A packed house of Colorado College students attended the unveiling of Wooglin’s Deli newest sandwich, “Reuben’s Reuben,” in honor of CC junior Reuben Mitrani, who passed away this fall. The staff at Wooglin’s did not want their normal compensation on Monday night; it was a shift they offered to work for free.
“The entire staff was willing to donate their time and come back, even on their off day,” said Kelvin Thorne, the owner of Wooglin’s Deli. “We paid them anyway, but it’s cool they wanted to. In an event like this, it’s bigger than just business.”
Wooglin’s Deli changed its menu board to feature “Reuben’s Reuben” at the top of the list of hot sandwiches. The deli took in approximately $1,700 from the event, one-third of which will be donated to the Reuben Eli Mitrani, or REMember, memorial fund. Donations collected at the event will also be contributed to the fund.
To accommodate the occasion, Wooglin’s baked extra rye bread and had larger quantities of pastrami than usual on-hand. The preparations proved necessary, as over 50 people ordered the specialty sandwich. Thorne said the deli had twice as many staff working the shift than usual.
Junior Jesse Paul thanked the crowd for attending the event and then proceeded to commemorate his friend and baseball teammate.
“It seems almost inappropriate to dedicate something as meaningless as a sandwich to someone so important to all of us, but I realized it’s symbolic,” Paul said. “I can walk across the street and have a little piece of Reuben anytime I want it now.”
The idea for Reuben’s Reuben came to fruition when CC parent Patty Whitnah read Paul’s article, “Campus loses a beloved leader, friend” in the Oct. 19 issue of The Catalyst. In the article, he suggested the creation of a Reuben’s Rueben somewhere on campus.
“You need a little bit of a catalyst to get something going,” Whitnah said. “Honestly, the article in The Catalyst was the catalyst. It’s all about Reuben. I thought about [the Mitrani family] every day and mourned the loss of their son.” Although Whitnah did not know Reuben’s mother, Donna Orbach, prior to Reuben’s passing, she felt a connection to her as a woman, and especially as a mother.
Familiar with the popular off-campus eatery, Wooglin’s Deli, Whitnah contacted Thorne. He was immediately on board with the idea of paying homage to the deceased CC student by renaming its Reuben sandwich.
Unbeknownst to most, Thorne’s son, Tyler, is a senior at CC. Because of Wooglin’s excellent relationship with the college, and more importantly Thorne’s role as a father, he did not hesitate to agree to Whitnah’s request.
“It really hit home with me being a father. Just the thought of losing a son at that age, at such a young time in his life,” Thorne reflected.
Following this contact, Whitnah had a moment of doubt. She debated with herself if she was overstepping her boundaries—she did not know Reuben, did not go to CC, and does not live in Colorado. Yet, she decided to follow her instincts.
In a Colorado College Student Government Association flash email sent out the Sunday night before the event, Paul stated, “The determination of that parent is a symbolic representation of the togetherness of our community, and an important reminder that all of us at CC really are a family.”
In her Sep. 19 CaringBridge blog entry, Orbach clarified that her son did not have an aneurism or a stroke, but rather an arteriovenous malformation (AVM) that caused a severe hemorrhage near his brain stem, causing major brain trauma. He never would have known about the abnormal connection between the artery and vein without having a brain scan.
Incidentally, Reuben created a blog to document his study abroad experience the day before the brain hemorrhage.
In his first and only post, titled, “Just a little stream of consciousness on Independence for ya…”, Reuben wrote, “Studying abroad is an incredible experience, and with each passing day, one that has made me realize just how much I treasure being able to navigate the world on my own. Independence is a hell of a drug. When I walk around a foreign city on my own, communicating through crappy French and reluctant English, I feel so alive.”
On Sep. 11, Reuben was placed in a medically induced coma. A week and a half later, an MRI indicated that there had been irreversible damage to his brain. Surrounded by family, he passed away on Sep. 24 in Geneva, Switzerland.
“We were praying for him to get better and come home,” Whitnah said. “The expectation was he would come back. That’s what we were all hoping.”
In his statement given to the crowd at Wooglin’s, Paul remarked, “In the 20 years he was alive, Reuben lived more than most of us ever will and served as an inspiration, a mile marker for our potential.”
This is the first opportunity for students who were abroad this fall to mourn and honor Reuben with fellow CC students.
“Tonight will be more for the students than anybody,” Whitnah said.
Junior Gavin Nachbar, one of Reuben’s roommates and closest friends, was traveling in New Zealand last semester.
“It was difficult being abroad when everything happened,” Nachbar said.
Now back in Colorado Springs, he said it meant a lot to see so many people at the event together thinking about their friend.
“It was good just to see how many people on campus he made an impression on and get a chance to honor his life with them,” Nachbar said.
Dan Marion, class of 2012, filmed the event and plans to send a copy to the Mitrani family in Harrisburg, Pa. Other events to commemorate our friend are currently in the planning stages, including a REMember concert and a baseball tournament during eighth block.
“He impacted a lot of people, this kid I never knew,” Whitnah said. “I have to say Reuben was very special. You can see that in the outpouring of love at CC.”