Early into her freshman year, now sophomore Katy Mulflur would receive what she called “grumpy” texts and calls from Jason Titunik, her downstairs neighbor in Historic neighborhood’s Hook, Brannock and Barney residential hall.
Mulflur said Titunik made it clear he was less than happy with the noise she would make getting out of bed in the mornings — having allegedly been woken up numerous times by loud stomping overhead. One Monday night, after days of texts and calls from Titunik, Mulflur said she and her roommate heard loud bangs and felt violent shaking coming from below them as they settled into bed.
“I actually called Jason because me and my roommate were scared. I called him to make sure they were all OK, and all I hear when he picks up the phone is him hysterically laughing on the other end,” Mulflur said. “And then one of the guys sent me a video of what he was doing and it was just the funniest thing.”
Titunik had stood on top of his bed and pressed a massage gun to his ceiling.
“From that moment on, I knew that we would have a really fun, mischievous, light-hearted friendship,” Mulflur said. “Over the year, we just got really close. We'd spend so many days and nights just talking for hours. … He was the type of person that could talk to anyone, anytime, about anything for as long as the other person wanted to talk. He made you feel heard and seen, and I've never met someone like that before.”
Titunik was killed in a car crash July 6 as a passenger in a vehicle that collided with a utility pole. He is survived by his father, Ira Titunik and preceded in death by his mother, M. Sharon Lewellen, who died in 2007.
The Elon community will be hosting a Gathering of Friends at 3:45 p.m. on Oct. 19 in the grassy area just north of Hook, Brannock and Barney residence halls. According to an email sent by Vice President for student life Jon Dooley, the event will include an opportunity to share memories of Jason — along with the planting of a memorial tree.
Dooley also wrote that university community members who cannot attend, but wish to share messages of condolence or support with Jason’s family, can drop them off any time this week before the event at the Truitt Center front desk in the Numen Lumen Pavilion or send them to the Truitt Center at 2960 Campus Box.
Sophomore Henry Martin, Jason’s freshman-year roommate, was with Jason at a mutual friend’s house in Salisbury, Connecticut, the night that Jason died.
According to Connecticut State Police, Jason was in the passenger seat of the vehicle being driven by 19-year-old Robert Steinmetz when the crash occurred around 6:21 p.m. Martin said Steinmetz was Jason’s long-time friend and the two left to get dinner, having crashed about five minutes away from the house.
“When I drove home later, I had to take a different route and take like a 20-minute detour,” Martin said. “I didn't know why until Ira called me later that night.”
His funeral service was held July 11 in Lodi, New Jersey, where Mulflur — along with about 30 other Elon students — attended and spoke about how much they valued and admired Jason. Mulflur told the story of the massage gun at the funeral.
“Even when I spoke at the service, words can't even begin to describe how much I loved him. We all loved him and how loved he made us feel,” Mulflur said. “It's impossible. Words really don't do it justice. And if you knew Jason, you understand it. You understand how he had this magic about him.”
Living in Hook connected Jason with many of his closest friends at Elon. Sophomores Kyra Briggs, Eden Redmond, Henry Saunders, Morgan Kennedy, Owen Desmond, Tye Trachtenberg, Mulflur and Martin were some of Jason’s closest friends who also attended his funeral.
“When traumatic things happen like this, so suddenly, it's pretty much incomparable. That feeling just never ever really goes away,” Mulflur said. “All we can do now is honor his memory and do everything we can to take what we learned from being friends with Jason and keep applying everything that he taught us.”
In the time between his death, his funeral and arriving back to campus, Jason’s friends said they continue to honor Jason through the memories they share with him and the warmth and excitement he began each day with.
Briggs said she was surprised by the number of Elon University students who attended his funeral.
“It made me understand how loved he was, seeing so many people from Elon. There were boys that jumped on flights the night before and then jumped on flights the night after just to be there,” Briggs said. “It made me really happy to see how many people he had impacted throughout his life.”
Desmond also said Elon’s presence at Jason’s funeral was surprising, welcoming and heart-warming.
“I was really impressed with the turnout of amount of people that he touched,” Desmond said. “That just spoke volumes to how good of a kid he was, to see how many people traveled and did make that journey to New Jersey.”
For Trachtenberg, the amount of people from Elon who didn’t prepare anything to say at the service, but felt moved to speak about Jason anyway was particularly touching.
“A lot of Jason's friends from other schools came, but the Elon turnout was crazy,” Trachtenberg said. “They really spoke from the heart and that was awesome to see.”
