limitless love, compassion, happi- ness and kindness.
“I could go on about my son forever,” Dan Propp said.
Fourth-year philosophy major and fellow BFOM member Nolan Theurer said Propp always had an ear for anyone who wanted to talk and a giant smile for all who crossed his path.
“The world lost a little brightness because you’re gone, buddy,” Theurer said.
The service closed with a slideshow presentation of photos from Propp’s childhood to his college life. While one of his favorite songs — “From the Inside Out” by Hillsong United — played in the background, students and family members descended from the stands, tearfully hugging one another.
“This is not the first time I’ve lost someone, but it’s the most powerful,” fourth-year psychology major Mike Newsom said. “I wish to live one hour of my life the way he lived every day of his life.”
A version of this article appeared on page 1 November 19th, 2012’s print edition of the Nexus.