Nearly 1,000 people gathered to celebrate the life of Brian Tumblison, a seventh grader who died early Wednesday morning.
Olentangy Hyatts Middle School held a memorial service for Brian Thursday night. The crowd of students, family members and staff packed the bleachers and bordered the gymnasium floor.
The dress code for this memorial service was different than most — a majority of attendees affectionately wore hats.
“I see Brian playing lacrosse, running across the football field, in the strings room playing his instrument,” said Principal Kathy McFarland. “And I see him wearing those darn hats,” she said with a smile.
Throughout the service, Brian was described as an energetic, gregarious, and respectful young man.
According to the anecdotes speakers shared, Brian was one who ignored status symbols and valued equality.
“He wasn’t one to go along with the crowd,” said Doug Cook, a Scioto Ridge guidance counselor who has known Brian since kindergarten. “He knew what was right, and swam upstream if need be.”
As free-spirted as he was fair, Brian was portrayed as someone who loved life.
Cook spoke of a Liberty High School football game where Brian, despite the cold, was shirtless and covered in body paint.
Brian was also described, fondly and tragically, as spontaneous.
While the trait often contributed to Brian’s charm, (McFarland remembered a time he halted his bolt up the stairs to look at a spider), his mother said it ultimately led to his death.
“Anyone who knew Brian knew that he could be a very impulsive guy he liked to do fun things,” said Kristi Tumblison. “Unfortunately, it was an impulsive act that took his life. Brian did not think through the consequences of stopping his breathing.”
Tumblison said Brian acted out “of anger toward me, that followed an incident that I’m sure has happened in all of your homes.”
She clarified that “this was not an act of suicide” and that “there was not a depressed moment in Brian’s life.”
Brian died at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, according to Franklin County Coroner Jan Gorniak. Without the parents’ immediate permission, she did not comment on the cause of death.
With her husband, Britt, by her side, Tumblison encouraged people to focus on his life and not his death. She asked that Brian’s legacy be his ability to bring friends together.
“Friendship is what Brian lived,” Tumblison said.
She concluded her speech with a message to Brian’s classmates:
“Be patient to one another. Always show kindness. Do not bully or tease because words do hurt. Be happy with yourself and your abilities. You are never alone in this community. (There is) an absolute outpouring of compassion.
“And please, when you’re angry, think about the consequences of your actions.”
McFarland said the school would be providing extra counseling support to grieving as long as needed.
Additionally, Cook urged students to pay tribute to Brian by “living long, full, healthy lives,” and “by truly loving each other.”
“Hats off to Brian,” Cook cheered.