SOMERVILLE, NJ – Students and staff at Somerville High School are grieving over the death of 17-year-old senior Dmitri Vincent Phelps who passed away at home in Branchburg surrounded by family Jan. 20.
“Dmitri was a brilliant kid,” said Jerry Foley, SHS principal. “He spoke several languages and he was really big into the model United Nations program and learning about different cultures. I can’t say enough about this kid,” Foley added.
The young man had been fighting an aggressive form of brain cancer for the past year, according to the obituary information provided by Branchburg Funeral Home. He had lived in Branchburg with his family the past 13 years.
He had been unable to attend school the past several months, according to Foley.
“I went over the intercom Monday and we observed a moment of silence,” Foley said.
“The kids have been handling it very well; the mood is somber and we do anticipate that Friday and Saturday will be very difficult for everyone.”
Viewing will be held Friday, Jan. 26 from 5-8 p.m. and Saturday Jan. 27 from 11:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m., followed by a service from 12:30-1:30 p.m. The visitations and the funeral service will be held at Branchburg Funeral Home, 910 US Highway 202 South, Branchburg, NJ 08876. Interment will follow at 2 p.m. Saturday at St. Bernard Cemetery in Bridgewater.
His obituary reads, in part:
“Dmitri was a senior at Somerville High School, and was a member of the National Honor Society, Model United Nations, and Academic Team. He was Tri-Lingual in English, Russian, and French, and was learning his fourth language - Spanish. Dmitri was extremely interested in International Politics and planned to become an international lawyer and work at the United Nations.
“Dmitri loved swimming, playing baseball and basketball, and traveling internationally. His best friend was his younger brother Sasha. Dmitri was always trying to further his knowledge and make his friends laugh, mostly at the expense of those who failed in trying to further their own knowledge. He had a very kind heart and will be missed tremendously by all who knew and loved him.
“Surviving are his beloved parents, Olga and Vincent Phelps of Branchburg, NJ, his loving brother Sasha; his maternal grandparents, Irina and Sergei Manyakhin and his maternal great-grandmother Galina Bogomolova of St. Petersburg, Russia; his paternal grandmother, Bunny Phelps of Cincinnati, Ohio; and many wonderful friends.
Foley said the school community has reached out to him about memorializing their classmate but Foley said he wants to be respectful of the family’s wishes.
“Club advisors, teachers are coming to me because the kids are coming to them,” Foley said. “We’re going to do something, but right now we want to grieve, wait for the wounds to heal a little bit and get through all of that,” he explained. “We really don’t want to do anything before sitting down with the mother and father. We have some ideas, but we want to respect their wishes, see what they want us to do or not do,” Foley added.
“Everyone wants to do something; I’ve had the yearbook students come to me, the National Honor Society. I know his mother has set up a GoFundMe site for donations which will be given to a charity in his memory at a future time.”
Foley also said that counselors at the school are on standby to meet with students.
“If somebody wants to talk, the teachers are well informed and we have resources at our disposal on how to deal with these kinds of situations; if a conversation comes up in class, they’re ready to help the kids; the staff has been affected by this as well,” Foley said.
Memorial contributions may be made in Dmitri's memory to