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.