Friends, family remember UC Berkeley sophomore Henry Treadway

Henry Treadway vigil
Ashley Chen/Staff

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The Multicultural Community Center in the Martin Luther King Jr. Student Union was filled to capacity Friday night, as friends, family and members of the UC Berkeley community filed in to pay their respects to Henry Treadway — the sophomore and El Cerrito native who died last week at Unit 2 Residence Halls.

Although the circumstances were somber, they gathered not only to mourn Treadway, 20 — a shy, passionate sneaker enthusiast recognized by everyone who knew him for his enormous, trademark smile — but to reminisce and even laugh over memories of the young man who said little but made a lasting impression on countless lives.

His mother, Diana Treadway, thanked the hundreds who were gathered for showing Treadway’s parents how much of a positive influence their son had on his classmates and friends.

The other speakers ranged from close friends and neighbors who had known Treadway his entire life, to those who had only met him briefly or in passing but felt the need to share the profound impact he had on them.

Andres Vindas Melendez met Treadway during the Summer Bridge Program at UC Berkeley — a six-week academic program that helps students transition from high school to college. Melendez spoke at Friday’s memorial about the short time he spent getting to know Treadway, and his regrets over not having known him better.

“We claim to have a lot of friends, but how many people do you walk by on campus and shake their hands and give them hugs every time you see them? Henry never failed to do that,” Melendez said.

Treadway was born four months premature — “a real fighter from the beginning,” as Diana said two days after the memorial — on November 18, 1991, and spent the first four months of his life in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Kaiser Permanente Oakland Medical Center.

“He was one pound, 12-and-a-half ounces,” said Christopher Treadway, Henry’s father. “But he grew into a strong, handsome man.”

Throughout high school and college, Treadway dedicated himself to whatever he was involved with. He was an Eagle Scout and an honor roll student who bowled in a local league, played basketball and tennis, and was a member of the El Cerrito High School marching band.

In college, Treadway became a dedicated member of the campus service club Cal Rotaract. At the club’s end-of-the-semester banquet two weeks ago, Treadway was honored with the award for the most valuable participant after spending an estimated 50 total hours participating in service projects. At Friday’s vigil, club leaders announced that the award will henceforth be known as the “Henry Treadway Award for Outstanding Service.”

“This award will be given to the member of the semester who has not only shown consistent attendance to service events, but whose attitude towards service parallels that of Henry’s selfless generosity, and encourages fellow peers and officers to follow suit,” said Angelica Teng, co-president of Cal Rotaract, in an email.

Treadway was passionate about many things, but he obsessed over few things more than sneakers. He was an active poster on online forums dedicated to the Nike brand, where Treadway was known by his user name “sfkicks,” and regularly wrote thousand-word critiques on a shoe at the blink of an eye.  The website has posted a memorial to Treadway.

Danny Schumacher and Treadway were best friends since the first day they met in band class at Portola Middle School in El Cerrito. Schumacher, a current sophomore at Berkeley City College, said the two were often mistaken for brothers because they looked similar and were both shy.

Schumacher said that he and Treadway would routinely drive around Berkeley for hours on the weekends just listening to rap and hip-hop music with the windows down. That was how they spent the day last Tuesday, before Schumacher dropped Treadway off at Unit 2, not knowing the circumstances under which he would return to the residence halls later in the evening.

“I started getting calls, his roommates called me and asked me what was happening. Everything got worse from there,” he said. “I was freaking out. Henry still wasn’t answering his phone.”

When Schumacher entered Treadway’s dorm room Tuesday night, he saw Treadway’s roommates, his parents and police officers, and the only thing the officers would tell him was that a boy named Henry was suspected to have fallen.

“In that moment, I knew. There was no one else in that dorm named Henry,” Schumacher said. “I started putting together all the pieces to the puzzle — I broke down right there.”

Treadway’s parents said they were surprised and overwhelmed by the outpouring of love at Friday’s vigil, and by the fact that Henry’s death has encouraged students to reflect on their actions and how they affect those around them. Although his life was cut short, they believe they were lucky for the “20-and-a-half years of joy” spent with their son.

“He was a good boy … he was a spirited boy. He made us proud every day,” Christopher Treadway said. “As his mother said, ‘we weren’t cheated, we were blessed.’”

A previous version of this article incorrectly identified the mother of Henry Treadway as Diane Treadway. In fact, her name is Diana Treadway.

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  • Hmm

    Dear Parents Treadway:

    My deepest and most heart-felt condolences to you on this unspeakably tragic event.

    I did not know your son. One of my sons, however, was admitted to Cal the same time as your son and I’ve come to find out that he was on the cusp of the same tragic event. Just the cusp resulted in inexpressible emotions.

    My family and my son are thinking of you and your beloved.

