Dayton mass slaying victim Nick Cumer remembered in Washington, Pa. as hero
Elementary school teachers, high school friends, college fraternity brothers, family members and hundreds of others filled every free spot inside a Washington funeral home to say goodbye to a local man killed in a mass shooting last weekend in Dayton.
“He just wanted to bring everybody together,” friend Mike Hammond said of Nick Cumer.
He did that again Saturday.
Cumer, 25, was among nine killed in a shooting at Ned Peppers, a bar in the city’s Oregon District.
“He was an ideal I had in my head,” said Hammond, who was one of a half-dozen who eulogized the Washington High School graduate. “If I couldn’t talk to him, I could at least think, ‘What would Nick do,’ and I’d know that that would lead me in the right direction.”
Family and friends have said the St. Francis graduate student and Washington County native died protecting two friends who were wounded.
His uncle, Scott Merchant, drew parallels between his nephew and Jesus.
“As I was talking to some friends at work, I told them what happened to Nick,” he said. “They said, ‘Nick died a hero.’ I said, ‘Then why did the hero die?’ ”
The hero in the Bible died too, he responded.
Each room of the Piatt and Barnhill Funeral Home was standing-room-only, and chairs and speakers were placed outside to accommodate everyone.
Pastor Brian Greenleaf of the Washington Alliance Church called it a day to celebrate Cumer’s life.
“I’ll probably be smiling and laughing throughout this whole service,” Greenleaf said to start the service. “Because the images I have of Nick are just that.
“Heaven is a little bit better today because of Nicholas Cumer.”
Our loss, he said, is heaven’s gain.
The heartfelt stories from family and friends show the magnitude of that loss.
“Not only was Nick a cousin, he was more like a brother,” his cousin Destiny said through tears. “I don’t think I ever told him what an inspiration and what a role model he was to me and to so many people.”
She recalled spending endless summers together and sled riding in the winter.
“He had no problem letting me be one of the boys,” she said, “because I wanted to be just like the boys growing up.
“It’ll be tough,” she continued. “He will be missed.”
Friend Benjamin Marasco, who grew up with Cumer, spoke of sitting in the back of the bus on the way home from middle school basketball games in Pittsburgh. With the Fort Pitt Tunnel ahead and the city lights behind them, “We’d put our knees on the seat in front of us, and we played the same exact song every time.”
The song was “Sea of Faces” by Christian rock band Kutless.
“I see the city lights all around me, everyone’s obscure / Ten million people each with their problems, why should anyone care / And in Your eyes I can see I am not just a man, vastly lost in this world
“Lost in a Sea of Faces / Your body’s the bread, Your blood is the wine / Because you traded Your life for mine.”
Megan Guza is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Megan at 412-380-8519, [email protected] or via Twitter .