PORTLAND/EUGENE, Ore. — On Saturday, friends and family gathered to remember a University of Oregon athlete who died in a drowning accident the week before. The funeral for 21-year-old Alex Rovello was held in Portland that afternoon. So many people arrived to pay their respects, the church brought in a production company to pipe the video and sound into overflow rooms. There were hundreds of pictures, signed posters and tennis memorabilia laid out in his honor.
Rovello was a star tennis player in high school and later at the University of Oregon. Many of the friends Rovello made in college, including fellow athletes, classmates and even staff, spent the day sharing their memories of him as a means of coping with their loss. It was a tough time for all those who were close to him, but instead of focusing on what happened to Rovello and his standout tennis skills, those who knew him insisted the he needed to be remembered for the simply amazing human being that he was.
Rovello’s teammates said he was a heck of a competitor.
“As a tennis player, he was a fighter. I could always see it in his eyes if he was going to win said,” UO tennis player and friend Robin Cambier said. “He hated to lose, so he would do whatever he could on the court to win.”
Off the court, Rovello used that same energy to win over his friends.
“Alex wasn’t just a teammate or classmate, but I considered him like my American brother,” Cambier said.
School was no different. He gained his professors’ respect with ease.
“He would come see me every week to make sure he was keeping up with all his work and he was always just so happy and funny. He’d make me laugh. He was just full of life. He was a terrific young man,” said Professor Dan Morrison, UO School of Journalism and Communication.
His impact to this community was evident in the outpouring of support that followed his death.
“Athletics, Student Life and the School of Journalism and Communication have all come together to make sure that people can get up to Portland for this memorial service and properly remember Alex,” said Dean Tim Gleason, UO School of Journalism and Communication.
Repeatedly described as classy, humble and genuine, friends said Rovello had many fans; it wasn’t because of his talent, but because of his character. Many fans and friends said that’s what they will all miss most.
“We’ll miss him just in general, in the locker room, his music, him coming into the locker room, being around always happy,” Cambier said.
Rovello’s family is asking people to donate to a fund in his name. The money donated to the Alex Rovello Memorial-Berkeley Park Tennis Donation Fund will be used to repair and renovate the courts Rovello grew up on. Donations can be made at any Wells Fargo Bank.
Another memorial service will be held in at 6 p.m. on May 22 at Matthew Knight Arena.