Those who knew Nsikan Udoh said while he wasn't that tall, he was easy to find, as he always had a megawatt smile on his face.
"He was just genuinely happy all the time, and it was as though his mission in life was to find someone who wasn't genuinely happy and turn them around," said Lexa Fisher, an adviser at Parkville High School in Baltimore County. "He didn't just live; he was engaged in every aspect of life around him," Fisher said.
Udoh was a 2013 Parkville alumnus and would have graduated from the University of Maryland next May.
But on July 20, the senior public health science major had to go to the hospital after suffering from a pulmonary embolism. After eight days, he died, said his brother, Akan Udoh.
"We went there everyday all week. His room was always full, and loud with prayers," Akan Udoh wrote in a Facebook message. "There was constant hope till the end."
Friends, family and classmates took to social media after finding out about Nsikan Udoh's death, and an online memorial page honoring him received at least 30 written tributes as of Tuesday.
"When Nsikan Udoh passed, I avoided posting about it cause somehow that would make it more real. He was the type of person who would leave me feeling better than he found me," one post read.
"You stopped the rain for us so we could all come together to celebrate your life. You are truly loved and missed," read another.
Udoh was born on Nov. 7, 1994, and lived in Parkville. He liked comic books as a kid, his favorite color was blue, he was very religious and he was good at drawing, his brother said. He was an open book, his brother added. He'd talk about anything.
Njeri Warrington, Nsikan Udoh's girlfriend of about two years, described him as "bubbly, like a golden retriever. Really friendly, smiled all the time at everyone regardless of if he knew them or not."
He was supportive, too, she said, adding that "he would always stay up late talking to some of his friends on the phone if they had issues, or talking to me on the phone if I was having a problem. He was always willing to listen."
"He was always nice, always gentle, always friendly, happy," his brother said. "He was just … cool, chill. He was friends with everybody, anybody."
In high school, Udoh ran track and field and was involved in Relay for Life — a fundraiser for the American Cancer Society — and the Student Council Association, where he worked closely with Fisher. She called him her "go-to person" for anything that needed to get done.
"Nsikan saw that it wasn't all about fun; he saw that there was actual hard work involved, and you had to do the hard work in order to get the end result," Fisher said, adding that Udoh would stay at school late at night to help clean up after everyone else had left.
Morgan Lovett, a high school friend of Udoh's, said his hugs were "the best" and are one of the things she remembers most about him. It was impossible not to smile around him, she added.
Udoh had worked for this university's Office of Multi-Ethnic Student Education for three years as part of a university work-study program, Osborne Elliott, his supervisor at the office said, and he was looking for another job to help him pay for college, Warrington added.
He "volunteered for all of OMSE's events, [like] the pre-college programs that we host in terms of providing students with a tour on the campus," said Miriam Osborne Elliott, the office's assistant director of academic outreach and student development and Udoh's supervisor. "He's always been willing to work above and beyond the call of duty."
Udoh also helped train students and collect and input data for OMSE's College Success Scholars program. After he graduated from college, he wanted to go into health administrative services, Warrington said.
Akan Udoh created a GoFundMe fundraiser after his brother's death to raise money to pay for the funeral. Since the campaign began on Aug. 2, it has raised more than $5,250, nearing a third of the $18,000 goal.
"Times aren't the best financially, and it's been a struggle just to think about the burial process," Akan Udoh wrote on the campaign page. "My brother deserves the best treatment, as he treated everyone with unconditional love."
Senior staff writer Jessie Campisi contributed to this report.