He came from a tight-knit family and was one of five inseparable brothers. He set weightlifting records at West Milford High School that may never be broken and nearly carried the football team on his back during most of his three years on varsity.
An immense community this weekend began mourning the death of Tristan Bakalian, 21, of Hewitt, who fell off the back of a jet ski on Upper Greenwood Lake and never resurfaced.
Authorities were alerted around 11:30 p.m. Friday.
A search of the lake that included a New Jersey State Police boat and helicopter yielded no results. Divers from an NJSP T.E.A.M.S unit recovered his body after daylight broke Saturday.
A funeral fundraiser posted by a family member on Facebook called Tristan James Bakalian, West Milford Highlander Class of 2018, an "extraordinary person, a brother, son, grandson, and friend....He was 21 years old, with his whole life ahead of him.
"Tristan was the most selfless, kind-hearted soul on this earth with so much to give in this world. His mother and father, Diana and Ron Bakalian had a relationship with their son that you cannot even put into words.
"As a matter of fact, Tristan didn't have a normal relationship with anybody. Tristan had a way about him that made you feel special, the kind of kid that would pull his friend's mother over on the highway, just to give her a hug (and he has done that before).
"He was a role model to the community and a leader in all aspects of life and aspired to be great and succeeded whether it was on the football field, in the electrical field or in the gym."
Tristan was a powerful running back, a wrestler and a competitive bodybuilder.
The fundraiser called Tristan a "spectacle of life who touched so many poeple with just the smirk on his face" and a family man "who would give the shirt off of his back to anybody."
"Tristan also had an unforgettable childhood with 5 brothers, Joshua, Sebastian, Steven, Ron, and Nikolus," it says. "If you knew them growing up, you knew that you wouldn't be able to see just one of them alone. They stuck together regardless if they were in the gym or out and about grabbing ginger ale for their parents.
"It was just like that, a very close-knit family no matter what.
"Tristan was loved by so many people," it adds. "He found the love of his life a few years ago at a young age and they stuck together up until the day he was gone."
"It is a very difficult time for us all as we mourn our baby brother, son and grandson. We cannot put into words the pain we feel and forever will feel, but we do know that Tristan is our angel now and he will forever fly high and watch over us as he did while he was here for the short amount of time that he had.
"We cannot thank everybody enough for all of the support you continue to give our family and all of the prayers that were spoken. We appreciate all of the love that has come our way and would like to acknowledge the gratitude towards you."
A sunset candelight vigil drew 100 or so people to the Upper Greenwood Lake boat launch Saturday night.
The fundraiser's initial goal was $10,000.
Nearly $15,000 was raised in less than a day, with 15 days remaining on the post.
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