ORONO, Maine — The Lambda Chi Alpha Fraternity is in pain and grieving after losing three brothers — including the group’s president — in a plane crash Friday night in Owls Head, but that didn’t stop the brotherhood from collecting food on Saturday to help feed the needy.
“They did not turn away from their duties,” Robert Dana, UMaine’s vice president for student affairs, said Sunday.
Lambda president David Cheney, 22, of Beverly, Mass; education officer Marcelo Rugini, 24, of Muliterno, Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil; and William “BJ” Hannigan, 24, of South Portland, an engineering graduate student and Maine Air National Guard member, died when the small plane Hannigan was piloting crashed shortly after takeoff from the Knox County Regional Airport.
Neighboring fraternity brothers from Phi Gamma Delta and Delta Tau Delta reacted with sadness to the news fellow Greeks had died.
“The school is small enough everybody knows everybody,” said FIJI member Sumner Blatt of Brunswick. “It just makes you remember how great it is to have everyone here.”
Phi Gamma Delta members lit three candles and placed them on the front steps of their house to pay tribute to the lost Lambda members.
“We’re all pretty shocked and pretty upset about it,” said Delts member Bryan Legualt of Rhode Island.
The fraternity brothers said they are realizing they are part of a proud group of Greek families, nestled together in the heart of a college community.
“It makes you look outside your own fraternity,” said Delts member Nick Delprete, who learned of the death by text message at a Saturday morning fundraiser.
Folks who worked at the Memorial Union said the entire campus is mourning for the loss.
“We’ve all been talking about it,” Ellen Huntington of Milford said. “What people are talking about is what the parents are going through. I think they’re thinking, ‘What if it had been me?’”
Stephanie Woodin of Old Town, who worked with Rugini, said everyone she had spoken to knew the three or had seen them on campus.
“Devastated is pretty much how everybody is feeling right now,” she said, breaking into tears. “My heart is broken for all the kids.”
Cheney, who has been president of the fraternity since last December, invited Dana to the house last week to discuss how to improve the relationship with the school and the community. Even though Hannington was not at the meeting, all three were great representatives for the Lambdas, Dana said.
“They were all connected to the fraternity’s ideals,” he said. “They were very connected to what it meant to the fraternity and why service to others was an abiding interest.”
Fighting hunger is one societal problem that the local Lambda fraternity chapter did not shy away from, Dana said.
“As a group they’re very involved in hunger problems,” he said. “They spend a lot of time in food gathering and food dispensing activities. It’s really been remarkable to see.
“Even yesterday, they were in the midst of a food drive and continued that,” he said.
A memorial service for Cheney, Rugini and Hannigan is planned for sometime after the Thanksgiving break.