Kyle VerMaas made his friends a priority, and he let them know it.

Whether he saw them across the hall at Lincoln Pius X High School or across campus at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, the 20-year-old would yell their names and run toward them, his friends and family said.

Last week, his friends dedicated Mass at the Newman Center to VerMaas as he lay in a bed at Bryan West Campus battling a flu-like virus.

“It was packed,” said Mary Sullivan, a UNL journalism major who has known Kyle since their freshman year at Pius X.

“They said they’ve never seen a Monday night Mass that full before.”

VerMaas died Sunday night due to complications from a virus that had taken over his brain.

His mother, Lisa VerMaas, said her oldest son studied biological systems engineering at UNL and aspired to make bioprosthetics.

He was a Dean’s List student, who had his passport ready to go for a summer trip to Spain.

The 2012 Pius X graduate loved hunting, fishing and the outdoors. He was a jokester and “pushed everything to the edge,” she said.

He had been healthy, his mother said, always eating right and working out at the gym.

Almost two weeks ago though, his cold symptoms descended into vomiting, and on March 7, his roommates found him unresponsive, his mother said.

Doctors first thought he had Influenza A, but they couldn’t confirm that after further testing.

Throughout his stay at Bryan West, his friends poured in to visit him.

“I knew he had a lot of friends,” Kyle’s mother said. “I just had no idea how loved he was.”

“They just kept coming and coming.”

When his family heard from doctors how the virus had taken over his brain and would affect his life, they knew he wouldn’t have wanted to live that way, his mother said.

His decision to donate his organs made his proud mother even prouder, she said.

VerMaas' funeral will be Thursday at 10:30 a.m. at St. Peter’s Catholic Church, 4500 Duxhall Drive.

On Saturday, Sullivan and about 15 of VerMaas’ friends -- many of them Pius X graduates -- congregated in a consultation room at the hospital, sharing their favorite stories about the friend and classmate whom they described as “loyal,” “honest” and “spirited.”

“He would have been sad he was missing out on the party,” Sullivan said.

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​Reach Riley Johnson at 402-473-2657 or rjohnson@journalstar.com.


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