By James Kelley
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Wednesday October 16, 2002
Smiling and racing were common traits friends and fraternity members used to describe economics senior Erik Baumgartner, as they recalled his friendly nature and passion for off-road racing.
UA student Erik Steven Baumgartner, 21, died in an auto accident on North Greasewood Road between West Broadway Boulevard and West Anklam Road at about 3 a.m. on Saturday, along with Michael Turner Woods, a 2002 UA graduate.
Baumgartner, a member of Sigma Alpha Epsilon, was from Lakeside, Calif.
"He was nice. He always had a smile every time I saw him," said marketing senior John Drachman, one of Baumgartner's pledge brothers. "He was just a great guy. He never said a mean word about anybody and he was really into racing."
Baumgartner wanted to race vehicles professionally and wanted to keep everyone happy, said engineering senior Rusty Mitchell, Baumgartner's big brother at Sigma Alpha Epsilon and a family friend.
"He came off as a shy person, but once you got to know him he was very nice and liked off-road racing," said Mitchell. "It's good to say I knew him."
"Erik Baumgartner was a senior member of Sigma Alpha Epsilon who is much loved and will be missed," said SAE president Colin Brown. "During his three years at the University of Arizona he depicted the values we believe and was a true gentleman."
Baumgartner graduated from El Capitan High School in Lakeside and had worked summers and after school for the real estate firm Corky McMillin Companies in National City, Calif.
Baumgartner's father, Ken, also worked for Corky McMillin. The Baumgartner family and McMillin raced off-road together, said Scott McMillin.
"He was a nice young man with his whole life ahead of him. He was positive and friendly and had a lot of friends," Scott McMillin said. "My favorite memory of him was when he won his first race. His family teased him and made him take another lap, and then we doused him with champagne."
Baumgartner, who always brought other UA students with him when he went back to race, never really stopped racing competitively - he just did not have enough time to, Scott McMillin said.
"He last raced in 2001. He never did stop racing, but it is a huge time commitment and he had to balance it with school," he said.
Another family friend, Mark McMillin, has memories of Baumgartner racing in the desert.
"He was always smiling, always had a grin, was very happy and mechanically orientated. He built his own dune buggy," said Mark McMillin, brother of Scott McMillin. "He was a real gentleman. His whole family is."
SAE is also taking steps to remember Baumgartner, Brown said.
"The chapter plans on dedicating a plaque in his memory and members will be attending his service in San Diego to be there for the family and allow them to know he was passionate and was loved," Brown said.
Baumgartner is survived by his father, his mother Bonnie and his older sister, Nikki.
Services are schedule for Friday, Oct. 18, at 11 a.m. at the Lakeside Community Presbyterian Church, 9908 Channel Road.
In lieu of flowers, the family has requested that donations be made to the San Diego Foundation for the benefit of "The Erik Steven Baumgartner Memorial Foundation," 1420 Kettner Blvd., Suite 500, San Diego, CA, 92101.