Student remembered as adventurous

By By Ana Breton

By Ana Breton

To most of his friends, former U student Michael Pennels was the most adventurous person they had ever met.

On one occasion, Pennels and a friend were set on seeing a certain concert. The problem? The concert was in Norway. They went anyway.

When he was in high school, Pennels and several of his friends decided that what they really wanted for lunch one day was food from the In-N-Out restaurant in Las Vegas.

“So he drove to Las Vegas for 12 hours, there and back,” said Conor Long, who attended Park City High School with Pennels. “He pretty much ended up missing the rest of the school day. He was one of the most adventurous people I have ever seen.”

Pennels died in his sleep Feb. 3 at the age of 19. The cause of death is unknown, pending an autopsy.

Pennels attended the U for a year, then left to pursue a scuba license because he wanted to become a scuba dive master and live in New Zealand. Long, a sophomore in film studies, said Pennels had plans to come back to the U.

A native of Severna Park, Md., his family moved to Park City eight years ago because Pennels had a passion for skiing and snowboarding. He was a member of Brant Moles’ Big Mountain Ski Team for three years and enjoyed traveling worldwide to ski and scuba. His adventurous and fearless personality also led him to partake in extreme sports, such as bungee jumping, skydiving and race-car driving. By the time he was 16, Pennels was close to attaining a private pilot’s license.

However, his daring side didn’t compose his entire personality. Long said when people first met Pennels, they would see him as a quiet person with a dry sense of humor. Soon enough, though, Long said they would see “he was all too crazy.”

Long said he worked at the Redstone Cinemas in Park City with Pennels where they did “a bunch of crazy s***.”

The day of his death, Pennels’ friends created a Facebook group commemorating him. The group has more than 144 members, who have posted pictures and memories they have of Pennels.

“Whenever I think of Mike (Pennels), I always remember the thousands of times he made me laugh,” wrote Nick Edwards, a friend at Dartmouth College in Hanover, N.H. “Whether we were on the slopes, in class, or anywhere else, Mike always had an uncanny ability to put a smile on my face. What a great friend. Rest in peace, buddy. I’ll miss you.”

Charlie Rode, a friend from Oregon, said it was difficult for him to find a flaw in Pennels because he was the most honest and insightful person he had ever met.

“He didn’t do the right thing because he was told to or because it made him feel good,” Rode said. “He did what was right because it made sense. He was the best person I’ve ever known, and I don’t say that lightly. Extraordinary is an understatement. I can’t begin to explain how far beyond the line of ordinary Pennels fell. I will miss him a lot.”

Pennels is survived by his parents, Mark and Alice Pennels; his younger sister, Mia Pennels; grandparents, Vince and LaVerne Fragomeni; and many aunts, uncles, cousins, and friends. A memorial service was held for Pennels in Park City on Feb. 9.

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