Waterford shaken by news of ECSU student's death

Dylan Konakowitz is pictured in this undated photo. The 21-year-old sophomore and Waterford native was found dead Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2017, in his Eastern Connecticut State University dormitory. (Courtesy of Stacey Konakowitz)
Dylan Konakowitz is pictured in this undated photo. The 21-year-old sophomore and Waterford native was found dead Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2017, in his Eastern Connecticut State University dormitory. (Courtesy of Stacey Konakowitz)

Waterford — Reflecting on the sudden death of 21-year-old Dylan Konakowitz, Mike Buscetto, owner of Filomena’s in Waterford, kept coming back to one thing.

“When he would see me," Buscetto said, "he would always go, ‘My man!’ with this emphatic, big smile.”

If Buscetto gave the longtime server extra responsibilities for the day, his response was the same.

“He would be like, ‘I got you, Mike, you’re my man,’” Buscetto said. “Even if he didn’t have it, I believed him. If he didn’t know the beers and wines, he made people believe that he knew them. He was that kid.”

The news that the sophomore was found dead in his Eastern Connecticut State University dormitory Wednesday hit Filomena’s hard — “they lost a family member and so did I,” Buscetto said. He closed the restaurant Wednesday evening to allow folks time to mourn. On Thursday, employees worked to stay upbeat in Konakowitz’s honor.

“Dylan didn’t walk around here down or sulking,” Buscetto said. “He walked around here, a, like he owned the place, b, with a sense of humor and, c, with an infectious smile. Now we get to laugh about him and his stories, and that’s what he wanted.”

Konakowitz’s impact, Buscetto pointed out, extended well beyond the restaurant’s walls.

On Facebook, dozens of people posted tributes to the sociable college student who was a talented athlete. They shared stories of shooting hoops or going to the movies, of trips to Block Island or time spent mowing down nachos. And they wondered why such a nice person didn’t get more time on Earth.

According to Konakowitz’s mom, Stacey Konakowitz, it was diabetes that led to Dylan Konakowitz’s death. He had been dealing with a stomach bug of late, she said, and couldn’t eat. He didn’t think to take his insulin pump off or adjust it.

Sometime late Tuesday or early Wednesday, his blood sugar dropped to a dangerously low level.

“He slipped into a coma,” Stacey Konakowitz said through tears, "and that was it."

She said it was back in first grade that her son was diagnosed with diabetes. And diabetes, she said, is what helped determine the course of his life.

As a child, he dreamed of joining the U.S. Army, she said. When his diagnosis took that dream away, he decided he would become a teacher — he loved history, after all.

Dylan Konakowitz, who graduated from Waterford High School in 2014, was studying pre-secondary education at ECSU. He had transferred there from Three Rivers Community College.

According to his mom, he yearned to teach in an inner-city school, where he could be a role model.

“He wanted to help mold the kids into people who would follow their dreams,” she said.

She described her son as generous to a fault. He always spared change for a fellow at the gas station he knew didn’t have anywhere to call home, she said. He planned to one day share his wisdom as a basketball coach, too.

But baseball was Dylan Konakowitz’s first love. He spent years playing Little League and was part of the Waterford Babe Ruth team that won the state championship in 2011. He continued playing through the highest Babe Ruth level, which covers ages 16 to 18. Then he took up basketball recreationally, his mom said, learning most of his skills and strategies from her husband, Stephen Maynard.

“But they’ll never agree on a team” to root for, she said, laughing.

Dylan Konakowitz preferred the flashy teams in sports, like the University of Kentucky Wildcats basketball team. Unlike her husband, “he was all about the hype.”

When he wasn’t playing or watching sports, he was hanging out with friends — “he was so social,” his mom said.

If he could help it, he preferred to be outdoors. He loved everything outdoors — except yard work, she joked.

“He was go-go-go,” she said. “He never held back.”

In addition to his parents, Dylan Konakowitz leaves behind a brother, a sister and four stepbrothers.

“It’s just tragic that he’s gone,” his mother said. “I love him, and he will be deeply missed.”

l.boyle@theday.com

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