ELLENVILLE – Sometimes it takes a young person's passing to pull a community together, to remind everyone about the tenderness and dearness of life. Of a home town.
"He was the king of second chances," said the late Nicholas Matthew Kentop's sister, Samantha. "He was truly a unique and caring person."
And everyone who knew him, this whole town that's been grieving over a month now, all agreed: Nicholas Kentop was one of a kind, and he put out a warmth and sense of compassion for people that everyone took note of.
Kentop passed away unexpectedly on June 24 at the age of 31. He left behind a stunned family, a partner expecting their third child, a twin brother, loving sister and grieving parents. An entire community, used to this young man's energy and his famous smile — holder of the Ellenville High School's "Best Smile" title — felt the loss. And still feels it.
Nicholas excelled academically and in athletics, beginning with Ed Jacobs' youth soccer league and later as a participant in Ellenville's Run Like the Wind race. He became a strong distance runner and a javelin thrower. He graduated from Ellenville High School in 2004 and got a job at ShopRite. There he met Jody Oetzel, the love of his life and his partner for the next 13 years. With her support, Kentop graduated with honors from SUNY Sullivan and was inducted into the Phi Theta Kappa National Honor Society; he received the Chancellor's Award for Excellence with the highest GPA in the business division.
"Nick was a really nice guy, the kind of guy it was fun to hang out with," said Warren Johnson, a friend and co-worker at ShopRite. "He was also a superstar on our softball team. Played the outfield, was a good hitter. But the main thing about Nick was that he was a family man. He loved his family so much. Nothing came between him and his family."
Kentop combined family life with his two daughters, Elainna Marie and Temperance Rose, with his passion for testing athletics, which led him to the Tough Mudder obstacle racing that he loved. He trained very hard for these and won the NY Merrill Down and Dirty Championship three times.
After a while he took a job at US Alliance Credit Union, though he also continued working at ShopRite in a reduced capacity. He was a "natural with numbers" according to his sister, Samantha, and took pleasure in innovating creative solutions in all facets of his life. And at US Alliance, his talents came together in a career that he was truly proud of.
Those who knew him well recall his art— he loved to paint and sculpt — and his guacamole, which was famous throughout his circle of friends, or anyone who had the opportunity to try it. He was also known for his insistence that everyone "hydrate," the kind of thinking that develops in endurance runners.
The love, the laughter, the life with his children and family has been snatched away, said his friends, his family, his community, these past weeks.
A Celebration of Life Memorial will be held in his honor on Sunday, August 6 at the picnic ground behind Unity Hall, on Berme Road in Napanoch, from 1 to 5 p.m. More information is available from his sister, Samantha, at 532-3799.
Blessed be all that is community, here and forever remembered.