With candles in hand, fraternity brothers and friends of Josh Brigham — the LSA student who died in July after falling from the roof of Nickel’s Arcade — came together to celebrate his life with a vigil at the Chi Phi fraternity house.
Brigham, who was a rising senior studying psychology, died July 24. He fell through the arcade’s glass ceiling while climbing to the building’s roof through an unlocked stairway door. According to the Ann Arbor Police report, obtained by The Ann Arbor News, Brigham was intoxicated at the time of the incident.
Since many of the Saugatuck, Mich., native’s friends were unable to attend his funeral, LSA senior Alex Buchholtz, a friend and fraternity brother, said the vigil was held for friends to commemorate his life.
Tealight candles were given to the hundreds of people who filled the Chi Phi porch and lawn. On the porch, a photo of Brigham was placed with a candle, a pamphlet from his funeral, flowers and a can of Natural Ice beer.
Several people shared stories of the fun, happy friend who lived life in the moment.
“Josh was a very smiley guy,” Buchholtz said. “He made everyone laugh; he could make anyone laugh instantly … He was a very fun guy. He kind of lived it up and had fun when he could.”
Buchholtz, who organized the vigil, said since Brigham’s passing he’s found himself instinctively trying to call or text him.
“It’s just weird because last week I moved back to Ann Arbor, and when I was pulling into Ann Arbor I almost picked up the phone and called him,” Buchholtz said. “The other day I woke up after a long night and texted him to see if he could get some food.”
Seeing Nickel’s Arcade is hard for Buchholtz. He said the other night he visited it and cried for a half hour. The passing of their beloved friend was hard on everyone, but the vigil focused on the positive contributions Brigham brought into their lives.
LSA senior Danny Bakst lived with Brigham last year and said he remembers spending 10 hours in the library studying with him for their political science exam, as well as time spent together playing intramural soccer and basketball.
“The things I’m really missing the most are the little moments of him,” Bakst said. “It’s not the big parties, it’s not the ski trips or the vacations, it’s just sitting on the couch with Josh.”
Kinesiology senior Dan Costa also lived with Brigham. Costa called Brigham his best friend; they met while rushing Chi Phi together, and Costa almost didn’t get a bid from the frat because he had spent all of rush talking to Brigham.
He recounted his birthday freshman year, which fell on Thanksgiving. Brigham was one of the only people who wanted to go out that night.
“We got a few drinks going and it was just me and him all night. We just walked around Ann Arbor, and it was honestly one of the most fun nights I’ve ever had around here,” Costa said. “He always brings a smile to my face.”
Josh Rubley, a childhood friend, said he spent all of his summer with Brigham. He said it was one of the best summers of his life; they hung out constantly and even got tattoos together. After Brigham passed, Rubley didn’t ever want to return to Ann Arbor because it brought up memories of Josh, but the outpouring of support Rubley received from Brigham’s college friends made him feel comforted.
“You guys have shown the most hospitality; I honestly never wanted to come back here,” Rubley said. “Thank you guys for all of the kindness and support. It’s awesome to know he has a great family of friends here to take care of him as well.”
Nursing junior Ann Marie Sweeney said she left the vigil feeling comforted.
“They encompassed everything he was: happy, the best person, thought everything was positive, had the best outlook on life,” Sweeney said, tearing up. “I’m glad they kept it positive — live like Josh would. It’s the best thing we can do. It’s what he would want.”