Chase Meola, the former high school football player from Bergen County who was shot and killed in Ohio last weekend, was remembered Saturday as someone who bubbled with personality — kind, talented and giving.
“He lit the room up. A kind-hearted soul,” George Ervin, a former coach, told NJ Advance Media.
Meola, of Mahwah, was was found dead last Sunday. Police responding to reports of a shooting found the 23-year-old in a Columbus, Ohio, alleyway. He was a student at Ohio State University, studying at the Fisher School of Business.
Those who knew Meola were stunned by the shooting, telling reporters he was always fun, someone who wanted to make sure the people around him were happy.
Family members said they wish for him to be honored for what he had accomplished in his short life.
“We will remember him for his bravery, his desire to succeed, and to always better himself. This is not only a loss for our family, but a loss for this world,” the family said in a statement to ABC-TV in Columbus.
“He was, in some ways, wise beyond his years,” Ervin said. “Words coming out of his mouth could be coming out of an old man, instead of a little kid.”
The coach said his son Doug was best friends with Meola since childhood, and they knew each other since the age of 5, when they started school together.
Ervin coached the boys from kindergarten through eighth grade when they played in different youth sports — baseball, football and wrestling. Chase eventually switched from baseball to lacrosse when he was around 12 years old, Ervin said.
When the teens played football in high school, for the Mahwah High School Thunderbirds, Ervin said, he functioned as the team’s “unofficial photographer.” In 2015, the team won the school’s first sectional title in 34 years.
“That was wild,” Ervin recalled of the game. “That was unbelievable they made it all the way to MetLife Stadium. It was nice because a lot of us dads were with them when they started.”
The last time Ervin said he spoke to Meola was when he texted him Aug. 18 for his birthday. The pair always reached out to one another for their birthdays if Meola was away, he said.
“He never called me George and I didn’t like him calling me Mr. Ervin. He called me Dad or ‘Gerv,’” Ervin said. “(It’s the) same way my son feels about his father.”
Columbus police said Kintie Lanod Mitchell Jr., 18, of Columbus was charged with murder. Media reports indicate he had previously been arrested on burglary charges.
Mitchell appeared in court Thursday, according to a report. He is being held in lieu of $5 million bond, a report says.
Authorities previously said the shooting followed a dispute outside “a house party in the area” but provided no other details.
“The Ohio State University community is in mourning, and our deepest condolences and support go to the family and friends of Chase,” the university said.
A GoFundMe campaign, set up to “create a foundation in Chase’s name and honor,” was organized by friends of Meola, according to the website. The campaign has raised more than $93,000.
“He’s going to be sorely missed. It’s just surreal,” Ervin said. “He started out as my son’s friend, and when he grew up, he turned into my friend, too.”
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