Remembering CK

Doug Gulasy

Charismatic sports fan ‘lit up’ those around him

Watch video from the candlelight vigil.

Sara Syroka remembers Christopher Kernich as the type of person who could make anyone’s day just a little bit brighter.

“Chris was a great person with a huge heart who just had a positive energy,” said Syroka, a senior nursing major. “He just attracted everyone towards him. I can’t think of one person who didn’t like him or didn’t have fun around him. He was an all-around good guy.”

Kernich, a junior pre-business management major from Fairborn, died Saturday afternoon from the injuries he suffered in an off-campus assault in the early-morning hours of Nov. 15. He was 23 years old.

About 300 of Kernich’s friends and supporters gathered last night at the rock on front campus for a candlelight vigil in his memory. They formed a large circle around the rock, which had “Forever CK – 11-21-09” written on the surface and “With us always” written at the base. Candles at the base formed the word “CK” – Kernich’s nickname – in between two hearts.

Those in attendance said two prayers and many cried. The group ended the official ceremony by chanting “CK” for about 30 seconds, but most lingered by the rock far after that.

Senior finance major Mike Matousek knew Kernich for less than a year, but he said that was long enough for Kernich to make an impact. He asked the people in attendance to follow Kernich’s example and live life with a smile.

“He just had that smile that you can’t miss,” Matousek said. “(He was) that special kid that was able to connect with everyone just like that.”

Zack Siegrist was Kernich’s roommate. He remembers the times when Kernich would make chili or Hamburger Helper and “just smelling up our house.”

“At the time, I’d always be like, ‘Chris, dude, what the heck – you’re smelling up the house,'” said Siegrist, a senior organizational communication major. “I’m never going to walk downstairs and be able to mess around with him and yell at him to stop making all his stupid food.”

Siegrist was introduced to Kernich two years ago when he visited Kent for a party.

“We pretty much hung out the whole night and had a good time,” he said. “I ended up coming to school here, and our friendship just grew to be really good buddies, and we ended up living together.”

Marell Harrell, senior sports administration major, met Kernich a year ago in class and remained in touch with him after that. He said he remembers Kernich as a genuine person who was just fun to be around.

“You lit up whenever you got around him,” Harrell said, ” (when) you’d see him out, see him at a party (or) go to his house.”

Kernich played football, basketball and baseball at Fairborn High School, according to the Dayton Daily News. A wide receiver in football, he compiled 1,240 receiving yards and 21 touchdowns as a senior in 2004.

Benjamin Hall first met Kernich when the two played “Wee Hawk” football during elementary school. He now lives in Washington D.C. and said although the two went their separate ways for college, they still remained close.

“Everybody liked the kid – he was popular,” Hall said. “He was a jock, (and) he hung out with a good crowd. Our group of friends was a good crowd. We never got in trouble.”

In addition, Kernich was a big fan of both Ohio State and the Cincinnati Bengals. Senior psychology major Erin Wittstock, a Pittsburgh Steelers fan, had a friendly rivalry with Kernich over their teams.

“That was always one of our things – just the rivalry between us and seeing him at the bar and him screaming ‘Who Dey’ at me,” Wittstock said.

Ohio State coach Jim Tressel called Kernich while he was in the hospital, and his family and friends put the phone up to his ear. Bengals wide receiver Chad Ochocinco called for Kernich on Saturday night, after he died.

“It meant a lot (to Chris), and we know he heard it, too,” Matousek said.

Kernich’s friends said the news of the assault on him came as a complete shock.

“It just is a tragedy, a pure tragedy,” Matousek said. “You hear about them all the time, but this was one that hit close to home. It’s a pure, pure tragedy and he will be sorely missed.”

Still, Kernich’s friends said they have a lot of things to remember him by.

“I’m going to miss his hugs and just seeing him out and just the way that he can make anybody’s bad day turn into good just by talking to them,” Syroka said.

Contact public affairs reporter Doug Gulasy at [email protected]

Suspects in Kernich’s death face felony assault charges

The two men accused of assaulting Christopher Kernich in the early-morning hours of Nov. 15 – Adrian A. Barker, 21, and Ronald G. Kelly, 20, of Akron – were indicted Thursday on charges of felonious assault.

The charges Barker and Kelly face will likely increase in the wake of Kernich’s death. The Dayton Daily News reported Kent police detectives expect to meet with prosecutors today.

Barker’s pre-trial hearing date is set for Jan. 29. His trial is set to begin Feb. 1 in front of Portage County Common Pleas Judge John Enlow, according to Portage County court records. No dates have been set in Kelly’s case.