SIU community celebrates life of Varughese

SIU community celebrates life of Varughese

By Seth Richardson

Despite the circumstances that brought them together, the ceremony celebrating Pravin Varughese’s life was all smiles.

Friends of Varughese, students, faculty and community members gathered at the Newman Center Wednesday to remember his life. The crowd shared memories and insights into his character after a short service.

Varughese’s body was found Feb. 18 after he was reported missing on the 13th. The autopsy reported Varughese succumbed to hypothermia. The night he went missing there were below-freezing temperatures and he was found without a coat. The police are treating the death as an accident and do not suspect foul play, but the investigation is ongoing.


Pastor Bob Gray, chaplain to the Carbondale Police Department, said he consulted with the family to find an appropriate way to remember Varughese.

“We asked the family what they thought would be helpful and the family said that they thought it would be good to have something down here,” he said. “They didn’t know if they could come, but I said we would videotape it and send it to them.”

The ceremony began with a reading of Matthew 5:1-12, by the Rev. Larry Lemay of the Newman Center. After a performance of “On Eagle’s Wings,” the crowd was asked to share their memories of Varughese.

Rachel Birdsell, a junior from Jacksonville studying architecture, said she remembered him as an energetic, goofy character.

“From the first day I met him he knew how to light up a room,” she said. “I can’t remember a time when I was mad at him.”

Dakota Reynolds, a junior from Manteno studying nursing, said coping with Varughese’s death is a daily struggle.

“Sometimes it will hit you hard and sometimes you’re just like, ‘Did this thing happen?'” she said. “It’s like he’s still two doors down from me. He’s still there.”


Gray said the celebration helps the grieving process.

“Everybody deserves something to be said or done for them,” he said. “We need to do something to acknowledge their passing and the contribution to the community that they lived in.”

Birdsell said she wanted to speak at the ceremony to help the public remember Varughese as he truly was instead of associating him only with his death.

“We don’t want what may or may not have happened that night to be what people remember him by. We want people to remember him like how we remember him: as funny, outgoing, full of life and cheerful.”

Seth Richardson can be reached at [email protected]