Nick Cumer spent many long days and nights at Washington High School polishing his craft on the trombone.
But, when he enrolled as a freshman at Saint Francis University, Cumer was told that the Cambria County school’s newly forming band had enough trombone players. What they needed was someone who played the tuba.
Without griping or hesitating, Cumer volunteered.
“If the band needs a tuba player, I’ll do it,” Cumer told the university band program’s director, Dan Atwood, when he joined the university’s inaugural band that day roughly seven years ago.
“That just speaks to his mentality and his approach to others — Nick was all about doing what he could to better the group,” Atwood recalled by phone Monday afternoon — a day after a gunman opened fire outside a crowded Dayton bar and took the lives of nine people, including Cumer’s.
Cumer was 25.
‘A friend you could rely on’
After earning a bachelor’s degree in exercise physiology, Cumer enrolled in Saint Francis’ graduate program to pursue a master’s degree in cancer care.
Just last week, Cumer found out that an internship with the Dayton-based Maple Tree Cancer Alliance had blossomed into an offer for a full-time job.
He had one more week to go to as an intern, then would prepare to run one of the newest offices of Maple Tree, whose nonprofit mission is to help people with cancer through nutrition, exercise and faith.
Cumer told Atwood how excited he was about landing the position, according to Atwood.
Maple Tree officials decided to close their offices all week and reopen Aug. 12 to allow staff the time to grieve and process the tragedy.
Cumer also was active in the university’s Greek life.
His fraternity brothers started an online fundraiser at Fundly.com to raise money to help his family cover funeral costs. About 250 donors had contributed nearly $10,000 by Monday night.
Like Atwood, current and former fraternity and sorority members recalled Cumer’s positive energy and infectious smile.
“Nicholas Cumer was a man that we all could look up to and count on,” wrote the fundraising page’s organizer, Nick Johnson. “Nicholas had the personality and smile that would shine brighter than the hardest times. He was a friend you could rely on with unmatched compassion and support. Nick has left an impact on every life he came in contact with and will always be in our hearts.”
‘A loving and caring spirit’
Cumer was one of three trainers who worked at Maple Tree who were shot during the mass shooting in the Dayton’s historic Oregon district.
“While two are expected to make a full recovery, we are absolutely heartbroken to report that the third, Nicholas Cumer, was killed in this senseless act of violence,” Maple Tree officials wrote on Facebook.
Cumer’s supervisors said they will remember him “for his hard work and dedication.”
“He loved his patients and served them well, with a loving and caring spirit,” Maple Tree officials wrote. “He continuously went above and beyond our expectations and worked with a high level of excellence. He was well-liked and respected by everyone on our team.”
As graduate assistant for the university’s band, Cumer had both administrative and hands-on duties. He kept track of potential recruits, instructed groups on marching techniques and led ensemble music rehearsals, Atwood said.
“His sense of humor is something that I will always remember — and just his ability to connect with people of every background,” Atwood said. “He was always upbeat.”
The campus has planned a special Mass on Tuesday evening in honor of Cumer. A separate Mass is planned later in the week for grieving university band members and alumni.
Saint Francis’ next session of band camp starts Friday, and a tribute to Cumer will be an important piece of the agenda, Atwood said.
“The program would not be here where it is today without his commitment and his contributions to us,” Atwood said. “We were in Nick’s life for a short time, and it’s affecting all of us this deeply. I just cannot imagine what the family is going through at this point.”
In a statement, Cumer’s family asked for privacy.
“We are heartbroken at the loss of our Nicholas in this senseless act,” the family’s brief statement said.