    Another parent

  • Ak
  • Dr. Beezle

    Anonymous, your note is profoundly insensitive to both Mr. Treadway and those who felt the need to grieve him.  Your fear that such memorials glorify suicide is paranoid and silly.  You obviously have no understanding whatsoever of depression or the causes of suicide.  You are indeed blaming Mr. Treadway for cowardice here, as though severe depression was not a punishing and transformative mental illness, as though death were not consequence enough of a bad decision, as though those who struggled with life and could not for whatever reason see through the veil of utter misery should be swept under the rug, buried, as it were, outside the churchyard with the reprobates.  I see no point whatsoever to your note.  I only see hardness of heart and the deepest ignorance.

    • I_h8_disqus

      While I disagree with annonymous about the cowardice factor in Henry’s death, I also disagree with a couple of your comments.  All the attention given to Henry after the fact is something the suicide prevention agencies warn about.  The contagion effect is real, and when suicide is shown in a positive light, like the naming of an award for a person who committed suicide, it can result in copy cats who want attention.

      I may have also missed it in the previous articles, but several posters are stating that Henry had the mental illness of depression that was the cause of his suicide, and I was wondering if this was documented or just people trying to give his death a reason?

  • annonymous

    So, what causes  person like this to end his life and feel there is no hope. While I have utmost sympathy for his parents, eulogizing him after his death, changing name of the award only serves to glorify the circumstance of his death. No one should read this and feel that only death gave them all this. Suicide is a cowardly act. I am sorry for his parents and his friends, but I believe a person who commits suicide need not be eulogized. They did it because they were too afraid to seek help for whatever it is they were feeling inside. Get help people, if you are depressed. Nothing is worth as much as your life. 

    • Guest

      Do you seriously think that blaming the victim will make him/her less likely to commit suicide? This is a memorial for someone who died…regardless how he/she passed away and it is not your business to say whether hosting the memorial was justified. Please if you can’t show some respect, don’t say anything and walk away.

      • annonymous

        Not blaming the victim here. But high schools have stopped having public memorials in fear of students (seeking attention to themselves). I am very sorry this happened, believe me, I have utmost sympathy for those left behind and especially the parents.

    • Alum

      It’s a tragedy why someone so young can feel so sad, but depression is a terrible disease. It’s a cheap shot to suggest that he is a coward when he was clearly suffering from this medical disease which can cause a young, bright person  feel compelled to end his  pain.  You don’t blame a person  that dies from cancer for not going to the doctor earlier; just as you don’t blame someone that is suffering from depression.  I know your intention was to say that someone that is suffering from depression should seek help, but don’t blame him for not; you don’t know his situation; I don’t either, but I am not self-righteously claiming that he need not be eulogized and memorialized. He was a person, and that is what you do when people lose someone they love. 

    • LH

      You want to know what caused his depression? I know. I knew Henry personally, better than 99% of people. I shouldn’t be engaging with random people on the internet, I know, but I have to address what you’re saying, because I know more people think the same way you do, and that’s a problem.

      Henry was the purest, most loving person I know. There is no question about that. Which put him at direct odds with a lot of things in this world. I won’t go into specifics as to how, and I know I’m going to get replies questioning my understanding of the situation and the world. but that’s all crystal clear to me now, and it should be to you as well.

      The point I’m trying to make is that you shouldn’t be dishonoring Henry by questioning why he’s being eulogized. That works to mobilize mindsets to further skirt and dodge the actual problems that plague the world. What you should be doing is blaming yourself and the world  for  what happened. Everyone I know, Henry’s other friends included, say blame is a bad thing and should be avoided. But, really, ask yourself, why is that? There are clearly aspects about our society (which is, above all else, scripted for self preservation) that pushed Henry to do what he did. Society, in its eternal need to keep itself  going, will, despite all its lip-service and platitudes, always avoid ultimate responsibility. But that’s a problem, because improvement is more important than self preservation. If a fire needs to be kept burning, but is harming things around it, it is better that the fire be put out and started anew, hopefully doing even more good than it was before. It is only by accepting and recognizing the significance of this that we can actually do something effective. And that entails that we indulge in blame against ourselves, as misguided and antisocial as that sounds.

      In the end, the above contents of this post may be end ineffectual because I’m not going to go into the actual details, but that’s ok, I’ve  said what needs to be said.

      What’s for sure, and what you can’t argue with, however, is that depression is a disease. See one of the other posters (Alum) said drawing the analogy to cancer for, what I feel, is an excellent description of the situation. You, without a doubt, are displaying a disgustingly  arrogant misunderstanding of what depression is, and, for the good of society, should not be allowed to use a word like that when you have no real comprehension of  what it is. I don’t care if your whole family had depression, you personally clearly  have not one iota of knowledge of what depression is like.

       I may get flamed by more people than just you about this, have my worldview challenged, or maybe get no response at all. I don’t care.

      Thanks and God bless you.

    • Guest

      Your certitude is clearly based upon ignorance and naivete. My advice is to stay in school for as long as you can because things tend to go very badly for those like you in the real world.

      For now, just understand that you do not know as much as you think you do. Such won’t help you avoid the shipwreck that your life is about to become, of course, but it might make those you meet hate you just a little bit less.

    • Kate

       What the hell? I see that you are “anonymous”. That seems very cowardly to me. Call the suicide prevention hotline and talk to someone about these issues- you need to get some education about this before mouthing off about it.