In the summer of 2017, I decided to stay in Charlottesville for a summer internship. I had just been initiated, but was living in the house and occasionally visiting our honorary brother Martin Powell. When the news broke of Otto Warmbier’s passing, it was an emotional time around the house, even for those like me who hadn’t personally met him, but especially for guys like Martin and Billy Burgess (’17) to whom Otto had meant so much.
From Otto’s moving wake in the UVA amphitheater to his nationally televised funeral, I realized I was a part of a very significant time for our brotherhood, as well as the larger UVA community. Since I am also from Cincinnati, Martin asked me to deliver a letter to Otto’s parents, which I happily did on my first trip home.
As I drove up the Warmbier’s long driveway to deliver the letter, I couldn’t help but be terribly nervous. There was no way for me to comprehend all that they were going through. But despite my own anxiety, Otto’s family welcomed me with overwhelming generosity, friendliness, and compassion. I was able to witness how special Otto was through his family’s shared enthusiastic manner.
On my way out the door, Otto’s mom Cindy insisted that I take about 20 custom made post cards that Otto’s high school art teacher had created out of Otto’s art work. Fred (Otto’s Dad) joked that Otto clearly wasn’t that great of a painter, but the designs surely captured Otto’s entrepreneurial and energetic spirit. I couldn’t agree more.
Over the next few months, I couldn’t figure out what to do with the cards. I had given one to Martin (which he still treasures), but the rest needed a proper home. Eventually, my mom and I decided to have them framed into a sort of collage, which now hangs proudly in the house with the caption “In loving memory of the Brilliance of Otto Warmbier”.
I only hope that Otto’s goofy, eclectic, and loving spirit continues to be remembered, celebrated, and imitated within our brotherhood.
AJ Getter ’19