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Epilogue | Elliot Waterbury

Epilogue: His life cut short, Elliot Waterbury made his mark with humor, hard work and empathy

ST. PETERSBURG — While Elliot Waterbury was working at Deloitte in New York City, a senior manager at the company lost her home in a fire. She had a little boy.

Although the family was lucky — insurance covered the blaze and they quickly found a new home — Mr. Waterbury worried. He set up a GoFundMe campaign for the family and raised $1,000 to help replace what they'd lost. Then, on a Saturday morning, he went to a toy store and bought a giant train set for the boy. Alone, he hauled the bulky box through the city to the family's house. Then he assembled the set while the boy watched and giggled.

"The little kid needed something," said John Lowe, one of Mr. Waterbury's friends from Deloitte. "Elliot saw that and understood that."

Among friends and family, Mr. Waterbury was known for going out of his way to show kindness, whether those on the receiving end were close to him or strangers. He was humble, an achiever with an intense work ethic, a prankster, an entertainer, a dependable friend.

Mr. Waterbury died June 14 from hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, a condition that prevents the heart from pumping blood effectively. He was 25.

Born and raised in St. Petersburg, Mr. Waterbury made his mark as a goofball, overflowing with charisma. When he stood in the outfield during his Little League baseball games, he'd belt out operatic renditions of Take Me Out to the Ballgame. He loved English muffins with cream cheese and olives for breakfast, which he got a taste for from his mother. He attended St. Petersburg High, where he was on the wrestling and swim teams. Even as a teenager, he was fiercely loyal.

"He was a kid who used to get in fights in high school, but it was always a thing where he'd be standing up for his friends," said his brother Ryan Waterbury.

After studying accounting and finance at Florida State University, Elliot Waterbury went for a master's degree at Vanderbilt University, where his intellect and out-sized personality made him a standout.

Courtesy of Emily Cochran

Elliot Waterbury poses in a classroom at Vanderbilt University during the school's Welcome Weekend in April 2015.

One of his professors had a photo on his desk signed by Ben McKenzie, star of the TV series the O.C., who the professor described as "his favorite person in the world." On the last day of class, Mr. Waterbury gave the professor a framed, signed copy of his own headshot, joking that he was a close runner-up to McKenzie.

At Vanderbilt, he worked in the Masters of Accounting office, helping to recruit other students. He was the center of the office, said his boss, Emily Cochran. Always thoughtful, he and some other students baked Cochran a strawberry cake for her birthday, a towering mess of frosting and barely legible lettering.

"It looked like a child made it," Cochran said with a laugh. "It was the least domestic-looking cake I have ever seen."

Courtesy of Emily Cochran

Bryan Eddy, Elliot Waterbury, Kensley Elliott, Amanda Kirkland and Cam Cooper pose in April 2015 during Welcome Weekend at Vanderbilt. The annual event is for all incoming Owen Graduate School of Management students. Waterbury was a campus host.

Amid the rigorous coursework and recruiting, Mr. Waterbury was captain and coach of the "Macc Daddies," the department's intramural sports team. He was a diligent student but never bragged. So his friends and family were stunned when, at his graduation in 2015, they learned he'd been named valedictorian.

"He was absolutely the type of person that would work hard for everything that he wanted in life," said Cam Cooper, one of Mr. Waterbury's friends at Vanderbilt. "But he did this for himself and his own desires, not specifically for any honors or extra recognition."

Mr. Waterbury was a distance runner, who finished the Nashville and New York City marathons. After intense exams to become a certified public accountant a few summers ago, before he headed to New York City to work for Deloitte, he built himself an acoustic guitar.

"It was a beautiful guitar but he wasn't proud of it," Ryan Waterbury said. "He was hard on himself."

In his new job, Elliot Waterbury rose quickly, frequently working until 2 or 3 a.m. His coworkers noticed, christening him "Mr. Deloitte." He continued recruiting and was a mentor to younger associates, who appreciated his advice — and his humor.

On his way to the office in Rockefeller Center, Mr. Waterbury would walk past the Today Show studio, trying to get on TV. His friend John Lowe recalled how he would mess with computers that were left unattended and vulnerable to his pranking. He would change their backgrounds and send ridiculous emails to the entire office.

He had just accepted a job at CohnReznick in Manhattan working in renewable energies before he died. His friends recalled the way he united people and made them want to be better, and said they expected him to become CEO of a major company one day. But one with a personality.

Back at Vanderbilt, Mr. Waterbury snuck into Cochran's office and tucked dozens of his business cards into drawers, boxes and books. Even now, she's still finding them.

Courtesy of Emily Cochran

Elliot Waterbury was the coach of an intramural team at Vanderbilt called the Macc Daddies. The team poses in October 2014 during one of their softball games. Team members called him "Watercoach."


Elliot Michael Waterbury

Born: April 28, 1992

Died: June 14, 2017

Survivors: Parents, Sandy and Mark Waterbury of St. Petersburg; brothers, Ryan and Kyle Waterbury of St. Petersburg; sister Laura Waterbury of Nashville, Tenn.

Epilogue: His life cut short, Elliot Waterbury made his mark with humor, hard work and empathy 07/07/17 [Last modified: Friday, July 7, 2017 10:07am]
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