Giancarlo Vigil, a Fort Lewis College graduate who founded the Matè Exchange, will be remembered by family and friends for his inexhaustible positivity and the kindness he brought to each and every interaction.
Vigil died March 31 by suicide. He was 23.
His mother, Denise DeLuzio Vigil, said the outpouring of support from the Durango community has been overwhelming. She’s spent the last seven days in Durango, talking to Vigil’s friends and seeing the places he called home.
“All the things he loved about life were here in Durango,” she said.
“I’ve learned so much about him in the last 48 hours. Most of the stuff people said I already knew, but the extra stuff, like what he did and how he carried himself in the community ... he was devoted to everybody but himself.”
Vigil grew up in Arvada and attended Fort Lewis College to play football and be close to prime areas for camping and hiking.
But throughout his life, DeLuzio Vigil said, her son was more interested in academics, graduating FLC with honors in 2015.
While spending a semester abroad in Argentina, Vigil, an economics major, discovered yerba matè, a South American herbal tea known for its naturally higher levels of caffeine than regular tea, and fell in love with it.
When he returned, Vigil decided to start a company to bring yerba matè to Durango, sourcing the herbal tea from organic growers in Brazil and presenting it in traditional fashion.
His business won Fort Lewis College’s inaugural “Hawk Tank” competition and was accepted into SCAPE, a six-month program that provides $30,000 in seed funding and mentorship.
He opened a small shop in Durango at Fitness Solutions 24/7, where owner Don Roberts said he tried to memorize the names of the gym’s 500-plus members.
“He didn’t care if they bought tea, he just wanted to get to know them,” Roberts said. “He was always interested in what people were doing and genuinely cared about them. We’re still in disbelief.
“It’s just hard to comprehend.”
DeLuzio Vigil talked to her son over the phone two days before he died. The two had discussed starting a fundraising campaign to raise money to start bottling yerba matè.
But around 10:30 p.m. on March 31, Vigil’s roommate found the 23-year-old dead at their rented home in Tween Lakes Estates, a subdivision near Lemon Reservoir, off County Road 240.
According to La Plata County Coroner Jann Smith, Vigil died of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound. She said the death was ruled a suicide.
According to family and friends, Vigil never showed signs of depression or suicidal tendencies. Instead, he was a constant light of positivity and many described him as the “life of the party.”
What led to him ending his own life will remain a mystery, his mother said. He did not leave a note.
“He was so loved,” she said. “I just don’t have any idea.”
DeLuzio Vigil said over the past few months, her son felt stretched thin with the demands of starting a business.
To keep the Matè Exchange financially afloat, he took a second job at Steamworks Brewing Company. As a result, most days he’d work from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. between both jobs, sleeping little.
That stress may have been compounded by other outside influences, which his mother suspects may be tied to drug use.
She said she hopes to use this tragic experience with her son to help prevent someone else from taking their own life.
“The suicide rate here is sick, but nobody ever talks about that,” she said.
“I’m not ashamed of what my son did, but I am horrified by it. I want to help this community heal the darkness that’s creeping into the light.”
A GoFundMe campaign has been started in honor of Vigil, his mother said.
According to Smith, Vigil’s death is the sixth suicide this year in La Plata County, compared to three suicides at this time last year.
“That’s alarming to me,” Smith said.
A memorial service for Vigil will be held April 24 at the Foothills Community Church in Arvada. DeLuzio Vigil said a time has not been set.