By Emily Rosenberg
Nathan Noel, a beloved son, brother, artist, and student, passed away unexpectedly on Nov. 22.
He was born on May 16, 2003 and grew up in Ashland. He was the son of Ronald and Cheryl and the brother of Keilah, 19, and Evan, 18, Noel.
Before transferring to the University of Rochester in January of 2023, he was a light to the Framingham State University community, excelling in his classes. Cheryl said upon transferring from FSU, he had a 4.0 GPA.
She added as a high schooler, he was admitted to six out of seven of the schools he applied to. “He was a smart kid,” with an “Incredible work ethic.”
Cheryl said at the University of Rochester, he studied economics and was particularly interested in finding a solution to ending gentrification. “He wanted to be able to be a cause for positive change and prevent these kinds of things from happening so that economics would play a role and maybe provide an alternate pathway to some other place” for people who are displaced by gentrification.
She said Nathan would call her up and teach her the material he was learning in school because he believed if he could learn it, he could teach it.
“He loved learning and definitely worked hard,” she said.
Giuliano Espino, a political science professor who taught Nathan in an elective class, Race, Politics, and the Law, said Nathan was one of the most engaged and hardworking students he had the privilege of teaching during his five years at Framingham State.
“I have amazingly fond memories of how he would spend a half hour with me after almost every class to talk about the day’s lecture material more in-depth,” he said.
Espino added, “I learned an incredible amount from Nathan about my own field during these lively conversations, which I cannot say about many students. Even though my course was an elective, I was impressed by the ferocity through which he approached the subject matter. He was one of the most enriching students I ever had the privilege to teach.”
Nathan was also a musician, visual artist, and actor. Cheryl said he had a large portfolio of artwork and one of her favorite drawings of his was a portrait of an interracial family titled “Chosen Family.”
“He believed in [chosen family] very, very much” and wanted to adopt teenage kids because he did not want kids aging out of the foster care system without a family, she added.
She said the love of music was in the family and he won the Clocker Idol competition at Ashland High School for writing and performing an original piano piece.
In between classes, he could be found playing the piano and creating new pieces on the spot, she added.
Nathan also loved theater and enjoyed building sets and learning how to do everything possible in theater. Last fall, he performed as Matt in the Hilltop Player’s “Cul-de-Sac.”
Noah Barnes ’23 who directed the play, said when he first met Nathan at auditions, he was very “modest” and a bit shy, but as soon as he read, he blew the production staff away with his performance and they even considered having him read for each part because of how well he was able to get into character.
“I can’t remember the last time I was moved that much by a performance,” he said.
He remembered that at the first rehearsal, he was already “so prepared. He already knew where to take that character in a way that I was nearly on the verge of tears.”
Barnes added Nathan would always come up to him after rehearsals to ask him for notes, but he never had any suggestions or criticism because he was always “spot on.”
Eric Qua ’23 who performed alongside Nathan in “Cul-De-Sac,” said the production would not have been the same without him. “He was exceptionally kind and talented.”
He added, “They were always willing to help run lines and be a listening ear. They were just great to be around.”
Along with being a talented and hardworking student and creative, he was also a compassionate and loving brother and son.
Cheryl said although Nathan lived far away when he went to the University of Rochester, he still made it a point to call his brother and sister regularly. “He took being a brother very seriously.”
She recalled how every year for 19 years, they would go to the beach, get ice cream, and eat seafood with their friend, Mary Ellen, and they would call it “Mary Ellen Day.” This year, they were unable to go, but Nathan insisted he take them to the Museum of Fine Arts to still make the day special.
She added he adored Christmas. “He could be seen listening to Christmas music in August,” and as his last name was Noel, he wanted to make sure he had a pillow in his dorm that said “noel” but it couldn’t be green and red so that he could “get away” with using it all year round.
“He was just a smiley, happy, cheery, boy,” Cheryl said.
A funeral service will be held Sunday, Dec.10 at 9:30 a.m. in College Seventh-Day Adventist Church, 337 Main St., South Lancaster, Mass. Visiting hours will be held Saturday, Dec. 9 from 3:00-7:00 p.m. in the Matarese Funeral Home, 325 Main St. Ashland, Mass.