Students, friends, family and faculty are mourning the death and celebrating the life of Aaron Hohwieler.
The 20-year-old electronic engineering sophomore was found dead in his Pierson Hall room on Oct. 24.
A close group of friends from Washington High School – Alex Berkness, Andrea Christofferson, Phil Fiala, Liz Ketterer and Logan Pederson – have been actively celebrating and honoring Hohwieler’s life.
“This is the clique,” Christofferson said, pointing to the rest of the group huddled together in a dorm room. Though Christofferson and Ketterer live in Sioux Falls, the group stayed close, even as the others went to SDSU.
Berkness and Fiala have been distributing green ribbons to honor the memory of Hohwieler. The green ribbons started in Sioux Falls, but the friends decided bring the idea to SDSU.
“We just want to get them out so people can have something to remember him by,” Berkness said.
Those interested in a ribbon can go to room 240 in Caldwell Hall. The friends said they are touched seeing so many people wearing the ribbons and seeing just how many lives Hohwieler touched in some way.
“When someone comes to pick up a ribbon, it’s a good feeling,” Christofferson said.
The group even decorated the northwest Caldwell Hall windows, writing “We miss you Aaron” and drawing large, green ribbons.
Christofferson created a Facebook page “In Memory of Aaron Hohwieler” on Monday evening. By Tuesday night, the group broke 1,000 members. They are using the page to keep people up-to-date on events honoring Hohwieler.
According to friends, Hohwieler was very passionate about music. Green ribbons were chosen because it was the color of SuFuDu, a Sioux Falls summer drum line program that Hohwieler participated in.
“SuFuDu is such a tight group and so much time is spent together that you really get to know a person and their true character,” said Tonia Even, a friend of Aaron’s through SuFuDu. “Aaron was absolutely crazy about Du because he loved drumming, being around friends and having a good time.”
Hohwieler was also active in The Pride of The Dakotas Marching Band drum line.
“He was a nice kid to be around – a fun kid to be around,” Aaron Ragsdale, Pride drum line director, said. “We all enjoyed having him around. You could tell he enjoyed what he did.”
Fellow Pride drum line member and close friend Carter Mack shared similar sentiments.
“He loved music. It was his whole life,” Mack said.
Hohwieler was very good with technology, said his friends.
“If you had an electronic issue, he could fix it,” Berkness said.
One thing nearly all his friends mentioned were his rosy cheeks.
“He had cheeks that would just burst out red,” Christofferson said.
“Everybody loved to make him smile or embarrass him just to see his cheeks turn brighter and that huge smile on his face come out,” Even said. “His smile could truly light up a room, and if that wasn’t enough, his laugh would do the trick.”
Friends described Hohwieler as a fun-loving person who never had a bad day – the type of person who you could never stay mad at. They said he was the type of person who was always joking, who could brighten up any room and who never got mad or upset.
Hohwieler’s close group of friends from high school have been in contact with Hohwieler’s parents, who said he died from heart failure.
“He died of natural causes,” Fiala said. “His heart just stopped.”
Fiala also said Hohwieler suffered a pulmonary embolism last year that nearly killed him. Since then, he was on blood thinners which he was taking to the time of his death, said Fiala.
The group of friends said they and Hohwieler’s family wish the rumors of suicide, drugs and alcohol would stop. They said those rumors are not even close to true.
“That’s disgracing Aaron,” Fiala said.
After Hohwiler’s prayer service Oct. 27, his friends went bowling to remember him.
“He was horrible at bowling, but he loved it,” Berkness said.