Friends of Jason Titunik say they will remember the 19-year-old Elon student for his sincerity, charismatic personality, humor and passion for always wanting to make others happy.
Titunik, a rising sophomore from Sarasota, Florida, was killed in a car crash July 6 as a passenger in a vehicle that collided with a utility pole in Salisbury, Connecticut.
Titunik is survived by his father, Ira Titunik. He is preceded in death by his mother, M. Sharon Lewellen, who died in 2007. Ira described Jason as caring about people, wanting to make things better for everyone and valuing discussions, intellect and accuracy. He also noted Jason’s close relationship with his German Shepherd, Max, ever since she was a 3-month-old puppy.
Jason was a history and political science major who worked hard to make Dean’s list, and presented himself as a very “feet on the ground” kind of person, Ira said.
“He's just a great kid. He's a great people-person. He likes to make people smile. He likes to resolve issues. He likes when people are happy,” Ira said. “He has a way of getting people to open up.”
Elon rising sophomores Tye Trachtenberg and Daniel Pupo first went to visit Jason in Historic Neighborhood on Aug. 19, 2022 — move-in day of their freshman year. Titunik lived in Hook — of Hook, Brannock and Barney halls.
“Me and Tye took a walk to Hook to visit my friend, and we had known that he was also living in Hook, but we didn't know that they were living together,” Pupo said. “And literally as we're walking in, Jason and my friend both walk out the door, and we're like, ‘Holy crap, wait, you guys live together?’ And they go like ‘Yeah yeah we're suitemates.’ And from there, we introduced each other, and started talking and we really clicked.”
According to Trachtenberg, he first met Jason over dinner the night before move-in day, after having talked on social media over the summer. After they had dinner, Trachtenberg said he and Jason spent the rest of the night talking and hanging out.
“He was just a great kid, so I'm lucky that I got to know him for the school year,” Trachtenberg said.
Trachtenberg and Pupo described Titunik as extremely sincere, funny and down to earth.
“Right off the bat we had become friends, and I would always be at Hook hanging out,” Pupo said. “Jason was a very unique person, and a good person. He was a person you always want to be around, because he just wanted to show people the good in life and show people to be grateful for everything you have because you never know when it's going to be taken away.”
Pupo also expressed deep gratitude for Jason’s sincerity and kindness.
“From right off the get-go he was sincere,” Pupo said. “The way he talked, the way he presented himself, was sincere. … Jason was genuinely a good friend and a true friend. He taught me what true friendship is.”
Though Pupo said he fondly remembers having deep talks with Jason, he said his favorite memory of Jason is any time he went to visit him in his dorm room — where Jason was always catching up on school work for his classes. Despite this, Pupo said Jason never failed to make the time to eat, go to the gym or spend time with friends.
“He always made me laugh with that because even though he was behind on stuff, he never wanted to miss out on anything,” Pupo said. “Always just wanting to be around his friends and making us happy. Making us laugh.”
According to Pupo, he and Jason had been through a lot together over the last year — both the good and the bad.
“He was very real. He told you the way it was all the time, whether you liked it or not,” Pupo said. “At the end of the day, he always wanted you to be happy with every decision that you made, but also understand what each decision brings. He always listed out the positives and the negatives. He honestly made every decision I made a lot easier for me because he would always map it out.”
Jason loved discovering and listening to new music and artists, as well as spending time outdoors going on hikes and walks. Pupo said ASAP Rocky was one of Jason’s favorite artists. In addition to humor, music and nature, Trachtenberg said Jason was also really interested in fashion.
Pupo said he hopes the people who knew Jason never forget his realism toward life and charismatic personality, along with the way he loved to joke all the time, wanted people to laugh and be happy and tried to find the good in everything.
Ira also said he wants to make sure people remember Jason for his genuine, compassionate and intelligent nature.
“He cared about people, and he was sincere. He expected people to be straight with him if he was going to be straight with them,” Ira said. “He liked to make people feel good about themselves. He liked to resolve issues. … That’s why so many of these kids really like him. He was really so non-judgmental. He took people as they were, as long as they were straight and sincere. He didn't buy into fluff easily.”
A funeral service will be held for Jason on July 11 in Northern New Jersey. Ira said he was surprised that so many of Jason’s friends wanted to attend and speak at his service.
“I got 30 plus, maybe 40, people who want to speak. I wasn't expecting that. I wasn't expecting the phone calls of people crying and how he used to go help people,” Ira said. “He would help people who had issues, or they were in trouble or they just wanted to talk. He was just a special kind of person.”
Because not everyone from the Elon community can make it to the funeral, Pupo said he and the rest of Titunik’s friends will wait for the 2023-24 school year to start in order to hold a memorial gathering on campus. Details will be determined closer to the start of the school year.
“I really didn't know that so many people loved him and he touched so many people's lives,” Ira said. “So that's why I'm smiling, I'm really happy that he touched so many people's lives in a positive way.”
For resources, students, faculty and staff can contact the Truitt Center for Religious and Spiritual Life at 336-278-7729, staff with Student Care and Outreach in the Office of the Dean of Students at 336-278-7200 or counselors from Counseling Services at 336-278-7280.
Students can access 24/7 resources from the crisis counselor on-call at 336-278-2222, TalkNow from TimelyCare or Student Life administrator on-call through Campus Safety and Police at 336-278-5555. Faculty and staff may also utilize Elon Work-Life Resources for support.
Abigail Hobbs contributed to the reporting of this story.