Fundraiser celebrates Kernich’s life

Jeremy Nobile

Sherry Kernich spoke to a packed Brewhouse Pub Tuesday night.

“Chris meant the world to me and obviously to you guys,” she said.

Several people began chanting “CK” before his mother spoke up again.

“I’m reminded of the Titanic song, ‘My Heart Will Go On,'” she said to the attentive audience. “He’d only been here 23 years, and look how many people he’s touched.”

More than $8,000 was raised for the Kernich family Tuesday night during the fundraiser for Christopher Kernich, the Kent State student who died Nov. 21 from injuries suffered during an off-campus assault Nov. 15.

The fundraiser attracted hundreds of people, from Kernich’s close friends to acquaintances. At 1 a.m., the crowd stretched from inside the bar to Water Street.

Sorin Bica, senior business management major, stood outside and said the bar was packed with people here to celebrate Kernich’s life.

And as signs reading, “Always Remembered, Never Forgotten” and “Celebrate the Life of CK” reflected, the dominant theme of the night was to celebrate Kernich’s life rather than mourn his untimely death.

“It’s great to see how many lives he’s touched and made better,” said Valerie Rodi, a junior nursing major and close friend of Kernich’s.

She said they first met during a three-hour dance-off they had in his basement, and that’s when she really got to know him. Her fondest memory of him is how he could make anyone laugh.

“He always knew how to brighten someone’s day,” Rodi said.

Sara Syroka, senior nursing major, close friend of Kernich’s and chief organizer of the fundraiser, also remembers Kernich’s infectious personality.

“All around, Chris was a fun-loving guy,” Syroka said. “I can’t think of anyone who didn’t like him.

“People are here to celebrate his life, he wouldn’t have wanted it any other way,” she said, adding that she couldn’t have been happier with the night’s turnout.

Brewhouse bartender Clare Krystosik said the bar expected to have a large turnout, which is why she was asked specifically to work that night.

She recalled seeing Kernich visit often, and he usually had many friends with him.

“He used to come in to Brewhouse all the time. He always seemed very energetic and fun loving,” Krystosik said. “He always had a good crowd of people around him.”

Near the end of bar, a picture collage of Kernich and his friends was displayed. It was titled “That’s Wassup,” which Syroka said was his catch phrase he brought from his hometown.

Krystosik said she waited on a customer earlier who came to the bar around 10:30 p.m. and turned out to be the father of one of Kernich’s friends. She said he bought everyone’s drinks until the tab hit $400, and the money was added to the collective donations.

Krystosik added that the mood of the night was a balance between somber and cheerful as people shared their stories of Kernich.

“It’s been happy in celebrating his life rather than mourning his death,” she said. “And that’s what everyone says he would’ve wanted.”

Brewhouse bouncer Jason Ross, who has worked at the bar for seven years, said the bar was definitely much busier than usual.

“Tonight’s an amazing night. We’ve had over 500 people at the door,” he said. “Normally, on a Tuesday, we’d be lucky to get 100.”

Later that night, Ross confirmed there were 550 patrons at the Brewhouse and 180 visitors downstairs at JB’s where Red Sun Rising played a free concert to show its support.

Syroka said the Kernichs raised more than $9,000 on a fundraiser held Monday, and there are at least two more planned at Mugs and Whiskey Dick’s.

Rodi said the fundraiser was a character-defining moment for her. If anything, she said, people should adopt the realization that what happened to Kernich could happen to anyone, and life can sometimes come to an abrupt end.

“Life is short, and live life to the fullest because you never know when it will all end . and that’s what’s up,” she said.

Kernich’s calling hours are today at Fairborn High School from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. His funeral service will be at 11 a.m. Saturday, also at Fairborn High School. He will be buried at Byron Cemetery in Fairborn.

Contact public affairs reporter Jeremy Nobile at [email protected].