Friends, family remember Zamora’s ‘energetic’ life


By Charlotte Collins

He was a dancer, he was a musician, he was multilingual and he was a writer. He carried the same passion and fire with him to everything he tried, his family and friends said.

“He would always say you have to know a lot of languages, play instruments,” said Jeannie Douglas of her late nephew, 2014 University graduate Cristian Zamora, whose body was found Friday in Crystal Lake Park after having been missing since Dec. 31.

Douglas babysat Zamora and his siblings and lived closely with his family in Humboldt Park in Chicago.

“He used to play a lot of instruments, which we didn’t know. He knew how to play the violin, he knew how to play the piano,” Douglas said. “Things that you would never think … the violin, something that to us was so romantic, so passionate. Once he gave himself to something, he would master it to perfection. He was like that; he was a go-getter.”

Zamora graduated from the University in May after studying east Asian cultures and returned to Champaign to work part-time at Jimmy John’s. According to his mother, Sandra Carrion, another reason her son cited for staying in Champaign after graduation was to work on a book with a University professor.

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    “He was so happy. He was telling me ‘I got one more week at Jimmy John’s, I’m going to write this book, you’re going to be in my book,’” said Carrion of her son’s plans. “‘You’ll see. It’s going to be a surprise.’”

    A memorial for Zamora will take place Thursday at Alvarez Funeral Home in Chicago, according to a Facebook page run by family and friends that was initially dedicated to search efforts and updates. The page also said they will hold a dancing or “tricking” tribute Thursday to “invite the b-boying/tricking/dancing community to perform in his honor.” Zamora was very passionate about dancing and actively participated in a tricking club on campus.

    Douglas said she wants to thank the community and friends of her nephew for helping search for him and for raising awareness about his disappearance. The page is currently being used for friends and family to post memorial information and share thoughts, videos and photos of Zamora.

    Douglas thanked friends for posting videos and photos, adding the family will cherish those memories.

    “We want to thank the public, we want to thank law enforcement, we want to thank every single person in the community of Champaign-Urbana and even here in Chicago that helped us with the search, that helped us raise awareness, that took the time out of their busy schedule, even when it was below zero, they went out with us to post flyers,” Douglas said.

    Cody Jones, junior in LAS and Zamora’s former roommate, said Zamora’s energy and optimism was contagious. They met through their mutual interest of trick-style dancing.

    “I was around him every day. There was hardly any time that he would ever be down or everything,” said Jones. “He was just a happy guy.”

    A memorial fund for Zamora’s burial service has been set up by his mother at By press time, the fundraiser was $4,293 into its $10,000 goal.

    Brian Kung, a 2011 University graduate who also met Zamora through their mutual love of dance, said he believes his friend brought a certain warmth and optimism with him everywhere he went.

    “Chris had all the characteristics of a flame, a bright flame in our lives,” Kung said. “He would light a place up, he would bring warmth, he was extremely kindhearted. Whether it was in dance, breakdancing or tricking, he was always there. He was always getting people moving.”

    As for his legacy, Douglas hopes those who knew Zamora can take his ambition for life and apply it to their own.

    “I think people can learn from him to never give up,” said Douglas. “Follow their dreams, follow their goals … the sky is the limit. He wanted to write a book, he would write a book. To him, nothing was impossible. That was him.”

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