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Notre Dame remembers Dan Kim

| Monday, February 9, 2015

Daniel Kim, Wei LinWei Lin | The Observer

Friday night, the northernmost edge of the Grotto glowed with the light of a single three-letter word. Fifty-five candles spelled out “Dan,” a tribute to sophomore Daniel Kim, whose friends had gathered to remember the former business student and fencer.

Kim, 21, died at his off-campus residence and was found early Friday afternoon, according to a Notre Dame press release. The South Bend Tribune reported that an autopsy was conducted Friday, but authorities will have to wait for toxicology results to determine exactly how Kim died. Deputy county coroner Michael O’Connell said Kim’s death was not a homicide or a suicide, according to the Tribune.

Tonight, a memorial Mass for Kim will take place at 9 p.m. in the Basilica of the Sacred Heart. University President Fr. John Jenkins will be the celebrant and Director of Campus Ministry Fr. Pete McCormick will be the homilist.

‘Just a great guy’

Junior Paul Grima lived in Kim’s section of Keough Hall their freshman year and said Kim “had a very close, tight-knit group of friends,” though he maintained relationships with other students, like Grima, outside his best friends and fellow business majors.

Kim’s FIFA video game prowess and outgoing friendliness made him a well-known figure in their freshman-year section of Keough, junior Dayton Flannery said.

“If you wanted to call yourself the best FIFA player in the section, you had to go through Dan Kim first,” Flannery said.

Though the majority of their interactions were “lighthearted,” Kim showed a particular interest in philosophy, even trying to take majors-only classes, Grima said.

Junior Will Fields, who met Kim through mutual friends in Keough, said Kim’s sense of humor stands out in his memory.

“He was just a really funny dude,” Fields said. “When we hung out, he was always funny. … All around, just a great guy. And he was brilliant. Always really smart. All-around great.”

McCormick, Kim’s former rector in Keough, said he noted his resident’s confidence and genuine friendliness, particularly with his second-floor section mates, who were “always around the hall.”

“Daniel was a young man that had good friends,” McCormick said. “Not only that, but they genuinely cared about him. And he was loyal to them.”

McCormick said Kim impressed him in conversations with his openness, humility and authenticity.

“What I always appreciated about Daniel is whenever we would have a conversation, he would be willing to own up to his own shortcomings and frailties, and I always genuinely appreciated that,” McCormick said. “Sometimes people are not as willing to own up to what their shortcomings were and what they needed to work on.”

“He had a real sense of who he is, and he owned that,” McCormick said.

‘A true competitor’

Kim joined the fencing team in fall 2012, his freshman year at Notre Dame, after growing up with the sport in Upper Saddle River, New Jersey, freshman fencer Claudia Kulmacz said. Kulmacz is also from Upper Saddle River.

“Back in the club, he was really good,” she said. “He’d always kick butt, always give us a run for our money. I used to travel to World Cups with him, and he was great. He was a true competitor.”

News of Kim’s death reached the team Friday afternoon, just before the DeCicco Duals were held Saturday at Castellan Family Fencing Center, fencing coach Gia Kvaratskhelia said after the match.

“I think [the team members] were devastated, and they were crushed,” he said. “All their emotions were flowing. … The reaction was to rally around each other and truly give a tribute to someone we really loved. That was in the backs of our minds today and was truly difficult.”

Kulmacz said the team “fenced for Dan” on Saturday.

“It was a tough day, but you got to do what you got to do,” she said.

Freshman fencer Paul Cepak, who trained at the same fencing club in New Jersey as Kim and Kulmacz, said he traveled to Latvia over one summer break with Kim, whom he called “a really genuine guy.” He said members of the team stood in a circle to offer prayers and share memories at the Grotto on Friday, and though they “came to terms,” the loss weighed on the team during Saturday’s competition.

“I guess a lot of people … kind of had Dan in their heart,” Cepak said. “Today, I had a little trouble fencing just thinking about all the things going on, but I think Dan would like to see people move on, do great things and move on from what happened and try to live out part of his life through working hard and making friends and all kinds of different stuff.”

Kim, a native of Upper Saddle River, New Jersey, blazed the trail for Cepak by coming to Notre Dame as a fencer, Cepak said.

“I guess I followed in his shadow,” he said. “[Kim] wasn’t exactly expecting to get in, and neither was I, and we both got in. So it’s kind of hard, but definitely one of the reasons I came here was to be with my friend.”

‘Dealing with other demons’

Kim struggled emotionally at Notre Dame, making friends but also at times keeping his distance from dorm mates, according to Keough residents.

“He was a very good kid,” Grima said. “Most people only saw the troubled side of him, but he was a very good thoughtful person underneath it.

“He really was a kind, thoughtful person,” Grima said. “I know I’m using pretty clichéd words, but he really was both of them. The trouble was that he was dealing with other demons. And most people only saw that because he wasn’t going outside in the section lounge talking about philosophy with most people. That’s not something you typically do.”

“I would say overall, he was troubled, and that took up a large portion of his life, but it wasn’t malicious trouble,” Grima said. “He never took it out on other people, ever.”

Kim’s parents asked “for continuing prayers for strength in this time,” McCormick said.

“It means a lot to them that we’re going to celebrate this Mass,” McCormick said. “… At this point, celebrate him. Celebrate who he was at his core.”

Associate Sports Editor Greg Hadley and Editor-in-Chief Ann Marie Jakubowski contributed to this report.

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About Lesley Stevenson

Lesley Stevenson is a senior news writer for The Observer after previously serving as News Editor and an Assistant Managing Editor. She is a senior from Memphis, Tennessee, studying Film, Television and Theatre (FTT) and American Studies and living in Breen-Phillips Hall. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram at @lcstevenson, and visit her website at lcstevenson.wordpress.com

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