Friends, family remember Calhoun fondly
Calhoun, 21, of Eagle, was found dead in his bed Saturday morning after having been at a party with friends.
“It’s just been overwhelming,” says John Calhoun, Nick’s father. “He left an indelible impression on so many people.”
John Calhoun says people he and his wife, Vicky, don’t remember from their son’s school days have called to express their sympathy.
“Maybe it was his smile or the way he seemed truly interested in other people’s lives, but he really left a lasting impression on people,” John Calhoun says.
John Calhoun was a reporter at the Vail Daily in its early days. He says Nick was “sort of the mascot” at the paper.
“He’d come in after school and work on the computer or run errands for the editorial staff,” John Calhoun says. “One day, he opened the door of the darkroom to say hello to our photographer, Jack Affleck, and exposed the day’s film.
“Jack nearly sent him out with a camera to get more photos,” he says. “(Nick) would have marched out and gotten them, too.”
Marching right into anything was one of Nick Calhoun’s hallmarks. John Calhoun recalled a trip to the Florida Everglades when Nick, who had an abiding love of and interest in reptiles, dove out of the car as soon as it rolled to a stop, and wouldn’t return until he’d exhausted himself exploring.
Nick’s love of animals didn’t stop at reptiles and snakes, of which he had several. Once, after the family had given foster care to a litter of abandoned puppies, Nick went to the Eagle County Animal Shelter at 6:30 a.m., and waited outside in the cold for four hours until the facility opened so he could be the first to claim the puppy his family wanted.
Nick also spent a lot of volunteer time at the shelter, walking dogs and playing with cats. He would stay up all night to care for a sick kitten. It was part of his love of life, John Calhoun says.
Animals also loved Nick, says Char Quinn, director of the Eagle Valley Humane Society..
“One time he stayed up in the night with some foster kittens that were very ill and I know of a couple of others times that he picked up dogs he found running across the road,” Quinn says. “He just cared about animals tremendously. He was a great kid.”
Brittany Kerst, a longtime friend, says Nick had a buoyant nature. Nick worked at Eagle Valley Glass, near Kerst’s apartment.
“I’d be getting into my car and he’d always run out in front of it with a goofy look or something,” she says. “He always had a smile or a joke.”
Kerst also says Nick was compassionate and interested in other people’s well-being.
“He was always somebody you could talk to,” she says. “Half the reason I’m the person I am today is because of him.”
Cassidy Richards, Nick’s best friend since middle school, says he fondly recalls the time the two lived in California a couple of years ago.
“We had a great time, going to the beach and going out,” he says.
Having a great time, though, was sometimes a problem for Nick. As both a juvenile and a young adult, he had a series of minor run-ins with the law, including several involving drug and alcohol use, and others involving traffic or legal system infractions.
However, Kerst says, Nick had really started to “get his (stuff) together over the last year.”
Richards agrees, saying his friend had changed “for the better” recently, and seemed to have his life on track.
And, says John Calhoun, the alcohol and drug use wasn’t what Nick was about.
“This kid was going 100 mph in life,” says his father.
Whatever his past problems, those close to Nick agree he was living life well during the last year or so, which made his death last weekend a particular shock.
“I didn’t really believe it when I heard,” Richards says. “I’m really going to miss him.”
Eagle police are still investigating the circumstances of his death, and are awaiting the results of a toxicology report to determine the cause of death.
“We just don’t know what caused him to die,” Eagle Police Chief Phil Biersdorfer says. “Maybe we’ve buried a kid we didn’t have to.”
Nick Calhoun is survived by his parents John and Vicky and his sister Brooke, 11, of Eagle.
“He was a wonderful older brother to his sister,” Quinn says.
Calhoun memorial services Monday
Memorial services for Nick Calhoun are scheduled for Monday, although the exact time and place have not been set. The family plans to leave a message at 390-0088 as soon as details have been confirmed.
Memorial contributions can be made in his name to the Eagle Valley Humane Society.
As per his request, Calhoun’s body will be cremated and his ashes spread over the Everglades National Park in Florida.
Vail Daily reporter Matt Zalaznick contributed to this report.