Kennedy, who lived on the first floor of Hook, booked a flight that weekend from Colorado to Philadelphia before driving to New Jersey for the funeral on Tuesday.
“It was a really nice service,” Kennedy said. “Everyone that spoke, I feel represented who he was as a person. It was really nice to have some of my close friends up there speaking about him, because I knew how much they loved him.”
Kennedy said Jason was one of her best friends.
“He just gave off really fun and cool vibes. And I was like, ‘This is someone that I really want to be friends with,’” Kennedy said. “I will never find anyone like him again, and that's just what made me so honored to be able to be friends with him and have met him.”
Mulflur and Redmond, along with many of Jason’s friends who lived in Hook, traveled from their homes in Massachusetts to New Jersey for the service.
“A lot of young people showed up, and I remember that was the first thing that truly made me break down and start crying,” Redmond said. “It was not only, ‘This is how many people he's affected and this is how many people he had an impact on,’ but also, we’re all so young.
Months after Jason passed, Redmond said she feels unbalanced without having him to rely and lean on.
“I definitely do feel like when Jason passed, a part of me died as well. He was a really good kid and he was always there for people,” Redmond said. “Going from having him help me through hard things to losing him and having to deal with that on my own, and not having that person in my life who I trusted and confided in, has been really hard when dealing with all this.”
Redmond said seeing so many young people at the funeral was especially heart breaking.
“It's so hard to go through loss in general, but when it's an older family member or something, your brain can reason with it more because it's like, ‘Oh, they're old, I've spent time with them. That’s life,’” Redmond said. “But when it's a young person, it's so traumatic and sudden and harsh, and just seeing that raw emotion from people at the service was especially difficult.”
Despite the circumstances, Saunders — who lived across the hall from Jason — said he felt Jason would have liked the way everyone came together to support each other before the funeral.
“With our schedules being so busy and hectic this summer. … Our suitemates got together the night before and hung out and reconnected in a way that I think he would have really loved,” Saunders said. “He was just the guy that would bring everyone together.”
Jason’s friends described him as deeply empathetic, caring, loving and ambitious.
On the first day of school, Jason ventured across the hall to Saunders’ room and commented on his Frank Ocean shirt — sparking an instant music connection between the two.
On the third day of the 2022-23 school year, it had been raining outside. Despite being soaking wet, Redmond wanted to meet more people in her building and walked into Jason’s room to introduce herself.
“He thought it was hilarious that I was drenched,” Redmond said. “It just started this playful friendship where I knew that he cared about me and wanted me to succeed, but he was also able to take things as a joke and see it for what it is.”
Yet, Redmond said Jason’s cool and confident energy intimidated her at first, which eventually became intriguing.
“He had the cool clothes, and his room had all these posters and lights, and I just remember thinking that he was such an interesting person on the outside,” Redmond said. “I really wanted to get to know him on the inside and understand what he had been through, and who he was as a person and how he got to be that confident and secure in himself where he was able to kind of be who he wants it to be.”
Despite being intimidated, Redmond said Jason’s empathy was apparent from the very beginning.
“He almost radiated this kind and empathetic energy,” Redmond said. “To radiate it, and have it come off to other people who you haven't been as close with, I think that's something very special about him.”
Kennedy described Jason as roughly 5 feet, 7 inches tall. He had curly brown hair, brown eyes, small facial features and a distinctly vintage style — which often included a pair of white Nikes and thrifted cargo pants and T-shirts. His love for music was well-known, and Kennedy commented that he was always wearing his string headphones.
Kennedy also said she only got to know Jason later into their freshman year during November. While they were initially introduced at the beginning of the year, they started talking one night when Jason walked out of his room at 3 a.m. to find Kennedy sitting in the hallway — waiting for one of her friends.
Taking his string headphones out of his ears, Kennedy said they never stopped talking once they started.
“We talked every single day,” Kennedy said. “He was just a really different person. I never even expected to meet someone like that, and I never have met anyone like him.”
Redmond noted that while he enjoyed a lot of old music, Jason’s music taste ranged widely from artists such as Lana Del Rey to $uicideboy$, Deftones and A$AP Rocky.
“He really had cultivated his own style that I was so in awe of,” Redmond said. “It was a very, almost intimate part, that I know he shared with a lot of people. It was almost his way of showing like, ‘Hey, I care about you. I'm thinking about you. I think you would like this song that I found.’”
Saunders described Jason as incredibly down-to-earth, “one of the funniest guys you'll ever meet” and very full of energy.
