Carmen Sorice always knew his outgoing, handsome son was popular.
He never knew, though, exactly how many people truly cared about Nicholas Sorice until his son died last Wednesday, his body unceremoniously dumped on a curb in Colonia by a man who was arrested for lying to police when they asked how Nick met his end.
"When Nick passed, the reaction was mind blowing," said his grieving father. "The funeral home said they ran out of prayer cards, and I had had them print twice as many as they suggested. We had 4 or 5 police cars in the funeral procession. There was more than 50 cars, maybe 100, to go to the cemetery.
"Nick touched people in a way that was so unique. He had hundreds of people who loved him," he said.
It's 2:30 in the early morning when Carmen is talking, and despite the roller coaster ride he's been on since he got the news, Carmen isn't tired. He cares about one thing: he wants people to know who his son was.
Carmen talked about a spontaneous candlelit vigil at the site where Nick's body was discovered by a passing motorist. Dozens of people turned out.
Nick's friends constructed a brick memorial there, with all the bricks filled now with magic markered inscriptions to their friend.
"You should see it. Teddy bears, candles, and flowers. There's not a bare spot on any of the bricks where someone hasn't written something nice about Nick," Carmen said with a sort of warm pride.
And then there was his wake: more than 400 people showed up. "They couldn't get them all in. People wanted to come and tell me personally how Nick touched their lives," Carmen said.
He heard from one friend, a Hindu by faith, who marveled at how Nick taught him to do the sign of the cross, a ritual of prayer in the Catholic religion. "Nick wanted to learn more about Hinduism," Carmen said.
Then there was the time in New York when father and son were visiting. "Nick saw a homeless man. He gave him the last $20 he had in his wallet. I asked him, why did you do that? He had sympathy for the man," his father said.
Nick was a 2002 graduate of Colonia High School. The 26-year-old had two children he left behind, as well as his mother and Carmen's wife, Angela, and two siblings - a sister, Alexa, and a brother, C.J.
Carmen said his son had just returned from Florida. He worked sporadically at landscaping and in his home-based music studio, but the thing that was occupying him the most was what his father called "his challenges" - Nick's substance abuse problem.
Carmen doesn't deny Nick's drug abuse.
"I'm not looking to make anyone a saint. We're not trying to sugarcoat it," Carmen said.
But the thing he wants people to remember is that his son was not a body dumped on a street, and not a drug addict, but a warm, considerate, intelligent, and kind young man who, as Carmen said, "never hurt anyone in his whole life."
"He had huge challenges. He had a disease to overcome," Carmen said with conviction. "But that didn't stop him from being a great person."
"Nick had time to spread love and love people. When you talk to 50 people and 49 say the same kind of thing, that's pretty awesome," he said.
"I had no idea how many lives my son had touched."