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Always say ‘I love you:’ Remembering IU student Zach Filippo



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Zach Filippo, left, died in a car accident July 20 in Boca Raton, Florida. Courtesy Photo

Those who knew Zach Filippo always knew they were loved by him. Filippo, who would have been an IU sophomore this year , always left a room or ended a phone call with a quick “I love you.” That was Zach’s rule. And those are now the words tattooed onto his dad’s wrist in his memory.

In the early morning of July 20, Zach Filippo was involved in a car accident in Boca Raton, Florida. where he was pronounced dead at the scene. He is survived by his parents, Greg and Shari Filippo, and his younger brother Matthew. His family and friends remember him as a selfless person with an infectiously positive energy.

Family and friends honored Zach Filippo at the site of his accident in Boca Raton, Florida. Courtesy Photo

Ethan Salk, a sophomore and fellow fraternity brother at Alpha Epsilon Pi, became acquainted with Filippo before they began their first year at IU. The two were roommates during the fall semester. Salk said he recalls always choosing to take the longer way whenever he was walking somewhere with Filippo to get a few extra minutes to talk. He said Filippo had a way of making dull moments interesting.

“You always knew he was in the room,” Salk said. “He made people laugh. That’s just how he was.”

Another fraternity brother and sophomore, Josh Tanenbaum, remembers how welcomed he felt by Filippo when they first met. Tanenbaum came to IU from Tennessee and the two became close during their first semester. He said whatever happened, he knew Filippo had his back.

“If we were in a tough situation he would always make everybody feel better,” Tanenbaum said. 

Sophomore Yasmine Mohamed, a close friend of Filippo's remembers often waking up to many missed calls from Filippo in the mornings. He would eagerly ask what plans they were making for the day.

“He definitely took advantage of every day,” Mohamed said. “Regardless of the situation, he made a good time out of it.”

Junior Matt Baltzer was Filippo’s big brother at AEPi. He said he was honored to have had Filippo in his life.

“We instantly created a bond,” Baltzer said. “We would call each other every day to talk, and he was just one of my best friends.”

Baltzer has started implementing Zach’s rule of saying “I love you” to those close to him in the past few weeks.

“It’s my first time experiencing how tomorrow isn’t promised,” Baltzer said. “You never really know when the last you’re seeing someone is going to be the last time.” 

Greg Filippo decided to get his first tattoo this month in honor of his son, Zach, and his rule "Always say I love you." Courtesy Photo

The last conversation Baltzer remembers with Filippo was about his return to IU after staying home for the spring semester. Baltzer recalls hearing Filippo’s excitement over the phone when he heard of his plans to apply to the Kelley School of Business.

Once the members of AEPi are able to gather together, Baltzer said they hope to hold a vigil in honor of Filippo and broadcast it for those unable to attend. 

Greg Filippo said they hope to create a space at AEPi’s basketball court to honor Zach and his love of basketball.

“No matter what day or time, if he was feeling good, if he was feeling down, he would be in the driveway shooting baskets,” his father said.

Filippo’s family will be honoring their son by creating an endowment in his name at both the University of Maryland, his parents’ alma mater, and IU. They also plan to create an outreach program where they will gift basketball courts, hoops and equipment to underserved communities annually. 

Donations can be made toward a memorial fund that will support the foundation. 

Courtesy Photo

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