According to Saunders, Jason was also a big fan of rappers the Notorious B.I.G. and Kendrick Lamar and thinks his favorite song was “Dreadlock Holiday” by Eric Stewart and Graham Gouldman. Saunders said one of his current favorite songs, “Santeria” by Sublime, was recommended to him by Jason.
For Briggs, Jason insisted that she would like “Cool for Cats” by Squeeze. Though Briggs said she was skeptical because the song was released in the 1970s, it quickly became one of her favorite songs.
“I hated it,” Briggs said. “But in the last couple of weeks, it's actually kind of one of my favorite songs. But obviously in the moment I was like, ‘Jason this sucks.’”
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 quickly bonded over a love for music and clothes
Desmond said he was initially drawn to Jason’s charismatic and caring personality — pointing to all the times that Jason helped him with his homework.
“The thing that sticks out most about Jason is his personable qualities — how much he cares and loves for other people. He would continually put himself before others,” Desmond said. “As soon as I met him, he's always just looking out for me. … I didn't submit a single essay all freshman year without Jason proofreading it.”
Upon meeting Jason, Mulflur said her and her friends agreed that he was the most welcoming out of anyone that they had met upon arriving at school.
“When you first meet him, he has this way of introducing himself, giving a hug or shaking your hand, and he looks at you and he just sees right through you,” Mulflur said. “He looks at you and you feel like you've known him your entire life. … You feel incredibly grateful to have a friend like that.”
After being introduced to Jason by one of his hometown friends who knew they were both going to Elon, Henry Martin met Jason over the summer before their freshman year.
Together, they played basketball, got food and got to know each other. Shortly afterward, the two decided to become roommates and Martin said they clicked immediately.
“I don't think I could have asked for a better roommate to have my freshman year,” Martin said. “We really just fit together perfectly.”
Martin said in addition to his unique fashion style and music taste, Jason was genuine, compassionate and determined in all facets of his life.
“He genuinely wanted to try to help everyone in his life,” Martin said. “He was the kind of person where he walks into the room and his smile just lights it up.”
In memory, empathy and humor
According to Mulflur, Jason loved the simple things in life and always wanted to be doing something. Yet, he was never too busy for his friends.
“He was always taking everybody camping or he always wanted to go somewhere. He never wanted to sit around for too long. He couldn't,” Mulflur said. “But when someone needed him to sit still and listen, there was zero hesitation, and he would do that. It was never a problem.”
Mulflur said Jason’s ability to empathize with and listen to his friends was one of his most prominent traits.
“I think about all the nights that we would sit outside of Hook and just talk — just the two of us — forever,” Mulflur said. “Even in the winter, it would be getting so cold and he'd be like, ‘We need to go inside, it’s freezing.’ And I would say ‘Please, one more story. Let me tell one more story.’ He would sit and listen, even though it was 20 degrees and windy.”
Kennedy’s favorite memory, and longest running joke, with Jason stemmed from when she dragged him to a party he didn’t want to go to. Because Jason was unaffiliated with any fraternity, Kennedy would call him her younger brother in order to get him into parties. From then on, she would always refer to him as her younger brother.
“He was the type of person that wouldn't judge you for anything. If you needed advice, he was always there to give it to you. And he was just such a one-of-a-kind person,” Kennedy said. “The type of person, personally, I feel like I'm never going to meet again. He was hilarious. He's kind — always putting other people before himself.”
For Redmond, one of her favorite memories of Jason is the last night their friend group spent at Elon together before heading home for the summer after freshman year. While everyone had been standing outside on the balcony of Hook, Jason had asked Redmond to stay outside and reminisce over the year once everyone else had gone inside.
“We talked about how much we were gonna see each other the next year, and how he was always gonna care about me and be there for me,” Redmond said. “Basically ‘This isn't a goodbye,’ was the main point of our conversation. After he had passed, that was something that helped me looking back on because, in a way, it isn't a goodbye and I know that he's still here with me and looking over me.”
When Briggs thinks of Jason’s thoughtful and goofy personality, she said she thinks of when he got his driver’s license, along with a new car, his freshman year. Knowing that Briggs loves cars, she was one of Jason’s first calls to pick up and go for a test ride. But he wasn’t yet comfortable on the road.
“We were driving for about five minutes, and then he got really freaked out because he only had his license for like two weeks,” Briggs said. “He forced me to drive his brand new BMW.”
Another running joke that Briggs looks back fondly on was Jason’s persistence on making sure her phone was charged.
