ELLSWORTH — Students across Maine spent last Friday on vacation, but teachers and friends of Corey Nuss were already back at Ellsworth High School, gathering in the gymnasium to mourn the 18-year-old star student who died that morning in a car crash en route to a weekend of skiing at Sugarloaf. Nuss would have been the valedictorian of the Class of 1998.
According to state Trooper Bryant Jacques, Nuss’ sister Christy, 20, was driving west on Route 16 when she lost control of her 1987 Mazda on a long, winding hill in slippery road conditions in Lexington Township just outside Kingfield. The car slid sideways into the opposite lane where the passenger side, where Nuss was riding, was struck by a Dodge van driven by Gerald Turner, 46, of North Anson.
Nuss died in the ambulance on the way to Central Maine Medical Center in Lewiston. Christy Nuss is still in the hospital, in good condition, and parents Marcel and Donna Lee Nuss were with her on Monday. The third passenger, the siblings’ cousin Dan Nuss of North Dartmouth, Mass., broke his leg. All three passengers were wearing seat belts, said Jacques. Turner also was injured.
Assembled in the teacher’s lounge on Monday, eight of Nuss’ fellow students praised him as a brilliant student, a movie lover who could recite scenes verbatim from his favorite Quentin Tarantino movies and a dedicated son who didn’t miss a night of his mom’s cooking.
“He was a genius in every sense of the word,” said Scott Weirick, who recently graduated. “I think he was inspirational. You felt a drive to do stuff and be something because you were with him. He made you feel like you could do whatever you want to do.”
Nuss was interested in studying engineering or architecture, and was considering several colleges, including Brown University. He had won awards in math and art, and belonged to the French club, ski club, chess club, drama club and math team.
His friends said that while the student body tends to divide into cliques, Nuss crossed boundaries to maintain friendships among the artistic, academic, athletic and drama crowds. Despite being voted Most Likely To Argue for the senior class yearbook, they said he had a gift for effortlessly putting people at ease and carrying on a serious conversation with someone he’d met minutes before.
“He was friends with everybody,” said senior Jed Patterson, who had known Nuss since before kindergarten. When asked what they most would remember him for, the students described his surrealist artwork, such as a painting of “rolling hills” that really rolled; a mesmerizing performance as poet Jim Carroll for a humanities class; study halls spent dissecting the previous night’s episode of “The Simpsons”; long summer nights playing pool and pingpong; and his fondness for the English muffin pizzas his mother used to make.
“I’ve never met anyone who was so in tune with his family,” said Nick Birdsell, a junior.
A remembrance of Corey Nuss’ life will be held at 1 p.m. Jan. 14 at Ellsworth High School. A Corey Nuss Scholarship Fund has been set up, in care of the Maine Community Foundation, for art and writing students.