Back in high school, IU freshman Dustin DuFault sometimes signed his homework with a stick-figure guinea pig. To get the doodle right, he told friends the oblong circle for a body, four little lines for legs and a dot for an eye had to be done quickly.
Lately freshman Benjamin Cruz, a longtime friend of DuFault, has been carrying around a small red rock signed with one of DuFault’s guinea pigs along with Cruz and another friend’s name. It’s just one way he remembers DuFault.
DuFault, 18, took his own life April 12 in his room in Forest Quad, according to an email sent to Forest residents from the director of residential life.
“I never had a brother,” Cruz said. “He was like that to me.”
DuFault grew up in Highland, Indiana, and graduated from Highland High School, where he played in the orchestra. Cruz said he was first chair of the cello section. At IU, he was a music education major and a cellist.
Cruz said they met in seventh grade when Cruz began going to public school in Highland after transferring from Catholic school. He said DuFault welcomed him into his group of friends.
“He was there for me, and he made it seem like he understood what it was like to be kind of an outsider,” Cruz said.
DuFault became like family to Cruz and his younger sisters. Cruz said DuFault taught one of his sisters to play cello.
Recently Cruz said he ran out of meal points, but DuFault was letting him use his.
DuFault and Cruz were friends throughout high school and decided to come to IU together after visiting campus in October 2017. They lived just a tower apart in Forest.
Cruz said they had planned to rent a house together in the fall and made a point that no matter what, they were going to get a cat.
He said DuFault hated the fact that he couldn’t have a cat in Forest. He missed his cats from home, particularly one named Oliver who was white with black splotches around his muzzle.
A Jacobs School of Music student, DuFault played cello in the University Orchestra.
His cello professor, Emilio Colón, said he thinks of DuFault as a kind person who was trying to be the best cellist so he could become a good teacher. Friends of his in the music school said he was one of the hardest working people they knew.
“He was going to be a great teacher,” freshman Mike Anderson said.
DuFault became friends with Anderson, freshmen John Woodward and Jacob Kopis through the music school.
Woodward said DuFault talked about learning jazz piano to be in a jazz group with them. He also played trumpet and piano, and Kopis said he planned on trying to join the Marching Hundred.
Woodward, who played with DuFault in the University Orchestra, said one of his biggest regrets is he only got to have a semester and a half worth of memories of him.
He recounted walking with DuFault to a puzzle and board game shop on Kirkwood Avenue. He said they talked so much while playing chess they had to remind themselves to keep the game going. They played for around two hours. DuFault won.
“I had a group of three friends I was really close with back home,” Woodward said. “I kind of thought it would be like that with the four of us, but now it's just the three.”
Kopis first met DuFault in a music education class. He said one of his favorite memories of DuFault was the first time he heard him play his cello.
DuFault took them to his room in Forest to play for him, Woodward and Anderson but said he didn’t have anything to play.
Kopis told DuFault he didn’t care, he just wanted to hear him.
Eventually, DuFault relented and played a short composition for them.
“I loved it,” Kopis said. “I wish I could have heard him play it more.”
If you or someone you know is experiencing depression or suicidal thoughts, there are resources to help. IU Counseling and Psychological Services is on the fourth floor of the IU Health Center and offers help with stress management, anxiety, depression and more. To set up an appointment, go here. In an emergency, call 812-855-5711, which is available 24/7. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255.
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