Zygmont remembered for his humor, love of the outdoors
Published: Thursday, October 17, 2013
Updated: Thursday, October 17, 2013 13:10
On a cool, clear New Hampshire evening, students gathered around the flag pole in front of Thompson Hall, holding tea lights and listening to shared memories about Jonathan Zygmont.
The intimate but meaningful candlelight vigil was held Wednesday at 7 p.m., with both friends of Zygmont and students who had never met him in attendance.
“He was somebody worth knowing,” Allie Ianaconi, a senior, said. Ianaconi lives in Hall House, one of the mini-dorms, the same residence hall where Zygmont lived, and said that she had been seeing him this semester. “I met Jon almost right away. We kind of had the same group of friends right off the bat, and then him and I started spending more time together by ourselves and I really got to know him…”
Zygmont was last seen Tuesday, Sept. 17 around 8:30 p.m. in Portsmouth near Prescott Park. His body was recovered from the Piscataqua River Sunday, Sept. 29 and then officially identified by the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner Monday, Sept. 30.
Ianaconi said that she last saw him that Tuesday morning and was unaware of anything unusual until she was contacted after midnight.
In the initial press release asking for the public’s help in locating Zygmont, police described Zygmont as “despondent,” which Ianaconi countered.
“Up until that day, Jon was just Jon. I mean, when I saw him even that morning, he was just Jon,” she said.
Ianaconi spoke for the majority of the vigil, after being introduced by Jenn Allen, a student from the family studies class that organized the event. The class of family studies students – FS 623: Developmental Perspectives on Infancy and Early Childhood – taught by professor Molly Connelly initiated the plans for the vigil.
“We just thought that he should get the remembrance that he deserves, that everyone deserves…” Allen said, thanking everyone for attending.
Though most students did not know Zygmont, Ianaconi sought to share reflections that showed who he was, describing him as kind and respectful.
“One day Jon and I were sitting outside… and we were kind of going back and forth with the idea of symmetry, and on a universal level and how everything in this world has a balance. How there’d be no good without evil, no pain without joy, and to make it relative, no life without death,” she said. “And through all of this, I think the most important thing to remember for everyone that did or didn’t know him – though he is gone, and he left in an abrupt and tragic manner – his time gone is balanced by his time here, and his time here makes up who he is and was and who we remember him for, and I think that’s vastly more important than knowing that he’s no longer with us.”
Zygmont was a wildlife and conservation biology major, which aligned with his interests, according to stories from Ianaconi.
“Jon would take any opportunity to be outside. Every single day he would go for a walk. Him and I went camping at Fort Foster once. We biked seven miles into Maine and had nothing but backpacks, granola and a hammock. And he thought that was like the best thing ever,” she said. “He loved the White Mountains. He’d go hiking with his dad and his dog Arlo all the time. Just any chance he could get to be outside, he was. It was where he felt at home.
“I think the general vibe of UNH appealed to him… they had the program I think he was really interested in. He loved dendrology. He like, lived by his edible plants book. We would walk around campus and he would point at every type of tree and tell me what it was and what species it was, and was so excited to know its Latin name and everything else about it. He was that kid,” Ianaconi said.
Aside from his love of the outdoors, his friends remembered him for his sense of humor, laughing as they told anecdotes about Zygmont.
“In the short time that I knew Jon, it honestly felt like a lifetime. … His laugh was hysterical. It was like contagious too, like he’d start laughing, you’d laugh at his laugh, he’d laugh because you’re laughing… Then his eyes would squint out. He is the [James] Franco laugh. He had the Franco laugh,” Deven Nunn, a friend and student who lived in Hall House, said. “He was very funny. Very funny. I could always count on him cheering up my day. He was a good doobie, that’s what he was. Yeah, that’s my Jon.”
The first time that Ianaconi said she met Zygmont, he was locked out of their residence hall in the rain with no shoes and no ID, and in his rush to get inside, slipped in the mud, which she said she would make fun of him for.