By Rachel Morford, news staff
Robert Peterson, a senior at Northeastern best known for his enthusiasm, sincerity and passions in gaming and music, died unexpectedly on Feb. 10 in Boston. He was 23 years old.
Known as Bobby to his friends, Peterson was set to graduate in May with a major in computer engineering and a minor in English. In addition to being an engineer, Peterson had a great range of interests and talents, including gaming, singing and writing.
“How can I sum up a person as big as Bobby? I can’t,” Emily Lydic, Peterson’s former girlfriend and a Massachusetts Institute of Technology alumna, said in an e-mail to The News. “He cried openly at romantic movies—and at Star Wars. He got really excited about dogs. He was warm, loud and always in motion. He was generous. He was gentle. He was stubborn. He wanted to protect vulnerable people from harm. Bobby Peterson was so, so alive. He was good.”
Peterson was born Dec. 27, 1993, in Guilford, Connecticut. He graduated in 2012 from Xavier High School, an all-boys college preparatory school in Middletown, Connecticut, where he competed on the school’s wrestling team—a sport he pursued at Northeastern as a member of the Wrestling Club.
He enrolled at Northeastern in 2012 and completed three co-ops during his college career: The most recent of which was an electrical engineering co-op at Communications and Power Industries, a company in Beverly, Massachusetts, that globally distributes parts used to transmit microwave signals for military and scientific pursuits. He also completed co-ops as an information technology help desk technician at the Kraft Group in Foxborough, Massachusetts, and as a lab technician at State Street Corporation in Quincy, Massachusetts.
Peterson’s friend and roommate Alli Cucalon remembered him for his energy and enthusiasm.
“When Bobby was in a good mood, he just got so excited about the tiniest things,” said Cucalon, a senior psychology and biology double major at Northeastern. “He was just the most entertained, energetic person you’ve ever met.”
Andrea Diaz, Peterson’s other roommate, similarly emphasized Peterson’s infectious happiness.
“Whenever he got excited, he used to do this weird dance where he would put his arms up in the air and wiggle them around, like they were noodles,” said Diaz, a senior majoring in professional music at Berklee College of Music. “And it was very funny. He was a good kid. I miss him.”
Cucalon said Peterson’s interests were expansive. In addition to robotics and computer engineering, he was a devoted member of many fandoms.
“He was beyond obsessed with Star Wars,” Cucalon said. “He had a Star Wars RPG [Role Playing Game] group with a lot of our mutual friends.”
In an e-mail sent to the Northeastern community, College of Engineering Dean Nadine Aubry noted Peterson’s interest in music.
“He had a passion for engineering, but was also passionate about music,” Aubry wrote. “As he said at the beginning of his college career, ‘Music pervades every aspect of my life […] There is nowhere I go without it.’”
This sentiment was echoed by Diaz, who said Peterson often went to karaoke on Saturday nights with friends. Diaz bonded with Peterson over their shared enthusiasm for song.
“Bobby liked to sing, a lot,” Diaz said. “He would just sing to me sometimes, and ask me if he was doing okay.”
A dedicated and accomplished gamer, Peterson woke up at 3 a.m. on at least one occasion to hunt Pokémon with the Pokémon GO app, Diaz said. He worked for more than two years as a chief reporter for Team Dignitas, a U.K.-based international eSports team that professionally competes in video games including Call of Duty 4, Command and Conquer, World in Conflict and Counterstrike. There, he interviewed viewers and gamers at eSports gaming events.
Every Monday, Peterson would meet with his team to play Warhammer 40K, a tabletop miniature wargame, at Pandemonium Books & Games in Cambridge. It was there that Peterson met Lydic, a lab manager at Harvard University who also worked part-time as a Pandemonium Books & Games sales associate. Like his other friends, Lydic appreciated Peterson’s guile in the face of grim circumstance.
“What made him the most excited was when he won a game against all odds—when the situation was dire but the dice came up in his favor,” Lydic said. “At the store, I could hear him bellowing from downstairs when he won, and I’d yell for him to keep it down, but I loved it.”
Peterson was known to be incredibly caring, even with individuals he did not know well. Many of his friends have memories of him offering comfort after they were dismayed by the election of President Donald J. Trump.
“The day of the elections, I got home and Bobby was in his room, and he was really anxious and sad about how things were turning out. And since I’m Latina—I’m Mexican—he hugged me really hard,” Diaz said. “And he said that he was going to stand by me no matter what. And that he wasn’t going to let anyone scare me or frighten me or do anything bad to me. He was going to protect me.”
Peterson’s compassion complemented his willingness to show and feel a great range of emotions. On a date together, Lydic and Peterson decided to watch “When Harry Met Sally.” As the movie reached its end, Lydic noticed the happy conclusion’s impact on Peterson.
“I saw that Bobby’s cheeks were wet and teasingly asked if he was crying,” Lydic said. “I thought he’d deny it, but instead, he laughed and said accusingly, ‘Why aren’t you crying?’ That was the moment I knew he was really special.”
Peterson is survived by his father, William P. Peterson; his mother, Lisa C. Peterson; his sister, Lucy P. Peterson; and many aunts, uncles and cousins. Grief counseling is available for Northeastern students through WeCare and University of Health and Counseling Services.
Photo courtesy Legacy.com