Memorial Honors Cote Laramie ’14

Cote Laramie Memorial Service
Rena Mei

Groups of people gathered at Memorial Church last night to celebrate the life of Cote K. Laramie '14. The church was decorated with colorful paper cranes, part of an initiative of Pforzheimer House to make 1000 paper cranes in memory of Laramie.

Family, friends, and Harvard community members came together to celebrate the life of Cote K. Laramie ’14 at a service full of music and poetry in Memorial Church on Thursday night, a week after he died at his home in Pembroke, N.H.

Bookended by the resonating tones of a church organ, the service alternated between spoken addresses and musical selections—a fitting tribute to Laramie’s passion for both poetry and music.“

Cote left an indelible mark on our souls,” said his brother Keith Dobbins before reading a poem written by Laramie entitled “Everything Changes.” Dobbins, speaking of his sibling’s legacy, expressed gratitude for the many kind messages and memories shared by the attendees.“

I always looked up to him, both literally and figuratively,” he said in a moment of lightness, referring to his younger brother’s six-foot, three-inch stature. “To see the person he had become through your eyes will forever inspire me.”

Laramie was also an inspiration to many faculty members, said Harvard Medical School professor and Pforzheimer House Master Nicholas A. Christakis, who told those present that he had received messages from several professors who had taught Laramie describing him as a uniquely engaged student. Christakis added that Laramie’s intellect did not curb his good humor. When he recalled during the service that Laramie had called Co-Master Erika L. Christakis a “badass” for taking up boxing, the church filled with laughter—a frequent occurrence as others shared their own memories of Laramie’s joyful personality.

The service included tributes from Laramie’s friends across the University.  Christine E. Ashton ’13 and others both in and out of Pforzheimer made colorful paper cranes that adorned the end of each of the front pews. Laramie’s freshman entrywaymates from Wigglesworth H helped usher the service, while the Harvard Glee Club—of which Laramie was a member—sang two pieces, including a moving rendition of Robert Frost’s “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening,” arranged by Randall Thompson ’20. Rainer A. Crosett ’14, Julia L. Glenn ’11-’12, Ryan A. Murphy ’14, and Jacob R. Shack ’14 also performed a string quartet.

Hilton R. Simmet ’14, Laramie’s freshman roommate and blockmate, related his own journey of getting to know the young man who would become his best friend, emphasizing Laramie’s wisdom, curiosity, and goodness.

Speaking of the last morning that they spent together over the summer, Simmet shared a message Laramie told him then: “You can’t fix people, but you can listen to them,” Laramie had said. “The most important thing you can do is give yourself time.”

The speakers acknowledged the many unanswered questions raised by Laramie’s suicide for his friends and family.“

His sensitivity and artistic talents and passion for language were not only a gift—to him and to others–but sometimes, truly, an unbearable burden,” Christakis said, quoting from a blog post written by his wife about Laramie. “

No training in the world, no education, is a match for the human condition,” he added as an afterthought.

Mark D. W. Edington, executive director of the Harvard Decision Science Laboratory, where Laramie worked over the summer, challenged the congregation to give meaning to its sorrow by striving for the same openness and innocent daring that Laramie embodied—and by rethinking the “intellectual combat” with which Harvard is often charged.“

We need to find the courage to protect some of our capacity for wonder…to allow ourselves the liberty of being captivated by others,” he said, echoing the words he had used to describe Laramie.

Attendees filed out of Memorial Church from the front entrance, their procession accompanied by 20 tolls of the Memorial Church bells to mark Laramie’s age.

The service was followed by a reception in the Barker Center, where friends and family shared stories and refreshments, viewed a slideshow of photographs of Laramie, and wrote messages for a scrapbook to be sent to his family.

Dale R. Riley, a guard in the Barker Center, was proud to be a part of the reception—Laramie waved at him every day when he walked through the Barker Center.“

Everyone is shocked I know Cote,” he said. “But of course I knew him. He made me very happy.”

—Staff writer Radhika Jain can be reached at radhikajain@college.harvard.edu.

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