DENVER — Cole Tucker had no qualms about sharing his mental health story in 2020, in the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic. He wanted people to know that healing may not come quickly or easily, but it would come eventually. He knew that from hard-fought experience.
“Being suicidal seems so prevalent these days,” Tucker said at the time. “I don't think I can talk to every kid on earth, and invent some sort of giant microphone and just yell out my message, 24/7. I can't, but I can reach a lot more people through this, so I'm just hoping it helps.”
Family and friends reflect on the life and impact of Cole Tucker.
In the months that followed, Tucker’s family said he advocated for himself to receive the care and support he needed to continue his recovery. He and his family established a grassroots organization, Solid Ground Denver, to try to provide themselves and other young people with disabilities the kind of education the Tuckers were not receiving through the public school system.
“He was only there three days, and he slipped and fell on a hike and hit his head,” said Jason Rudofsky, Tucker’s stepfather.
“He was with… I think, about 10 other kids, young adults searching for the same thing. And they were with him at the time [he fell],” Rudofsky said. “Those kids wrote letters back to us letting us know that although they only spent three days with Cole, what an impact he made on them.”
“He could have picked an easier program physically, but he felt that he needed to make himself as strong as possible so that he could essentially walk out of that program as the man that he felt like he could be,” said Lisa Weiss Rudofsky, Tucker’s mother. “I feel confident that he was at peace, and that he was happy to be doing what he was doing.”
“There's no accounting for the randomness of life, and how somebody can be doing so well and then be denied the chance to go forward,” said Thomas Carr, Tucker’s mentor.
Carr and his son Andrew considered themselves to be among Cole’s best friends. They each had creative projects in progress with him: Thomas put together a “very impressive” portfolio of Cole’s photography after his death, while Andrew is contemplating whether to finish a documentary he was making with Cole before he died. Andrew said Cole taught him some important life lessons, including ways to overcome mental health challenges.
“Take in the little things and just try your best to live as good of a life as possible,” Andrew said.
Tucker’s family is now working to remember him while trying to cope with his absence.
“I’ll never be able to look at some things the same way because it reminds me of him, and I’m okay with that,” Tucker’s younger brother, Heath, said.
“He had such a hard life, but he was so strong,” Weiss Rudofsky said. “He had struggled through it all. And he had made it through it all.”