Andrew Crabtree, a UNC sophomore, died Saturday after a two-and-a-half-year battle with synovial sarcoma, a rare form of cancer. He was 19.
At the age of 12, Crabtree was already a master at capturing the hearts of those around him.
He was on a cruise with his family, and when they took walks around the ship, his parents noticed that strangers would wave at Crabtree and say hello, said Charlotte Parrott, a friend of Crabtree’s who heard the story from his mother.
Parrott said his family later discovered that every night, Crabtree would go to the ship’s bar alone and perform karaoke.
“He apparently developed a little following, and everyone always wanted to see Andrew come out and sing,” Parrott said.
Friends and family said Crabtree didn’t let the cancer define him.
“He never ever wanted to talk about the fact that he was sick,” Parrott said.
“I think one of the reasons why he probably kept me around was because I wasn’t gentle with him, because that just pissed him off.
“He didn’t want to be treated like a cancer patient.”
Crabtree was the literary manager for LAB! Theatre, and he starred in many theatrical productions at UNC and elsewhere.
Nathaniel Claridad — who directed “Eurydice,” one production Crabtree was in — said Crabtree was the obvious choice for the eccentric role of “interesting man” in the production.
He said Crabtree was inventive and always pushing himself to come up with new ideas for the character.
“It was such a delight to see a young actor not be afraid of failing in the rehearsal room,” Claridad said.
“It was very encouraging.”
Crabtree was also a member of the St. Anthony Hall fraternity, a Morehead-Cain Scholarship nominee and his high school prom king.
He also participated in chorus and was a member of the swim team during his time at Riverside High School in Durham.
Izzy Francke, who knew Crabtree from the LAB! Theatre, said Crabtree knew how to get the most out of life.
“Andrew was a master of the art of living,” she said.
“He was the most positive human being I have met, and he embraced opportunities wholeheartedly.”
And Crabtree was a true people person, said Jack Utrata, who took an acting voice class with him.
“Andrew was magical,” he said. “(He) had a way with people. It was not forced or anything like that, he was just always there for you — always supportive, and he never asked for anything in return.”
Andrew Crabtree’s father, Guy Crabtree, described his son as a philosopher, a walking encyclopedia and an incredible young man with a thirst for knowledge.
“He thought about things and had some interesting ideas and concepts,” he said.
Guy Crabtree said while in hospice, his son was prepared for what was to come.
“He was very at peace knowing what was happening to him, and he had a firm idea of his belief of what was going to happen next,” he said.
“It gave us all great comfort that he had such a firm idea of what the next phase was going to be.”
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