For three canicule afterward the tragedy, the accessible did not apperceive his name.
It was in the aboriginal morning of Saturday, Jan. 13, that Middlebury badge begin the anatomy of a man who had arctic to afterlife abrupt off a aisle on the Boondocks Green, covered with snow and sleet. The afterward Monday, bounded media began to address his identity: Suad Teocanin, a 45-year-old Middlebury citizen who had been active at the Charter House during a contempo aeon of homelessness. Afterward a night of drinking, Teocanin approved to accomplish his way aback to the Charter House afore allegedly collapsing, aloof yards from the shelter’s advanced door.
Reports of Teocanin’s afterlife broadcast about Middlebury that week, accompanied by photographs of his animated face, descriptions of his contempo homelessness and statements by badge that booze had been a “significant factor” in his death. What these about abrupt media accounts could not capture, however, was the accumulation of Teocanin’s acquaintance afore his death — a activity that began in the Bosnian burghal of Zvornik and led to ten years of application at Middlebury Academy and addition decade in the kitchens of several restaurants in town.
To the abounding bodies who knew him at the academy and in town, Teocanin was not abandoned a acquaintance and coworker, but additionally a acceptable neighbor, a adolescent immigrant and a ablaze atom amidst the stresses of academy activity whose ample smile was cited afterwards exception.
Teocanin came to America as a war refugee.
From 1992 to 1995, Bosnia was broken afar by indigenous conflict, as Serbian armament targeted the Muslim Bosniak population, afire cities and towns and massacring absolute communities. In Teocanin’s hometown of Zvornik, tens of bags of association were apprenticed from the area, and about 4,000 were killed.
Teocanin was not Bosniak, however, but Romani, the historically afoot indigenous accumulation accepted colloquially as gypsies. Romani people, afflicted in Bosnia as they are in abundant of the world, were targeted accurately in the killings that took abode in Zvornik. Those who knew Teocanin in Middlebury would anamnesis that he rarely batten about his activity in Bosnia, or about the ancestors he larboard behind. One aloft Proctor Dining Hall colleague, however, said Teocanin had announced of witnessing the deaths of his parents and siblings.
Over 1,700 Bosnian refugees were resettled in Vermont amid 1993 and 2004, and Teocanin was one of them. In Middlebury, a baby association started to anatomy by the mid-1990s, centered in the Pine Meadow Apartments a the Pulp Mill covered bridge. From their homes in the accommodation circuitous that became accepted as Little Bosnia, Teocanin and his adolescent refugees began to clean their lives in Vermont.
Jovanka Jandric was amid the Bosnians who acclimatized in Pine Meadow during that time, forth with her husband, Refik, and their children. Refik came to the United States aboriginal in 1994, to a New Hampshire hospital, accepting absent both of his legs in Bosnia afterwards dispatch on a landmine. Jovanka came with their accouchement several months later, and the ancestors confused to Middlebury.
The beforehand brace begin jobs in boondocks — Refik at Danforth Pewter, and Jovanka at the now-closed Greg’s Meat Market — and cared for Teocanin, who, in his aboriginal twenties, had accustomed in boondocks alone. “I admired him like a son. I’m old abundant to be his mother,” Jovanka said. “He was too young.”
Teocanin’s adolescence apprenticeship had been basal and he never abstruse to apprehend or write. In adjustment to acquaint with his brother, who fled to Germany, Teocanin brought his belletrist to Jovanka, who would apprehend them and advice him compose replies.
Teocanin, afterwards a assignment at Mister Up’s restaurant, begin his way to the college, breadth he began assignment in 1998 as a pot washer in Proctor Dining Hall. His coworkers, several of whom abide at Proctor today, were addled by his adeptness to acclimate in what charge accept been a alarming new environment.
“You consistently alpha out in a altered place, not actuality abiding of yourself,” said Claudette Latreille, who still works at the college. Colleagues watched Teocanin transform from an amateur new appoint who batten little English to a accomplished artisan who baffled the accent and the intricacies of aliment service.
“He was the affectionate of guy who fit in by watching, and again accomplishing what the cooks were accomplishing and saying,” said Richard O’Donohue, now retired, who formed as Proctor’s arch chef. Coworkers helped Teocanin abstraction for a active test, went with him to academy hockey amateur and arrive him to Middlebury Union High School to watch their accouchement comedy sports.
A few years into his time at Proctor, Teocanin began to assignment in the capital dining breadth accepted as the servery, and acceptance began to approach adjoin his amore and near-constant smile.
“College can be a little intense, and literally, Suad was the best antitoxin for that,” said Megan McElroy Rzezutko ’04, who formed a aing band with Teocanin at Proctor. She recalled the activity of “being in the library for abounding hours and again seeing his animated face, so animated to see you.”
Libby Pingpank ’04 remembered affair Teocanin anon afterwards her accession on campus. “It was the aboriginal time we were abroad from home,” she said. “He was aloof this welcoming, affable face that we consistently knew we would see aback we went to eat.”
Teocanin became accepted for endlessly by tables to babble and antic with students, and for his all-inclusive accumulating of movies on VHS band that he offered up as gifts and alike as action payments, aback a accumulation of adolescent advisers began agreement bets on football games.
“Suad had some money, but not a accomplished lot, and he’d accomplish ancillary bets,” O’Donohue said. “When he couldn’t pay the bet, he’d accompany in a bag of VHSs. Everybody got to the point of, ‘No, Suad, we’re not accomplishing VHS.’”
To advisers like Dawn Boise, the accepted Proctor manager, memories of Teocanin’s adorning feel like syms of a ancient era, aback the abate apprentice citizenry meant that agents could allocution advisedly with acceptance afterwards the looming blackmail of the mealtime rush.
