January 20, 2010

Clayton DeFisher ’11 Dies at New Year’s Party

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This story was originally published on Jan. 12, 2010.

Clayton DeFisher ’11 died early on Jan. 1 after apparently suffering cardiac arrest at a New Year’s party in Williamson, N.Y.

Rescue personnel were called to a house party in Williamson just after 12:30 a.m. on Jan. 1. They found DeFisher, 20, unconscious and began CPR. He was rushed to Newark-Wayne Community Hospital, where he was pronounced dead about an hour later, police said.

Witnesses told police that while DeFisher had been drinking that night, he did not appear to be intoxicated. DeFisher reportedly was having a conversation shortly before he suddenly collapsed.

State Police Investigator John Stubble said that it was “too early to tell” definitively what caused DeFisher’s death without the results of a pending autopsy and toxicology tests. He said that investigators were also looking at a pre-existing cardiovascular problem as a possible factor.

There is no indication of any foul play, Stubble added.

DeFisher was a Biology major and a Hunter R. Rawlings III Cornell Presidential Research Scholar. He was a staff member at Cornell Outdoor Education, where he taught tree climbing.

Issac Taitz ’11, one of DeFisher’s friends, said he will miss DeFisher’s sense of humor and outlook on life.

“He was the quickest wit in our improv group, it was awe-inspiring to see what hilarious things he came up with on the spot,” Taitz said in an e-mail. “His main message was to live in the moment, and that’s what he did. He would leave all worries and anxieties and just immerse himself in the moment and smile the biggest smile you’ve ever seen.”

Another friend, Deirdre Mulligan ’11, described DeFisher as someone who was always positive, optimistic and “really appreciated the beauty in the people around him.”

“He loved the diversity in people’s thoughts and opinions and was always excited about meeting new people,” she said. “He was truly one of the most peaceful and loving people I’ve ever been lucky enough to know.”

Before coming to Cornell, DeFisher was salutatorian of his class at Williamson Central School.

More than 200 people gathered last Saturday at Williamson High School to remember DeFisher. The station also reported that DeFisher’s family plans to set up a scholarship fund in his name.

A celebration of DeFisher’s life was held at the Williamson High School at 10 a.m. on Saturday, Jan. 9.

An on-campus memorial is being planned in coordination with DeFisher’s friends and family, according to the University.

Original Author: Michael Stratford