While attending a graduation party in Falmouth on Saturday, Christopher Sweeney, 18, died in his sleep.
Christopher Joseph Sweeney loved to cook.
When he was just a boy of 7, Chris’s mother Jill remembers her son running down the stairs and into the kitchen, asking her about the meal she was preparing, and guessing at the ingredients.
When hanging out at a friend’s house, Christopher would often leave video game competitions behind, to head for the kitchen to cook up appetizing snacks for his buddies.
He worked at Cherrywoods Barbecue on Route 53 and at Black Rock Country Club in Hingham, and just last week, he fixed a memorable meal of baby back ribs for his family during a vacation trip they took to the Outer Banks of North Carolina.A member of Norwell High’s Class of 2007, Christopher was planning to begin his undergraduate study at Johnson & Wales University this fall, in the school’s culinary arts program. Those dreams came to an end this past weekend.
While attending a graduation party in Falmouth on Saturday, Christopher, who was 18, died in his sleep.
As of Tuesday of this week, the cause of his death was unknown.“He was a very good kid,” his father, Patrick Sweeney, said. “I called him my little buddy.”
Christopher is survived by his parents, his brother James and his sister Madison. He was the grandson of James and Jacqualine Moore of Chicago, and Rita Sweeney of Orlando, Florida and the late Joseph W. Sweeney, Jr.
Visiting hours will be held today (Thursday, July 26) at St. Helen’s Catholic Church in Norwell from 4-7 p.m. A funeral Mass will be held at the church tomorrow at 10 a.m. Interment will follow at the Washington Street Cemetery in Norwell.
In conversations this week, family members, a friend and a former employer described Christopher as a young man who was full of compassion, and full of humor. He loved music too, and as mentioned above, there was the cooking.
“He had a passion for it since he was little,” his mother Jill said. “He knew from day one that’s what he wanted to do. You could see he really got a kick out of it.”
As a gift, Christopher received his first chef’s hat when he was 8 years old, and pretty soon he was watching Emeril Lagasse and other chefs on television.
When experimenting with different foods, Christopher wouldn’t necessarily work from recipes, his mother said, but rather he’d experiment with various ingredients.
Christopher loved barbecuing and using spicy sauces, and whenever she did any traveling for work, Jill said she’d always return with a regional hot sauce for him.
“He didn’t want a T-shirt,” she said. “He wanted some hot sauce.”
“Some kids are musically inclined,” she added. “Some kids are ultimate athletes. (Christopher) just loved to cook.”
Ken Wisneski of Cherrywoods Barbecue in Norwell knew Christopher for about one year, as the teenager had begun to work for him at the Washington Street restaurant last summer.
“We had a lot of good times cooking together,” Wisneski said. “He was a great kid. He had some talent behind him.”
Christopher was eager to learn about the industry, and when working together, Wisneski taught him cooking styles from the South, and from New Orleans.
To prepare Christopher for the college coursework he was soon to face at Johnson & Wales, Wisneski said he taught him the basics of cooking and sanitation and some of the other elements of working as a chef.
“He had his heart set on cooking,” said Wisneski, who recalled that he had at first advised Christopher to take up another profession, such as the legal field, because of the difficulties of working professionally as a chef.
Christopher wasn’t buying.
“He just loved life and loved to cook,” Wisneski said. “He was just a good kid.”
Patrick Sweeney said his son recently landed a job at the Black Rock Country Club in Hingham where his position was “Grill master.”
“He was independent, and did good things,” his father said. “He had a good group of friends.”
One high school friend of Christopher’s described him as an extremely “fun” and positive person, who was a hard worker, a fan of music including bands like 311 and Incubus, and someone who enjoyed tossing the Frisbee around.
News of his passing came as a shock to everybody, the friend said.
In addition to the recent vacation trip he took with his family, Christopher had also recently taken part in his college’s orientation program. He was planning to attend an upcoming 311 concert with his friends.
His mother said Christopher also loved the English courses he took while at Norwell High, and he served as manager of the high school boys basketball team for two years. When he was younger, he played football and lacrosse. Outside of school, Christopher also did some volunteer work at the Norwell Council on Aging, and mowed the lawn and shoveled snow for a Norwell senior.
“He was just really a good kid, a good heart,” his mother said.
Christopher also had a sense of humor, his mother added, and he’d often employ that humor to help cheer up those around him. “He always liked to crack people up,” she said. “Teachers didn’t always appreciate that, but everyone else in his life did.”
A memorial scholarship fund has been set up in Christopher’s name, and will be used to help other students pursue their dreams of attending Johnson and Wales to study culinary arts. Donations can be made to The Christopher Joseph Sweeney Memorial Scholarship Fund, by sending checks c/o Morgan Stanley, Attn: Peter J. Dragonas, 125 High St., 24th floor, Boston, MA, 02110.