By Erica Quinones
In the evening of March 5, the Washington College community gathered in Roy Kirby, Jr. Stadium at 6:30 p.m. to remember the life of junior Blakeslee Erdmann.
Erdmann, a business major and lacrosse player, died on Jan. 25, 2021. The WC community was informed of his passing that same day in an email from the President’s Office.
The celebration of Erdmann’s life was originally planned for Feb. 13 but was postponed due to the COVID-19 outbreak on campus. It was rescheduled to March 5, which is when students, staff, faculty, and family met to honor him.
Led by Director of Athletics Thad Moore, the memorial speakers described Erdmann as a teammate and a friend who was excited to experience all life had to offer, brightening the lives of those he met along the way.
In a letter from the Business Management faculty, Interim Provost and Dean of the College Dr. Michael Harvey memorialized Erdmann as a warm, gentle, kind, and caring character whose legacy is reflected in his peers.
Junior Ryan Leahy, Erdmann’s teammate and friend, remembered Erdmann as a “wild kid,” always pursuing the next adventure.
“Blake’s dad Mr. [Peter] Erdmann put it best, ‘When people’d ask me where I found this kid, I’d tell them, he came from Planet Blake,’” Leahy said.
Erdmann’s outgoing personality helped him connect with teammates, and his infectious aura brought a smile to those around him, according to Leahy.
“Blake had a way of getting lost in conversation with you. He had a way to make you smile. He had a way of turning things around for you. If you needed to laugh or needed to make you smile, you could count on Blake doing something silly or bringing up an absurd conversation to do just that,” Leahy said.
Casey Grieves ’19 reflected on Erdmann’s ability to bring out the best in those around him and the love he had for his peers, especially his fellow lacrosse players.
However, Grieves said that what stood out most was Erdmann’s sense of loyalty.
“He embodied what being a Shoreman is all about. Passionate, gritty, loyal, respectful, hard-working, the list goes on,” Grieves said.
Erdmann will not only remain in students’ memories but be memorialized near Kirby Stadium.
Assistant Director of Athletics and Head Lacrosse Coach Jeff Shirk announced the decision to install a memorial bench to Erdmann on the hill beside Kirby Stadium, reflecting on the 2019 War on the Shore for the bench’s inspiration.
During the 2019 War on the Shore, Erdmann was confined to the sideline due to an injury, according to Coach Shirk. While he could not play, Erdmann was watching the hill beside Kirby Stadium where other students sat, giddy with excitement as if he would have “given anything to go up on that hill.”
“Every time we have a big sporting event, whether it be War on the Shore or whatever it may be, Blake will be up there, exactly where he wanted to be, having a great time, like Ryan said, enjoying himself, making everyone happy,” Coach Shirk said.
The celebration was supposed to end with the releasing of 49 paper lanterns, a reflection of Erdmann’s jersey number. However, due to the windy evening, Coach Shirk, Leahy, and Grieves attempted to release one lantern instead.
When the lantern refused to take off, the group returned to the microphone, Coach Shirk saying that Erdmann was likely watching them, laughing at their attempt.
The celebration was officially closed with a lap around Kibler Field.
The final event drew its inspiration from the midnight mile, a tradition in which student athletes meet on the track each Feb. 1 at midnight to run a mile in six minutes.
Laughter returned when Coach Shirk noted that Erdmann “disliked that [tradition] very much.”
Mourners completed their lap around the field in silence, exiting through the gates and parting ways.
“My mom has been telling me something that I hold very dear to my heart, ‘He was a beautiful flash of light that came into your lives.’ Blake was certainly a flash of light, nobody could brighten the room like him,” Leahy said. “I don’t have a particular story to tell about Blake today, because his story isn’t over. Blake will be with all of us forever. He’s left us memories to last a lifetime. I’m sure Blake will watch over everyone on this field, probably up on the hill, a few beverages by his side.”
The livestream of the celebration is available on the Washington College Athletics Facebook page.
Featured Photo caption: Interim Dean and Provost of the College Dr. Michael Harvey addresses WC students, faculty, and loved ones of Erdmann. Fellow athletes and friends of Erdmann commemorated his memory with their own memorial at Kirby Stadium. Photo Courtesy of Washington College Athletics.