“I had him on Life360, and every single time that my phone had like 10%, he could see that it was gonna die,” Briggs said. “No matter what I was doing, he would call me and tell me to charge my phone. … I could be in the shower, I could be studying, I could be asleep and I would get a call from him without fail saying ‘Your phone is gonna die.’”
Briggs said she hopes everyone will remember Jason for his love of life and intense positivity.
“I really want people to live like him and understand that that's an amazing way to live,” Briggs said. “You make a lot of memories that way.”
Reflecting and honoring
In preparation for Jason’s memorial at Elon, his friends continue to advocate for and practice Jason’s positivity and determination to live to the fullest.
Kennedy said her wish for everyone who knew Jason moving forward is to try to live how he would live.
“I just want them to remember how kind he was, how he always put everyone first and he made sure that everyone was always okay. … He just had so much love for everyone,” Kennedy said. “It felt so genuine. You could really tell that he cared about you — and he made sure of it. He made sure that you knew. … It's just what made him who he was.”
Mulflur, Kennedy and Redmond also said Jason’s outlook on life is something to be admired and strived for. Redmond sometimes referred to Jason as “Jase.”
“I think Jase would want people to remember that no matter how hard your life gets, or how upset you are or how sucky everything feels at some point in time, it's always going to get better,” Redmond said. “Life is a mirror, you're gonna get out of it what you put into it. Jason was just a perfect example of that. I think for a lot of people, not just me, he was that light in the darkness. And I think he was in his own life as well.”
For Saunders, Jason’s high energy and good spirit will forever live in his memory.
“He was always walking around with a smile, just jumping into everyone's room saying hi,” Saunders said. “He would always just be there to talk, hang out, have a good time.”
Redmond also said, after spending almost every day with him throughout the school year, that his excitement for life is not to be forgotten. According to Redmond, Jason would want people to connect with those around them.
“Just don't take life for granted. Be vulnerable with people, tell them how you feel, spend time with your family, spend time with your friends,” Redmond said. “Just remember that the only thing that's promised in life is the moment that you're in now.”
Briggs said the characteristic that remains in her mind the most is how reliable and caring Jason was to everyone he cared about.
“He knew how to comfort everybody in our own ways. Somehow he was able to help all of us,” Briggs said. “I don't know how he had time for himself, but he always put others before himself and made sure that we were okay before he worried about himself.”
Trachtenberg agreed with the others and said he felt the Elon community has so much to learn from Jason.
“I want kids to see that if you're outgoing and positive and you put yourself out there, you touch way more people than you think you do — without even thinking about it,” Trachtenberg said. “Jason touched so many kids’ lives, and he didn't even know how many kids respected him and thought he was such a great kid just because he was so outgoing and just put himself out there.”
Desmond also said he hopes the community remembers Jason for how honest he was to both himself and everyone around him. Desmond said he thinks the memorial Oct. 19 will help honor Jason’s memory.
“There's just a hole that feels missing, being at Elon without him,” Desmond said. “I’d just like them to remember who he was and how true to himself he was, because he didn’t really change for anyone. It wasn’t like he was trying to fit in with the crowd, he was always his own guy and he was proud of what he did.”
While Martin and Jason were close, losing Jason was not his first loss at Elon. At the beginning of the 2022-23 school year, Martin played club baseball alongside Jackson Yelle — an Elon junior who was killed in a hit-and-run April 30.
Though Martin said he didn’t know Yelle very well, his kindness and welcoming energy reminded him of Jason.
“Yelle was always really nice to my friends and I,” Martin said. “I can remember going to his house a few times. I barely knew him and he just always greeted you with a warm smile.”
Since losing both Yelle and Jason, Martin said he hopes the Elon community will carry on what made both people so great.
“I just hope they take some of the best qualities that both Jason and Jackson have, which is pretty much just caring about others,” Martin said. “Carry on their legacy. They did all these nice things, I think just spread more positivity. Elon would be a better place with more people like them.”
Despite the massage gun-like shenanigans that often made Jason the life of any room he walked in, Mulflur said what really made Jason so magical was his drive to get as much as he could out of life.
“A couple of months before summer — right before we moved out — we were sitting one night talking, and he told me:
‘I don't want to just be content. I want to be so full of life that I'm just overjoyed with happiness.’ He was like, ‘I want more. I just want to feel everything all the time and I'm so excited to achieve so much happiness. That's all I want. I don't want to just settle with being content,’” Mulflur said.
“That really stuck with me. As much as grief and sadness and heartbreak and confusion that we're all feeling right now, he wouldn’t want us to feel this way. “It's important to make the most out of all of our lifetimes.”