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Theater shooting victim Chad Oulson remembered as devoted dad and neighbor

Nicole Oulson looks at a photo of her husband Chad and their daughter Alexis, along with her husband's helmets and motocross gear, on display during a memorial service at the Land O'Lakes Church of God.
Nicole Oulson looks at a photo of her husband Chad and their daughter Alexis, along with her husband's helmets and motocross gear, on display during a memorial service at the Land O'Lakes Church of God.
Published Jan. 19, 2014


Faithful family man. Fun-loving friend. That was the portrait painted by four of the more than 300 mourners who came Saturday to pay respects to 43-year-old Chad Oulson, killed in last week's movie theater shooting.

"Everything he did, he did full throttle," said Steve Irvin, a friend who spoke during Oulson's memorial service at Land O'Lakes Church of God.

So many people packed the sanctuary that the choir loft had to be used for seating and ushers broke out folding chairs.

Flowers of mostly red and white decorated the front of the church. Cobb Theatres, the parent company of Cobb Grove 16 where the shooting took place, sent an arrangement of white lilies.

A photo montage on a big projector screen between two wooden crosses offered an overview of Oulson's life. The wide-eyed, tow-headed preschooler segued into the elementary kid with a couple of new teeth coming in.

Then came the lanky teen with a mullet haircut and Miami Vice jacket. The Navy sailor standing on the waterfront. The boyfriend smiling with his blond-haired future wife, Nicole. The father, cradling his newborn in the hospital and later lifting her in the air for a kiss.

"With Lexy, you just saw that sparkle in his eye," friend Aaron Melvin said. He said Oulson reveled in being a dad. When Melvin and his wife were expecting, Oulson told him, "You're going to love this."

Oulson also had a keen sense of humor and was known for poking fun at his friends. But when they were in need, he would drop everything to help.

"Every time something funny happened in my life, the first person I wanted to tell was Chad," Melvin said.

Seen through the eyes of those close to him, Oulson viewed life as an extreme adventure, much like the motocross and boating he loved. While most parents gently push a stroller, Oulson could be seen pushing his daughter in the stroller "at 30 miles per hour," Melvin said.

Oulson also was quick to befriend a stranger. When his family moved to Pasco's Connerton neighborhood about three years ago, Saverio Mongelli said, one of the first friends they met was Oulson. With his heavy metal music blaring from his truck and his love for dirt bikes, he was different from Mongelli, who loved golf and gourmet food.

"He accepted me," Mongelli said.

Many an evening he would show up at Mongelli's door, beer in hand, saying "let's talk." The pair watched so much Jersey Shore together that they knew all the handshakes on the TV show.

"He really filled a void in our lives," Mongelli said.

No one at the service mentioned the name of Curtis Reeves Jr., the retired Tampa police officer charged with second-degree murder. Authorities said he got irritated over Oulson sending text messages to his 22-month-old daughter's caregiver during previews for Lone Survivor.

During an altercation, they said, Reeves took out a .380 handgun and shot Oulson in the chest. Nicole Oulson, who wore a dressing on her left arm Saturday, was injured as she stuck her hand in front of her husband.

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Wearing a black wrap-style dress and pearls, Nicole Oulson did not speak during the service but hugged those who formed a receiving line afterward. Lexy did not attend the service but was being cared for by a neighbor, said the family's attorney, TJ Grimaldi.

Mourners focused on the happy times they'd spent with Oulson. They cried as a trumpeter played taps and a Naval officer presented Nicole with the American flag that had been draped over his urn.

They urged everyone to enjoy life the way Chad Oulson did every day.

"If you have a day off," Melvin said, "Go get on a boat. Go ride your bike. Do something enjoyable. Don't just sit and let life pass you by."


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