A few hours ago I was digging through my crack-den basement when I stumbled upon an old copy of Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary. It pretty much looks like every other dictionary from back in the day—red cover, frayed pages, etc. Yet when I opened the back cover, I was greeted by a photocopy of a picture I had taped there some 15 years ago.

The image was of A. Ross Mayhew.

Back in 1986, eight years before I would hold the same position, Mayhew was editor in chief of The Review, the University of Delaware’s student newspaper. For a reason I have never known, one day he tied a rope to the ceiling of his dorm room and hung himself. He was 22-years old and, by all accounts, one helluva writer/person.

I came to know about Mayhew when I was 20 or 21, and it consumed my life. Probably because he had been where I was—running a college paper, trying to figure it all out, generally lost. Hence, I tried learning all about Mayhew; sought out people who might remember what he was like; why he killed himself; what pushed him over the edge. There were so few answers. Just sadness.

Now, when I ponder A. Ross Mayhew, I think about lost potential. He would be 45 this year. Probably married with kids. Maybe a writer, maybe a PR flack, maybe a dentist or dancer or CVS clerk. Who knows? I just wish, more than anything, that he could somehow take back that fatal decision of 23 years ago, when I’m guessing his troubles looked much larger than they actually were.

We all have our problems, and I’m sure most of us—at some point—have at least thought,329 “Is living worth it?” I know I have. Never to the point of truly considering suicide. But there have been dark moments … especially in my younger days, when I lacked perspective and, often, reason. I remember being in college, grades suffering, no girlfriend, little money—just down.

Then I’d find Paul Duer, Dan Monaghan and Scott Capro and we’d play midnight hoops outside Christiana Towers. Always cured my blues.

I never got to know Ross Mayhew. It’s a shame.

10 thoughts on “Haunted”

  1. I think about Ross all the time. We lived a “cinder block” away our freshman year at Dickinson. He was skinny and walked really straight and tall and truly was one of the funniest people I had ever met. I loved the way he made me feel special and different.

  2. Have you thought that maybe he wouldn’t have a wife & kids if he were still alive today, but a lover or partner w/a Jack Russell? Too many young people who take their lives do so b/c they are Gay & are overwhelmed w/trying to cope w/it in this homophobic society :((

  3. I was Ross’s friend. We worked on the Review together for four years. I think about him so often, never saw it coming, not a clue. Hard to understand not seeing that your friend was so far gone. I had no idea.

    1. I was a very dear friend of Ross’s from the first day I met him in 1982. He lived a dorm away from me and I worked for him at the Review until the very end of his life. I adored respected laughed and cried with him. He was one of the most interesting people I had ever met. I think of what he would have become. He was complex, a great story teller and loved women!@!!! God Bless Ross and his passing was one of the most difficult times of my life. I hope that he is in heaven creating magical memories ther.

  4. Hi I went to college with Ross and considered him one of my dearest friends. He was a the funniest, people I have ever known. I adored, respected and admired him. I worked on the newspaper with him until his death. His death forever changed my life and even though it was 26 years ago I think of him walking around the office. He was genuine, a hard worker and loved women. He even had a crush on my roomate for a time. He will forever be a part of me and who I am and the memories although were not long enough will fufill me for a lifetime

  5. Too many years have passed since that terrible day. I still can’t believe Ross is gone. I thought he’d certainly be the journalism program’s most successful graduate. Even now, the sadness and sense of great loss has not diminished. I will remember him as he was — intense and larger than life, incredibly talented, funny and genuine. Ross, your loss has taught me to cherish my friends even more.

  6. And, like others, I have never ever forgotten, nor have I “gotten over” his passing. Even today, I think sometimes that I see him from the corner of my eye.

  7. I went to to high school with Ross Mayhew. Your thoughts are very much the same as mine back in 1986. I had my first job as a reporter, was making below minimum wage far from my home in a terrible work environment when I heard about his death. I can remember wondering if he’d been depressed because of job prospects and wishing I could have given him my job if it would have helped. Today, I was looking him up because of a recent school reunion but I’m glad to read (even nine years later) that someone else was pondering how that funny, smart guy would have turned out . . .

  8. douglas j barnett

    I was thinking about Ross, and the circumstances surrounding his death, over the last week. They were actually quite obvious at the time. He had high integrity and got himself caught in the grinding gears of a major school scandal with national implications and freedom of the press issues at stake. His father was a colleague of my father; and, he asked what I knew with a reporter’s respect for confidentiality. I don’t think I ever shared the full story with him before he passed away a few years later. I watched in horror as it unfolded, knowing all of the principals and principles involved. All the way till the tragic end. Others involved in that story succumbed to a similar, if latent, result. All very sad. And too oft repeated by friends of mine. Now, this morning, Anthony Bourdain’s own suicide lead me to actually look for some artifact of Ross’ story. And your Post was it. It’s all fresh and no catharsis.

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