The mother of Demitri Allison remembered her son as a “kind and gentle, thoughtful person who was so humble,” speaking the day after he fell to his death from a 10-story building.
Allison, 21, was an Elon University junior who died Wednesday afternoon after falling at a residence hall at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. A native of Cornelius, North Carolina, Allison was a wide receiver on Elon’s football team.
Mark and Lisa Hartman took in Allison eight years ago when “he was going through a rough time,” and he became a part of their family, Lisa Hartman told Elon Local News and The Pendulum in a phone interview Thursday.
“We were really proud of Demitri,” Lisa Hartman said. “He worked so hard. We were so proud of him. Our family was blessed to have him in our life.”
Lisa Hartman said the first word that came to mind when describing Allison was “kind.” She spoke of how he befriended and fed a cat that he’d see on his way to football practice.
“I don’t know if it was a stray or somebody’s cat,” Lisa Hartman said. “The cat would just pay attention to Demitri, and so Demitri wanted to pay attention to the cat. That’s kind of the kid he was. He was so kind.”
More than 150 members of the Elon community attended an impromptu candlelit vigil outside Rhodes Stadium early Thursday morning.
Lisa Hartman expressed gratitude to several of Allison’s teammates — Tre Lennon, John Silas, Demetrius Oliver, Efrim Borders and Dondre Howell — who were with her Wednesday.
“They were like my wall,” Lisa Hartman said. “They protected me. They took care of me. They helped me more than any words could ever express. I will be deeply, deeply indebted to them for that.”
Allison played in 31 football games for Elon over the last three years, including all nine games this season. He didn’t record a reception in the last two games, contests against Stony Brook University and the College of William & Mary.
Lisa Hartman called Elon “the perfect place” for Allison.
There is a Gathering of Friends planned for 4:30 p.m. Thursday at Rhodes Stadium.
“I’m so grateful that I was part of his brief life,” Lisa Hartman said, “to let him become who he became, because he was a wonderful person.”
Lauren Cook and Meredith Stutz of Elon Local News contributed to this report.
Correction: This story originally referred to Demitri Allison's father as Dave Hartman. His name is Mark. The Pendulum regrets the error.