Junior Bobby Menges was known for being full of infectious energy and positivity.
Menges passed away last week at his home in Garden City, New York, after a battle with relapsed brain cancer. He was 19. He is survived by his parents Peter and Liz, brothers Andrew and Jake, sister Emily and many loving family and friends.
Menges was first diagnosed with cancer when he was five, again at 10 and then was re-diagnosed in early 2016 during his first year at Duke. He had recently joined Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity, and as a show of support, the fraternity began fundraising to assist the creation of a new adolescent and young adult oncology program at the Duke University Health System. The fundraising efforts culminated in a head-shaving event called Shave for Schreiber, Buzz for Bobby—named for Menges and senior Mark Schreiber.
Petros Palandjian, Trinity ‘17, was president of Pi Kappa Alpha at the time of Menges’ re-diagnosis and helped plan the first event. Palandjian recalled how Menges was always a positive force for his friends.
“He lit up the community around him,” he said. “In many ways he was a mentor to me and those around him. I'm hoping we can keep him alive in our thoughts, stories and actions.”
Shave for Schreiber, Buzz for Bobby will become one tradition for doing so.
Last spring, Menges expressed a desire to continue the fundraising event far into the future. Senior Dylan Bronson, president of Pi Kappa Alpha, confirmed that the event would continue and that the fraternity is considering other events to celebrate Menges’ life.
“It was crazy how much he cared for everything,” Bronson said. “He would put himself all in to his work and studies. He was a funny kid who enjoyed life anytime he could. He saw humor in everything and was always smiling, laughing.”
Junior Delaney Dalldorf, who dated Menges for a year and a half, called Menges “the best person [she'd] ever met.” She reflected on spontaneous fun moments—including running through the sprinklers on East Campus late at night—and his thoughtful shows of support, such as making signs to cheer her on during club soccer games.
“We broke up two weeks before Valentine’s Day—and I think this just shows the kind of person he is—he sent me flowers that said, ‘Everyone deserves flowers on Valentine’s Day,’” Dalldorf said. “He was just ridiculously nice. I just never met anyone like that.”
Menges could often be found up late at night, usually because he never wanted to miss out on fun things people were doing during the day, she added.
A math and music double major, Menges would work long nights to finish up problem sets but always maintained a positive attitude. He played guitar and piano, wrote songs and was involved in Jazz Band.
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Friends also emphasized that Menges was extremely thoughtful and would continue to check in with them despite being away for treatment. Sophomore Patrick Bowers recalled that Menges never asked for sympathy and instead continued to act selflessly.
“We would all visit him in the hospital and I specifically remember him asking me about my classes and asking to make sure I was doing alright all while he was laying in a hospital bed,” Bowers said.
Junior Christian Leonard remembers Menges helping him learn to play a song from “Lord of The Rings” on the piano and duetting with him on the guitar at 2 a.m.
“He didn't need to take an hour out of his insanely busy schedule to sit with me and teach me how to play that song, but he knew it was something that I really wanted to learn—so he did,” Leonard wrote in an email. “That's the type of person he was. He never failed to put a smile on my face any time I was around him.”
Sue Wasiolek, associate vice president for student affairs and dean of students, said she often saw Menges socializing in the common room of Gilbert-Addoms, where she serves as faculty-in-residence. She added that he always seemed to be in perpetual motion like the Energizer bunny.
“He was truly one-of-a-kind. I never, ever met anyone with that much energy,” she said. “Bobby was present wherever he was. He was so absorbed in the absolute moment he was in, and I think that’s what made him so unique and so special because few of us are truly present all the time.”
Karen Murphy, lecturing fellow in the department of psychology and neuroscience, served as Menges’ academic dean and emphasized his perseverance.
“He was one of the most resilient students I've worked with, and was absolutely tenacious in his commitment to his studies and the Duke community as a whole,” Murphy wrote in an email. “Over the years, I talked with a number of people whose lives he had touched, and we were all struck by his relentless positivity.”
Menges also participated in the pre-orientation program Project Waves, where he immediately stood out for his characteristic zest for life, junior Sam Reiff wrote in an email.
“His kindness and energy spread to everyone he met, and all his peers instantly admired him,” he wrote. “He was the most passionate and genuine kid I ever met, and I will miss him so much.”