One year later: Family, friends of Seth Korona feel void left by tragic death

When Seth Korona decided to attend IU, his younger brother, Elliott, 16, hoped to someday get a pilot's license and ferry his brother from their New Jersey home to Bloomington.\nNow, less than a year away from getting his license, Elliott said flying helps him feel closer to his brother, who died after falling at a fraternity party less than a month into his first semester at IU.\nOne year after Seth Korona's untimely death, family and friends are grappling with his memory and hoping some good can come out of the loss.\n"One year without him has been the hardest year of my life, because I know he will never come back, and we'll never see him again," Gary Korona, Seth's father, said. "We'll never hear his voice, I'll never be able to smell him or hear him say 'hold on' … when I wanted him to do something."\nToday, family and friends from New Jersey will gather with Seth's friends at his grave. At IU, Seth's friends say they plan no formal remembrance, but he'll be in their minds all day.\nKorona, who was 19, fell and hit his head on a door frame after doing a keg stand at a Theta Chi fraternity party last Jan. 27. After Korona was helped back to his room in Foster Quad, floormates watched him, believing he was hungover. Two days later, when friends couldn't revive him, they called an ambulance. Korona remained in a coma until he was taken off life support last Feb. 4.\nChris Vargo, one of Seth's IU friends, said he thinks about Korona all the time. Sometimes he has nightmares, seeing Korona in a hospital bed with tubes in him. But mostly he remembers moments shared eating at Foster Gresham food court and working out at the Student Recreational Sports Center. Vargo, a sophomore, said he thinks about Korona as he trains for the Little 500 team Cutters. He said he'll be riding for Korona in the April race.\n"Seth was pumped about little five and never got to see it," Vargo said.\nVargo and Korona's other floormates have spent hours talking to the Koronas -- on the phone and on Instant Messenger. \nElliott Korona said the conversations have been a great source of comfort.\n"(Seth) left a piece of him with his friends and they're all like my brothers," he said. "I talk to them every day."\nPlaying ice hockey, swimming and playing in the marching band have kept Elliott busy since his brother's death, but he still finds himself depressed after school. Elliott said he cried on the ice after playing in a hockey game he dedicated to Korona. \nKorona's mother, Wendi, has kept busy in her job as an interior designer, bonded with neighbors and participated in counseling to help her through it.\n"We don't have a choice but to be strong," she said.\nGary Korona said he has found little comfort since his son's death, but feels like his son is there with him everywhere he goes.\n"I felt his presence there when we gave out the (swimming) scholarship in his name," Gary said. "I feel him sometimes when I'm driving and he's yelling at me that I'm driving shitty, like 'watch the road dad.' I feel him when I'm at a swim meet, when I'm watching one of Elliott's hockey games, that he's sitting there cheering on his brother."\nKorona has been memorialized in a number of ways: The high school swim team of which he had been the captain dedicated the whole season to him; Larchmont Swim Club, where he was a lifeguard, planted a tree; and two scholarships are now awarded in his name. But Wendi Korona wants something else.\nShe wants to find a way to prevent what happened to Seth from happening again.\n"There's a long-term plan that we have and that is to form some kind of program to … make people more aware of the alcohol problem and how to be responsible with alcohol," she said.\nShe's in the process of forming a foundation in her son's memory to assist or create educational programs to take to schools locally and nationally.\nIn the coming months, the Koronas are looking forward to meeting some people who were given another chance at life through Seth's death.\nFive people received his organs, Wendi Korona said, and the organization that set up the donation offers the Koronas an opportunity to meet them.\nWendi Korona said she can't wait, "out of a mother's curiosity," to find out if someone who got one of his organs shares any of her son's traits -- like his love of swimming.

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