Dozens of people filled St. Matthias Catholic Church in Milwaukee on Aug. 24 to show support for the family and friends of the incoming University of Wisconsin transfer student who drowned in Lake Mendota this August.
Richard “Grady” De La Cruz, 20, was swimming with two other friends outside the Porter Boathouse on Aug. 21 when he separated from the others and did not resurface, according to the Dane County Medical Examiner’s report. His body was found under 15 feet of water and six to eight feet of weeds, Marc Lovicott, UW Police Department spokesperson said.
His funeral mass was marked by an “outpouring support,” Adam Hurrle, a close friend of De La Cruz, said, noting the presence of the Filipino community and priests from Marquette University and Marquette University High School, both schools De La Cruz attended.
Hurrle, who helped organize the funeral and notify people in the wake of the news, attributed the large attendance to De La Cruz’s exceedingly friendly attitude and love of people.
“It was very heart-wrenching to see all these people trying to understand why a 20-year-old was in a coffin,” Hurrle said.
De La Cruz, who was planning on beginning his first year at UW as a transfer student majoring in psychology and criminology, was interested in the clinical psychology program offered at UW, Hurrle said.
To his friends, De La Cruz was an avid athlete with a “lust for life,” who excelled in every sport he participated in, including high school football and track, Hurrle said.
The point person for advice, Hurrle said De La Cruz was defined by his kindness toward others.
“One of the things he was best at was making time for the people in his life,” Hurrle said. “He would make time for people who were struggling, for me personally and for all of friends, he was eager to help, very eager to help us.”
Hurrle said Marquette University has offered to host a memorial ceremony on campus to give students the opportunity to celebrate De La Cruz’s life.
UW Dean of Students Lori Berquam released a statement on behalf of the university expressing her condolences for De La Cruz’s friends and family.
“This was a huge tragedy, what happened on Wednesday,” Berquam said. “You can imagine this is just a very difficult situation for the family and the friends here in Madison and in the Milwaukee area, all are impacted by this, and who loved Richard and it’s just a very, very sad situation.”
De La Cruz was the first drowning near the UW campus this year, Lovicott said. Berquam added the university will be placing additional signs denoting the official swimming areas on campus and releasing an advisory about lake safety.
De La Cruz’s parents requested privacy during this difficult time.