Story

Nathaniel Robert Nicholson Asselin

August 21, 1986 – April 15, 2011

Nathaniel possessed a brilliant mind and a great natural sweetness. He was keenly attuned to the feelings of others, and everyone was drawn to his company — friends, family, students. A witty remark, a playful idea for a game, or a stimulating conversation about the latest world events were among the rich possibilities for anyone fortunate enough to be in his company.

Nathaniel and his sister Carrie had a special bond that transcended the 570 miles that separated them while she was in college over the last four years of his life. They spoke frequently, and she stored up her funniest experiences and her most dif¬ficult challenges to share with him. He listened and advised well. Above all, they laughed together over the widest imaginable range of expressions, experiences, and shared memories. Their senses of humor were perfectly matched.

From his infancy, he showed an intense curiosity about the world, exploring it eagerly. There was never a dull moment in the Asselin household. We spent many happy days at the family cabin in the New Jersey pine barrens, at the shore, and on camping trips out west and in Canada. He attended Goshen Friends School for three years of pre-school, then started at Westtown School in kindergarten. For fourth and fifth grades he attended The Shipley School where his father Denis was teaching, then returned to Westtown in Middle School where his mother Judy is a teacher. An exceptional writer and a whiz on the computer, he concluded his formal education through independent study and home schooling for part of his sophomore year through senior year, along with his close friend Eli (Nate) Blood-Patterson. He attended a few courses at Delaware County Community College and received his diploma from Upattinas School in 2005. The anguish he experienced due to Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD), which began at age eleven, eventually made formal schooling impossible, but his learning and understanding continued to grow from his life experiences and his many deep conversations and frequent visits with three devoted Westtown friends, Dan Hackney, Carl Kjellman, and Justin Wright.

He always envisioned a life of service. During high school and in his early twenties, he spent many hours volunteering at Good Fellowship Ambulance Club, and spent the summer of 2010 taking an EMT class there. Neighbors could always rely on him for child care, pet sitting, or helping out with various home and yard projects. In 2008 and again in 2010-2011, he worked as Assistant Director of the Middle School afterschool program at Westtown School where he was an immense favorite with the students. They describe him as “funny and kind, an inspiration — a friend as well as a teacher.”

He made them laugh every day and knew how to give them his full attention, a rare gift in a busy world. An expert runner and motivator, he was revered as a coach in the Middle School Cross County program last fall, and led the team to a strong season. His repartee with his coaching colleague kept the mood light even when the workouts were intense. He would often talk about his students at the dinner table at home, and it was evident that he cared about them deeply and enjoyed their company.

Over the years his illness narrowed the circumference of his world, yet he carried his burden with fortitude. That he faced each day for so many years knowing the battles ahead is a testament to his courage and strength. He knew joy and suffering to the fullest in a life lived with deliberate thoughtfulness.

In the days and years to come, we will be nourished by the memory of Nathaniel’s humor, his wisdom, his noble spirit, and his abiding love for friends and family.

“All noble things are as difficult as they are rare.”  – Spinoza

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