Roseburg native Nicholas Goirigolzarri, an Air Force first lieutenant and standout athlete, died Friday night at a Colorado Springs, Colo., hospital two weeks after being diagnosed with a rare form of leukemia. He was 25.
Goirigolzarri, a 2006 graduate of Roseburg High School, was an airman at Schriever Air Force Base in Colorado, where he was named the base’s 2012 athlete of the year.
He was the son of RHS Principal Karen Goirigolzarri and Javier Goirigolzarri, an independent timber consultant. His brother, Benjamin, graduated from RHS as a co-valedictorian last year, and his youngest brother, Alex, is a student there.
RHS Assistant Principal Larry Rich said Karen Goirigolzarri received a call about her son’s illness Nov. 18.
“It was just all of the sudden. Here’s this cancer that he had,” Rich said. “It’s really sad to hear what happened. Our hearts go out to Karen and her family. As a parent, you don’t expect to be attending your child’s funeral. You expect it to be the other way around.”
According to social media sites managed by the Goirigolzarri family and friends, Nicholas Goirigolzarri was taken Nov. 18 to an emergency room, where he was put on life support and airlifted to Penrose-St. Francis Health Services in Colorado Springs.
The initial diagnosis was leukemia and an infection. After additional testing, he was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia, a rare strain of cancer.
The family, along with friends, created Facebook and CaringBridge pages to post updates about his condition. The family on Saturday announced his death on Facebook.
“Thank you for your continued prayers and support — they have meant more than words can describe. As one of the ICU nurses said. ‘If love could cure, Nick would have been cured.’ She saw and knew the love given to him, which was (and will continue to be) endless. Nick passed away last night after a hard fight. The ICU nurses and doctors did everything in their power to keep Nick with us. As much as we all want Nick here, he is at peace now. We can all be assured that heaven has a new angel.”
Rich described Nicholas Goirigolzarri as caring and athletic.
“He was a great kid. One of those students who parents would hope their kid would turn out like,” Rich said. “He was a solid, well-rounded individual. Very thoughtful and very kind. He had a promising career and life ahead of him.”
Nicholas Goirigolzarri graduated from high school with a 3.9 GPA. He gained early acceptance to the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs.
He was a finalist for the Roseburg Area Chamber of Commerce’s Future First Citizen Award during his senior year in high school.
Goirigolzarri played football at RHS and was voted by his teammates the Most Inspirational Player in 2005. He also played lacrosse.
At the Air Force Academy, he played rugby and continued competing in the sport after entering active duty.
Earlier this year, he was selected for the Air Force’s seven-man rugby team and competed against teams from other military branches, according to a story posted on the base’s website earlier this year.
He was selected to play on the Armed Forces rugby team against New Zealand’s military team.
He also played softball and quarterbacked his squadron’s football team. He completed the base’s fitness challenge of running one mile and performing 100 pull-ups, 200 push-ups, 300 body squats and running another mile in less than 40 minutes.
“Our heartfelt condolences go out to Lt. Goirigolzarri’s family and friends,” Col. William Liquori, 50th Space Wing commander, said in a statement. “The Air Force lost an exceptional and talented Air Force officer.”
• Reporter Jessica Prokop can be reached at 541-957-4209 and firstname.lastname@example.org.