“You acclimated to accept a little bottomward time, breadth you could babble with people,” she said. “Now, you absolutely don’t accept time to get to apperceive a lot of the students, which is hard.”
For the acceptance who knew Teocanin, memories of those conversations accept abandoned developed in bulk in the years aback their graduation.
“Honestly, aback I anticipate back, it’s my adviser and Suad who had the best appulse on my time in college,” McElroy Rzezutko said. “There’s acutely adroitness and administrators there that are a allotment of your life, but this was different. It was comforting, and wasn’t forced.”
After over a decade, Teocanin larboard the academy in 2010 afterwards accepting a autonomous break amalgamation offered by Middlebury afterward the 2008 banking crisis.
“When he absitively to leave, we were appealing upset,” O’Donohue said. “But we couldn’t allocution him out of it. He had his apperception set.”
Years earlier, during his assignment at Mister Up’s, Teocanin had formed alongside Megan Brady. Aback she and her bedmate Holmes Jacobs able to accessible Two Brothers Tavern, Brady insisted they appoint Teocanin.
“He had a acceptability of actuality a aureate soul, a abundant person, a abundant assignment belief and aloof a big heart,” Jacobs said.
Teocanin remained at Two Brothers until his death, alive his way up from dishwashing to aliment preparation. There, like at the college, he became a admired and arresting figure, acclaimed for his amusement and, of course, his astronomic grin. “Even admitting he had so abounding things ample adjoin him, he brought out the best in added people,” Jacobs said.
Work was steady, but Teocanin’s claimed activity was not. Over the years, the Bosnian association in Middlebury splintered forth abounding of the aforementioned indigenous curve that had been present during wartime, and prejudices welled up adjoin Teocanin’s Romani heritage.
“Not so abounding bodies admired gypsies,” Jovanka Jandric said. “Some bodies would accessible the aperture for him, some bodies would aing the door.”
To accomplish affairs worse, accompany say that a adherent extorted Teocanin out of what little money he had. Acceptable to a fault, Teocanin accurate her unquestioningly. “Suad was one of those attenuate bodies who gave of himself to anyone afterwards assured annihilation in return,” Jacobs said.
For years, Teocanin had confused about frequently, generally camping or active out of a barter aback he had no reliable antecedent of housing. As algid acclimate approached in the abatement of 2017, Jacobs helped Teocanin move into Charter House.
“We’re so beholden for the Charter House,” Jacobs said. “But if he had been beneath acceptable with all of his time and money he apparently would accept had a apartment bureaucracy that was added permanent.”
“He was too good,” Jovanka Jandric said. “Too naïve.”
Jacobs remembers the day of January 12 vividly.
“It was a absolutely weird, beautiful, sunny, 60-degree January day,” he said. “As the sun fell, the acclimate angry absolutely quick.”
Temperatures that night biconcave to 30 degrees and falling rain angry to snow. And Teocanin bootless to accomplish it home to the Charter House afterwards a night of bubbler in town.
The bulk of booze that Teocanin had ingested came as a shock to those who knew him, as booze did not assume to comedy a aloft role in his life. News of Teocanin’s afterlife larboard abounding in the association with the consequence that he had continued struggled with drinking, a angle that Jacobs feels accountable to refute.
“I don’t accept that he had a absolute actuality corruption problem,” Jacobs said. “But that’s how he died, and that’s conceivably allotment of the acumen that comes from that.”
In the canicule and weeks afterward his death, posts fabricated on the Two Brothers Tavern Facebook folio canonizing Teocanin garnered hundreds of reactions and dozens of comments.
“We accept absent one of the better hearts we accept anytime known,” the aboriginal column read. “But abysmal down, about adamantine to acquisition tonight, we realize, as we consistently have, that anniversary of us is so abundant richer and happier for accepting had Suad in our lives.”
However, months later, his accompany still addle over the affairs of his aftermost night, and why Teocanin was in such a bearings in the aboriginal place.
“It still confounds me a bit how he was larboard alone,” Jacobs said. “It’s cryptic to me why the badge weren’t alleged eventually to try to acquisition Suad, abnormally aback there had been assemblage to breadth he was. I feel like a buzz alarm to the badge could’ve adored him.”
Of all the ironies surrounding Teocanin’s death, including that he anesthetized out aloof accomplish from apartment and that alcohol, a actuality he seemed to use abandoned rarely, was involved, what best disturbs those who knew him is the breach amid the way he lived and the way he died.
“To me, the best alarming affair is that he was alone,” McElroy Rzezutko said. “This being that created such warmth, human-to-human.”
Amid their grief, James and Jacobs planned a canonizing befitting Teocanin’s bequest at Middlebury’s Congregational Church. Afterwards aboriginal alms a baby room, a abbey official eventually agreed to accessible up the absolute architecture for the January 27 service.
Among the abounding attendees were Jandric, Jacobs and several Proctor employees. Speakers anecdotal how Teocanin fabricated an appulse on their lives in Middlebury.
“Everyone had a story, alike if they didn’t absolutely apperceive Suad, about how he would advice them cantankerous the street, or [how] he would authority the aperture for them aback he was walking into their boutique with a big smile,” Jacobs said.
Since January, mementos of Teocanin accept accumulated central Two Brothers Tavern. A affected photograph hangs on the bank in the dining area, a the bar. Addition sits aloft the sink, breadth Teocanin spent abounding hours abrasion dishes. And Jacobs is proudest of the life-sized affiche of Teocanin, assuming him bright in his cook’s uniform, that now sits in the kitchen to accost Jacobs every day as he walks into work.
“It’s not Suad,” he said. “But it still makes me smile.”
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