Fraternity holds candlelight vigil for deceased brother

Community and fraternity members line up around Beta Theta Pi to remember WSU student Dashiell Mortell.

DAN DOUCET, Evergreen assistant news editor

Long rows of WSU students and community members slowly filed onto the basketball court behind the Beta Theta Pi fraternity house at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, before dispersing and lighting candles.

They came to honor Dashiell Mortell, a WSU who died Saturday in a car crash on Interstate 90 while returning to Pullman.

The students gathered silently in a large circle around a makeshift snow platform. Only the occasional sniffle or shuffling of boots on the ice could be heard throughout the crowd.

Three brothers from the Beta Theta Pi fraternity broke the silence by stepping forward onto the platform in the middle of the group. One of them thanked the students for coming to remember Mortell and asked those present to bow their heads in a moment of silence.

The silence lasted for a couple of minutes before one of the three brothers on the platform began to read scripture, followed by a short prayer. One of the brothers spoke briefly about Mortell.

“I never admired anybody more than I admired Dashiell,” said AJ Crump, a Beta Theta Pi member.

The fraternity brothers on the platform then invited others from the crowd to step forward and speak about Mortell. A woman stepped up and paused for a moment before breaking into tears as she spoke to the group about her memories with Mortell. Another woman read a letter she had written to him.

JP Leahy, Mortell’s Greek family twin, said Mortell was genuine, kind-hearted and accepted people for who they are.

“I’m going to miss him very much,” he said.

Mortell’s fraternity big brother and roommate, Matt Yusen, said Mortell taught him how to be a man of principle.

“He was an amazing man,” Yusen said.

When the speakers finished, Beta Theta Pi members stepped forward and formed an inner circle surrounded by the rest of the group. Each brother held lit candles in outstretched arms as they sang their fraternity songs.

After another long silence, the somber procession moved slowly past the door of the fraternity house, where those in attendance set the lit candles before leaving.

Aila Ikuse, a high school friend of Mortell who attended the vigil, said it was beautiful and huge. Ikuse said she remembers walking with Mortell one day when he stopped her to tell her she was a ray of sunshine.

“But really, he was a ray of sunshine in everyone’s life,” Ikuse said. “He would want us to live the way he did – happy.”