Remembered by his peers as an exuberant member of the mock trial team, former Hillsdale College student Lucas Frerking committed suicide on Nov. 18 in his hometown of Waverly, Iowa, at the age of 23.
“He loved his time at Hillsdale,” Frerking’s father, Dave Frerking, said. “He may be most famous for being one of the only few regatta captains to make it across the pond and back in the annual fall naval battle.”
Lucas Frerking enrolled in Hillsdale in fall 2012. In his three years on campus, he was known for his spontaneous bursts of humor and enthusiasm among his friends. Whether it was perfectly playing the role of a quirky witness in mock trial or enthusiastically running books back to their shelves as a worker in Mossey Library, Frerking adored student life at Hillsdale.
“Lucas savored his time at Hillsdale,” Frerking’s grandmother, Shirley Frerking, said. “He absolutely loved it there. He didn’t have enough good grades to keep his scholarships. But after leaving, it seemed like things were getting better for him. What happened was a mystery.”
Shirley Frerking said after leaving Hillsdale, Lucas Frerking took a year off and worked at the library back home in Waverly and volunteered at his church. This year, he enrolled at the University of Northern Iowa, where he was continuing his studies in history and politics. Several days before his death, he dropped out.
“It was a mystery to me,” Shirley Frerking said. “That whole year off, he did nothing. But he was an active volunteer at the church. He set up the church before the services and cleaned it up afterward. He didn’t seem depressed, just unambitious. It’s a mystery that this happened.”
Students who knew Lucas Frerking said he was a quiet, serious student in the classroom. But outside of it, he was far from shy.
Senior Gwen Hodge was on the mock trial team with Frerking during her freshman year. She said her favorite memory of him was when he was assigned the fictional role of “Rory the Ratcher Raptor” — an amusement park mascot who was in the wrong place at wrong time and ended up as a witness in a case.
“He wore these super colorful green clothes and spoke like Doug the dog from the movie ‘Up,’” senior Gwen Hodge said in between laughs as she recalled the memory. “None of the judges for the competitions could keep a straight face and burst out laughing. They gave him top ranks, naming him the best witness in the whole competition.”
Frerking was involved in mock trial at Waverly Shell-Rock High School and carried his skills to the Hillsdale team. During practices and downtime between competitions, his teammates said Frerking’s ability to crack jokes helped cheer up everyone.
“If we didn’t win, he was always being optimistic,” Trimmels said. “He’d go around saying, ‘Don’t worry guys, we’ll get them next round,’ and would always have goofy observations and impressions. He was an incredible teammate.”
In addition to competing in mock trial, Frerking also worked in the campus library. According to an obituary written in his hometown newspaper, Frerking found solace when he was surrounded by thousands of books.
“He was an engaged observer of human nature,” the obituary stated. “An avid reader. A collector of words. And a consummate storyteller.”
Public service librarian Linda Moore was Frerking’s adviser when he came to Hillsdale. She hired him that fall to work in the library because of his previous experience.
“He had a great sense of humor but was also a quiet and diligent worker,” Moore said.
Moore’s favorite memory of Frerking was during the annual “library olympics,” a multitude of competitions ranging from book cart racing to dashing to retrieve the proper book when given Dewey Decimal Classification coordinates.
“The students come up with all the games,” Moore said with a smile. “He was perhaps the most enthusiastic participant. He was interested in things, and he was very fun to have around.”
Frerking was buried at Oak Wood Cemetery in Pella, Iowa, on Nov. 25. Condolences can be sent to 403 Second St. S.E., Waverly, Iowa, 50677.
“Luke will be greatly missed by all who knew him,” Dave Frerking said. “Each of us will carry a piece of his light in our hearts for the rest of our days.”