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Family, friends gather to remember MSU student

November 30, 2016
Hundreds of friends and family members gather together for a candlelight vigil on Nov. 29, 2016 at The Rock to mourn the passing of former student Abhi Shah.
Hundreds of friends and family members gather together for a candlelight vigil on Nov. 29, 2016 at The Rock to mourn the passing of former student Abhi Shah. —
Photo by Derek VanHorn | and Derek VanHorn The State News

Despite the large crowd at the Rock on Farm Lane Tuesday night, all that could be heard was the spraying of paint cans as the Rock was lathered in memory of one MSU student.

“RIP Abhi 1996-2016.”

Hundreds of people gathered for a vigil for finance junior Abhi Shah, who died last week of reasons currently unknown.

The vigil to remember Shah was put on by the Coalition of Indian Undergraduate Students and the brothers of Pi Kappa Alpha, but hundreds showed up — and not everyone was a member of one of these groups. The event was promoted as a candlelight vigil, but because of the number of people who came to help remember Shah, the candles were completely passed out before the vigil started.

Shah’s friends and family members spoke in front of the Rock about who Abhi Shah was and what he meant to each of them. Among those who spoke at the vigil was human biology junior Brandon Halmaghi.

“Abhi Shah, he was that person who — it’s unexplainable to describe his actions," Brandon Halmaghi said. "He pretty much would go out of his way for you to do anything, and I think that’s the most important part about him. And whenever I sensed a negative atmosphere, he was that person to turn it around.”

Brandon Halmaghi and Abhi Shah were best friends since their sophomore year of high school and were roommates since their freshman year at MSU. They were planning to live together next year as well, Brandon Halmaghi said.

“He was a leader, he was sincere, he cared about everyone," Brandon Halmaghi said. "He was just like a superhero on Earth. That’s how I would describe it. He was God’s gift to me.”

Others who spoke at the vigil also spoke of how open and caring Shah was. Brandon Halmaghi’s sister, prenursing freshman Jessie Halmaghi, said Abhi Shah was another older brother to her.

"He was the greatest person you’ll ever meet," Jessie Halmaghi said. "And he accepted everyone. He took everyone into his arms. No matter who they were. He was the most loving person I’ve ever met. I’d be having the worst day ever and he’d turn it around within seconds. He was a really great person.”

Abhi Shah’s parents were also at the vigil. Novi resident Pratik Shah, Abhi Shah’s father, expressed his gratitude for the vigil. He also encouraged those who knew Abhi to continue to hold him in their hearts.

“Yeah, I lost my son at the age of 20, but in 20 years, he touched so many people’s hearts,” Pratik Shah said. “This candlelight vigil that MSU and you guys organized in East Lansing, it really helped us as a family, and I do not have enough words to thank you guys for this. I mean, I’ll be able to cherish my son’s love to so many people. I think this was very important for us as a family.”

Abhi Shah's parents are currently working to set up the Abhi Shah Foundation, a foundation to help orphaned children in need. By selling wristbands, the foundation would provide orphans in need with shelter, food and clothing.

“It’s to give back, because that’s what he would want us to do," Jessie Halmaghi, who is helping contribute to the foundation's establishment, said. "He wouldn’t want us dwelling, he would want us making a difference in someone else’s life. ... We’re looking into other fundraising opportunities that we can do to keep raising money for this nonprofit organization.”

On Nov. 1, Abhi Shah tweeted, “Go out of your way to help someone every day, you'll sleep better.” This was brought up by multiple speakers as those who gathered to remember him looked to these words for comfort.

“Abhi was truly, truly a loving and caring person. He always liked to bring a smile on someone’s face,” Pratik Shah said. “When he goes to (a) friend’s house and if there are other friends of that friend, he will right away connect with anybody, whether it’s a 5-year-old person or 85-year-old grandpa. I mean, he will go ahead and give that connection, he will talk to them and he will make life happy for that person. That was Abhi."

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