At memorial, tears, laughs for Liotta ’10

On Thursday night, Trumbull College buttery worker George Harris ’11 remembered a shift he worked with Andrew Liotta ’10 last semester.

Several students ordered hamburgers, he said, but neither of them — nor a third worker, apparently — knew how to cook them. Before long, the buttery was filled with smoke and the fire alarm sounded. But the three of them kept cooking — even after firefighters arrived at the scene.

Many jokes and photographs later, Harris said he and Liotta kept making light of the situation, despite the indignant firefighters.

“We’re the type of people to joke around like that,” Harris said.

But near that very same buttery one year later, the mood was considerably more somber.

Almost 100 members of the Yale community gathered in the Trumbull College Common Room on Thursday evening to honor Liotta, who died in his sleep March 14 at the age of 21. While a slide show of pictures played on a projector screen, students in attendance shared images of Liotta as they dabbed their eyes.

It was his humor, Daniel Bleiberg ’09 said, that made him the ideal roommate. And, perhaps more important, a roommate he could always turn to for a second opinion.

Even when it came to clothes.

“I don’t really understand the concept of matching colors,” Bleiberg said with a smile, “and he was always willing to give me fashion advice. He was never afraid to tell the truth, but he did it in a way that you were never offended by what he said.”

The memorial event, which was organized by his close friends in conjunction with the Trumbull administration, celebrated many of Liotta’s favorite things — from doughnuts to photography to chocolate milk shakes.

Suitemate David Corbin ’09 described the glow he saw in Liotta’s eyes whenever he had an idea or plotted a new prank. Corbin remembered his friend’s excitement when he won a bicycle in a raffle just before spring break. Liotta immediately made plans to ride it around campus, he said.

“I really don’t think he was someone who took much for granted,” Corbin recalls. “I think if that’s his legacy, it’s a pretty good one.”

Terrence Ho ’09, also Liotta’s suitemate, said Liotta — a psychology major who planned to go to medical school — always kept an open mind and was constantly up for trying new things. His high-school friends were not surprised to find that Liotta, notorious for his “chicken-scratch” handwriting, decided to take a drawing class in San Francisco when he took a year off from Yale after his freshman year.

Perhaps the most lasting impression Liotta left, the one quirk almost every friend of his recalls immediately, was his smile. One high-school friend, Ian Randolph ’10, who attended his San Franscisco school, St. Ignatius College Preparatory, described Liotta last week as quiet, but “charismatic.”

“He had this energy about him,” Randolph said.

Between Liotta’s junior and senior years of high school, he travelled to Northern Ireland and spoke with former members of the Irish Republican Army. The visit was the topic of his college admissions essay, from which Trumbull College Master Janet Henrich shared an excerpt.

Liotta was inspired, Henrich said, by the IRA members’ ability to joke and poke fun at life despite their movement’s tumultuous history.

“Never live without laughter or without being able to gain insight from tragedy.” Liotta wrote. “Even in the midst of death, depression and despair, they found humor and hope.”

Through her tears, Trumbull College Dean Jasmina Besirevic mourned the loss of a “memorable Trumbullian.” Besirevic attended Liotta’s funeral service, which was held on Tuesday in San Francisco. She said it was attended by roughly 300 friends and family members.

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