August 21 started as just another day for Nick Kopplin. Early in the afternoon, he reduced the asking price for his motorcycle and reposted his online Craig’s List ad.
He then did what he always did: went out of his way to make his loved ones happy. As he made his way to help his girlfriend babysit a friend’s child, he lost control of his 2003 Kawasaki motorcycle, slamming into an I-275 guardrail in St. Petersburg. He was ejected from the bike and died at the scene.
As those touched by his life recover from this loss, they recall his love for life and his care for family and friends.
Looking Forward to his final semester
Kopplin recently changed his major from International Business to Finance. All summer he looked forward to his senior year and hanging with his friends on campus.
Kopplin was not the only one that was getting ready for school. Lindsay Marino, a UT graduate and Kopplin’s girlfriend is a third grade teacher at Broward Elementary. Kopplin helped Marino set up her classroom. It was only two days into school that Kopplin passed away.
Marino and Kopplin were dating from February.
“We came so close so fast,” Marino said.
Kopplin’s roommates, Brendan Callahan, Chris Coyle, and Adam “Stripes” Little also looked forward to spending their final semester with “Koppdog,” a name many friends called him.
The men attended Kopplin’s funeral ceremonies in Overland, Mo., where Kopplin grew up. Although the viewing time was from 3 p.m.-8 p.m., family and friends started gathering at 2 p.m. and didn’t leave until 9 p.m. Even after leaving the viewing, they reconvened at their cars talking about Kopplin and his impact on them.
More than 100 cars participated in the funeral procession the next day.
Both Lindsay Marino, Kopplin’s girlfriend, and his roommates were overwhelmed by the amount of people who attended the funeral ceremonies. Family members included friends which he considered close enough to be family.
Kopplin lived his life everyday for his family and friends. After all, he knew what it was like to lose a loved one. At 12, he lost his mom.
“He missed his mother a lot.” Marino said. “He was so close to her that when she died it was a shock.”
He didn’t bring up his mother’s death because he didn’t want people to feel sorry for him.
“I kept moving on. What else was I supposed to do?” Kopplin told his friends.
“His mother’s death turned him into the most loyal person,” Coyle said.
He stayed close with two very important people, Barb Millstone and Norma Nixon. Millstone was Nick’s guardian when he lived in St. Louis, and he considered her the most important person in his life Kopplin considered Millstone’s children as brothers and sisters. Also, his nieces and nephews considered him their father figure.
He always wanted to take care of people. Kopplin always wanted to sell bracelets that say University of Tampa. He was always selling things on Ebay to get money. He told Millstone that she wouldn’t have to worry about money because he would take care of her. Kopplin also said the same thing about Marino.
Norma Nixon lived in Gulfport, Fla. She moved from St. Louis and Kopplin stayed with her for the summer.
“He always liked having people around,” Callahan said. “He would make a joke just to make you laugh.”
All his roommates agreed that he was like a brother to them and so many other people on campus.
They met Kopplin at ROTC during their freshman year.
“He would have made a great officer,” Coyle said.
Sadly, Kopplin was not able to continue in ROTC because of a skin condition called Psoriasis.
“Kopplin took friendship very seriously and if he was your friend he would do anything for you.” Coyle said.
Friends were always able to trust him.
“I didn’t know him for that long but I felt like I could trust him. There was nothing bad about him,” Little said.
Another aspect of Kopplin that impressed his friends was his lack of using profanity. He made people around him not want to use it either.
Kopplin was also very competitive.
“He got one point higher on his MIOP (a research paper),” Callahan said.
“We would always play basketball and start with the best of five and then Nick said best of seven, 10 and 15.” Little said.
“He’s [Kopplin] the type of person that would hold the door for someone and if they did not say, ‘Thank you,’ he would say ‘You’re welcome.'” Marino said. “He was a good listener, a good friend.”
As the roommates were compiling pictures for a slide show for the candlelight vigil scheduled for last Wednesday, the pictures all showed Kopplin smiling.
In fact, at the funeral they had an open casket and there was a picture of him smiling.
“I couldn’t look at him,” Callahan said. “I just looked at the picture of him smiling.”
Just Livin’ Life
Whenever friends asked Kopplin how he was doing, he always replied saying, “I’m just livin’ life.”
Kopplin also often told friends, “Life moves fast, you have to keep on going.”
He also appreciated his new life in Florida. The roommates recalled one time at the beach when he said, “We have a great life.”
Kopplin always appreciated what he had and that in turn made his roommates appreciate life even more.
Kopplin enjoyed golf, fishing, poker and basketball. He even taught his girlfriend how to play golf.
“We look back: not one sad memory. We don’t have any regrets,” Callahan said.
“I love this bike.”
A few hours before he crashed Kopplin posted the bike on Craig’s List to sell.
“I love this bike,” he said in the advertisement.
Media reports said that he was uncomfortable riding the bike after one of his friends crashed after a bee flew into his helmet.
However, Kopplin’s roommates say that he loved riding the bike.
“He went out doing something he loved.” Callahan said.
“His happiest times were on the bike.” Little added. “We would ride for hours on Sunday and he even wanted to ride in the middle of the night.
Local media reported that he was not wearing a helmet. However, Millstone, Nick’s Guardian, said Nick was wearing a helmet at the time of the crash.
Marino felt Kopplin’s presence throughout the funeral ceremonies.
“It helped me through,” She said.
Kopplin’s roommates are also experiencing Kopplin’s presence since he passed away.
“There have been some changes going around, with me, It’s almost like he is trying to tell me that he is doing ok,” Callahan said.