Remembering Robert Clifford
Family, friends and members of the University of Massachusetts community grieve over the loss of Robert “Bobby” Clifford, the 25-year-old Plymouth and Amherst resident studying plants, soil and insect sciences at UMass, who died last Thursday after sustaining injuries from a car accident.
Clifford is remembered by friends as a fiercely outgoing, dynamic and intensely positive individual. Clifford’s diverse interests had led to hundreds of friendships and relationships with people who are now devastated by his death.
He is survived by his father Stephen Clifford, sister Sarah Clifford, mother Wendy Clifford and stepfather Robby Connors.
“He pushed everything to the limit in a good way,” said Clifford’s hometown best friend Dan Armenio, 24. “He made me do things that I never thought I would do. I was a really conservative person, and he pushed me to go past that boundary and get out of my comfort zone. He got me to go skydiving one time, and it was an amazing trip.”
“He was such a great friend, a true friend,” said Armenio.
Clifford followed his passion for agriculture and nature at UMass and in his personal life as a beloved brother and former vice president of the local Alpha Tau Gamma fraternity and lifelong gardener.
Last spring, Clifford, an honors student, received his associate’s degree in fruit and vegetable crops from the University’s Stockbridge School of Agriculture; his fraternity is the Stockbridge school’s fraternity. He graduated from Plymouth South High School.
“He was just extremely charming and charismatic, with anybody on any level,” said his fraternity “twin brother” Jordan Borges. “He was very personable and just really happy and fun loving. His whole goal in life was to bring people together so they could all have a good time.”
Hundreds attended a candlelight vigil outside of ATG in Clifford’s honor last Thursday.
“He’s the kind of guy you don’t forget,” said Will Saltus, a close friend and co-worker of Clifford’s at Mass Electronic Dance Music Community, [EDMC] a company that promotes and organizes electronic music concerts.
“His whole outlook was to never be afraid of doing anything – whether it was talking to someone or having to get on stage and make a speech, just don’t be afraid, just be confident,” said Borges.
Clifford took his confidence on stage often as an active member in the electronic music community.
“He is the most outgoing person I know,” said Saltus. “He is an extrovert. He is just genuinely interested in different types of people, where they come from and what makes them different … just the most approachable guy, who had no problem going up to someone he doesn’t know and talking to them.”
Clifford was Mass EDMC’s promotional director, in charge of promoting all of the company’s upcoming concert bookings. With long, dark dreadlocks and an affinity for concert crowd surfing and “outrageous outfits” like his trademark neon jumpsuit, Clifford often stood out in a crowd.
“Ninety out of the 100 days of a year he’s wearing a neon Mass EDMC shirt or some other memorable outfit,” said Saltus.
Saltus called him the “face of Mass EDMC,” and said Clifford’s passion for music was immense.
“[He] changed the whole electronic scene at UMass,” said Saltus. “He had an effect everywhere, we booked shows everywhere. Even if you talked to him for five seconds, you’d know who he is.”
“Not to mention he was on stage for many of these events with CO2 guns and a Jason mask on,” said Saltus.
“He branded himself at UMass. People called him the ‘Rager.’ He had so many nicknames, and he loved music that was intense – he would say that he loved music that ‘always hits you in the face’ – music that was just party status,” continued Saltus.
Clifford tattooed the phrase “WOMP” to his inner bottom lip; it’s a tattoo that illustrated his love for dubstep music.
Both Saltus and Clifford’s best friend of 10 years, Tamreh Herlihy, said Clifford wanted to share his passion for music with every person he met.
“He loved music in general,” said Herlihy, who also formerly dated Clifford and is from Plymouth. “He was one of those friends in high school who was always buying everyone concert tickets. He would buy a bunch and get all his friends to go.”
“He was always making me mixed CDs … I could trace my relationship with Bobby through all the music and phases we went through and loved together,” she said.
During his early college years, Clifford tried to play several instruments, such as the guitar, drums and violin.
“He knew he was supposed to be involved with music, but it was like he couldn’t figure out how … [he] started going to music festivals with me, and actually when he saw deadmau5, he started getting into electronic music,” said Herlihy.
The electronic producer deadmau5 remained one of Clifford’s favorite artists over the last three years, and the night of the car accident, Clifford was traveling on his way home from Connecticut having just seen the artist play. Mass EDMC, in part because of Clifford’s efforts, is hosting deadmau5 at UMass this Saturday.
Herlihy remembers Clifford buying his neon jumpsuit from Ocean State Job Lot for a trip to the Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival in Manchester, Tenn. two years ago.
“He was such a hit at the festival,” said Herlihy. “He just had the time of his life, and that fall he went back to Amherst and just started wearing [the jumpsuit] out to Divas night club. People loved it.”
Clifford would ask artists booked by Mass EDMC to sign his jumpsuit. According to Saltus, Mass EDMC will continue to ask artists to sign the jumpsuit in memory of Clifford. “It’s a symbol among us and the electronic community,” he said.
Shortly after returning to Amherst last year, Clifford met Mass EDMC’s Adam Liderman and became enchanted with the idea of promoting for the company.
“Once Bobby finds something he loves, he goes all out,” said Herlihy. “Bobby had found something he had loved [in Mass EDMC], this music and this scene just felt so right for him. It was his whole life.”
“So then he got into the scene and it became such a VIP thing,” continued Herlihy. “The shows, the parties, and the girls and everything, I knew he was a deep person, so I would challenge him, asking, ‘What’s this really all about? Is this scene fake?’”
Herlihy said that Clifford would say “it’s all about the music, about bringing people together.”
Clifford told Herlihy that he envisioned himself in front of a thousand people all screaming and having the same moment to the music with each other.
“His profile picture is him on stage in front of a thousand people,” said Herhily. “He got something he wanted so badly.”
“Bobby was my best friend, my soul mate,” said Herhily. “I loved him so much … we pushed each other so much, and we grew out of those experiences.”
“He loved life,” said Saltus. “He was the most down to earth person I know and he was so in touch with the world … he was a nature major who grew plants and appreciated all the small things.”
“His love and acceptance was inspiring,” said Herhily. “He wanted to be friends with everyone and really bring people together.”
“It’s going to be a lot different without him being here,” said Saltus. “He was so genuine about his care for other people … He was always a loving person.”
Alyssa Creamer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.