Student’s legacy lives on through fun memories

Josh Celli, junior criminal justice major, based a majority of his life on making sure his friends and family were always happy. Celli was killed in a traffic accident on Feb. 27, 2004.

Special to The Chart

Josh Celli, junior criminal justice major, based a majority of his life on making sure his friends and family were always happy. Celli was killed in a traffic accident on Feb. 27, 2004.

Jerry Manter

All Josh Celli ever wanted to do in life was make people smile and make them happy.

That’s all he wanted.

Josh loved making phone calls out of the blue to say hello to friends and family. Often he never had anything important to say, but people on the other end of the line always knew he was just checking in to see if they were OK.

And that’s what people loved about him.

“He would always check up on me,” said Kat Dzidic, Josh’s ex-girlfriend and one of his best friends. “He would say, ‘I’m just calling to see if you’re happy.'”

Even after Josh’s death, people that were closest to him still can’t keep themselves from smiling despite the pain. The memories of him were too grand and were always so memorable.

“That man knew how to love,” Dzidic said.

On Feb. 27, 2004, 20-year-old Josh Celli, a junior at Missouri Southern, was killed in a car accident on Highway 19 outside of Owensville, Mo. A semi-truck was making a left turn above a hill, which left Josh and his brother Joey Celli little time to react in their vehicle. Josh was killed on impact and 18-year-old Joey is in stable condition at a St. Louis hospital.

Although the sting of the tragedy is still with Dzidic, she’s doing everything possible to remember his laugh and all the times they shared together.

“Just look at this smile,” she said of a photo. “He was so full of life.”

Dzidic, senior psychology and French major, remembers one of the first encounters she had with Josh. She didn’t realize it at the time, but Josh was struck by Dzidic’s presence and her personality.

He later told Dzidic about the first time they met.

“I fell in love with you the first time I saw you,” Josh told Dzidic.

Mandy Rosa, Josh’s mother, said her son did everything possible to brighten the lives of everyone he knew.

“He wasn’t happy unless everyone else was happy,” Rosa said. “He wanted to touch people’s lives.”

And that’s exactly what he did.

“He wanted people to be happy,” Rosa said.

Dzidic, an exchange student from Croatia, said she and Josh spent a great deal of time together. Whether it was offering a ride, lending support or just being a good friend, he was always there for her.

For a majority of their relationship, they were inseparable. During semester break, Dzidic went home to Croatia. He flew to her home country to visit her.

“I appreciated every second I had with him,” Dzidic said.

Although Dzidic is trying her best to completely focus on the time and the friendship she’s had with Josh, she said it’s still going to be hard. Some of the memories are going to hurt. Phone messages from Josh are still on her cell phone. A park bench in Croatia has their initials marked together.

“Even if I don’t find anyone again at least I know I had true love,” she said. “He taught me how to love.”

J.J. Spurlin, assistant professor of criminal justice and Josh’s adviser, said Josh would constantly visit him in his office.

“Every time he came in my office he always had a smile and a new story,” Spurlin said. “I will really miss him.”

Laura Pruitt, Josh’s aunt, remembers Josh as a caring person.

“He would always call people and ask how they are doing,” Pruitt said. “I’m going to miss that phone call.”

Pruitt read a journal entry of Josh’s from his time at a summer recreation program in Texas.

He was 15 years old at the time: “I like music, pretty ladies, bowling, my hair, my stereo and pretty ladies.”

And it’s that type of humor that Pruitt will always remember.

“He was always making you laugh,” Pruitt said.

Dzidic said it’s going to be hard for the next couple of months. She’s graduating in May and she and Josh had always talked about the big day and how he was going to be there in the stands cheering her on.

“I don’t know how I’m going to graduate,” she said. “I knew he was going to be there.”

Although graduation is going to be a difficult time for Dzidic, she said she was lucky to have been able to spend so much time with a person that touched her heart in so many ways. She said she’s thankful for her relationship she had with Josh.

She knows he will still be there cheering for her on graduation day.

And that means the world to her.

“People who didn’t know Josh missed out,” she said. “He had the power to make everything all right and make you smile.”