Those important to Purdue student Trever Col assumed a variety of roles: fellow lovers of the outdoors, inspired classmates and loving family members, who gathered Thursday evening in the Córdova Recreational Sports Center to commemorate his life.
Trever Col, a senior in mechanical engineering, was a member of a Purdue Outing Club expedition to Valhalla Cave in Alabama on Nov. 23. He experienced equipment failure while rappelling in the cave and fell over 200 feet to his death, per previous reporting. He was with four other members at the time, all fellow Purdue students.
Friends and family portrayed Trever Col as someone who constantly sought adventure, whether he was spending a semester studying abroad and trekking through mountains in China or introducing Purdue students to their first outdoor climbs. His sister, Hannah Col, said his fearlessness bled into everything he did.
“He always knew exactly who he wanted to be, and if there was a path less traveled, that was the one my brother would take without hesitation,” Hannah Col said.
She urged the nearly 70-person crowd of her brother’s closest companions, professors and classmates to keep him alive by sharing their stories of him. His colorful personality and the countless adventures he embarked on would supply no shortage of memories, she said.
Trever Col’s identical twin Griffin Col spoke to his brother’s unceasing generosity and devotion to those he considered close friends. After several long nights awake listening to his twin's effusive descriptions of his friends at Purdue, Griffin Col said he understood that the University was a second home for his brother.
“If you were lucky enough to be considered his friend, Trever had your back for life,” Griffin Col said. “There was nothing he would not do to support and encourage those around him. Know that you all made his life rich with laughter and good times.”
Griffin Col said his brother lived his life “his way, God save anyone who tried to tell him otherwise,” to which their mother responded, “Yes.”
Holding back tears, Griffin Col expressed confidence that Trever Col lived his best life, packed with adventure.
Several others, including Trever Col's roommate Josh Woodard and Purdue Outing Club partner Elyse Duffie, said he was the best friend they had ever had.
Pictures of the deceased climber filled a scrapbook, shrouded by written messages of love and gratitude. A slideshow depicting an infectiously happy and lively outdoorsman featured the faces of many different friends.
Trever Col filled many roles during his time at Purdue. Academically, he was on track to receive a bachelor’s degree in 2020 and a master’s degree the following year. He was involved in the design and development of a Formula SAE racecar. As evidenced by the knots of climbing rope that adorned each table and a venue adjacent to the Purdue rock wall, his deepest passion was a membership in the Purdue Outing Club, an organization that encourages its members to fully experience the outdoors.
Jerry Col, Trever Col's father, said the Córdova Recreational Sports Center served as a sanctuary where his son could release the stress of life as a college student while he climbed.
“Most are lucky to have one group of people to call family — to have that feeling of unconditional love and acceptance,” Jerry Col said. “Trever was fortunate to be a member of two families: his blood family and his Purdue family.”
Jerry said the initial inhibitions he held when dropping his son off at Purdue, 1,200 miles away from home, were erased as he watched Trever Col progress. The friends he made struck his father and mother as sincere and loyal. They said they knew his best interests were supported and advanced by the people he spent his last days with.
“What would Trever want?” his father asked those friends. “He would want us to find peace and comfort knowing that he was truly living his best life. He was doing what he loved with the people he loved.
“He would want us to remember that life is to be lived to the fullest.”