As family and friends paid personal tributes to Nate Putz, Dean Frigo and Devin DeFauw last week, they can't help but notice the similarities the three young men shared.
They weren't relatives, and they didn't die on the same day, but the three men all were born July 25, 1989, were the youngest child in their families and had positive impacts on those around them, their parents said.
Their parents, Bill Putz, Nancy Frigo and Lauren DeFauw, all are real estate agents who own their own agencies.
Bill Putz said he, Frigo and DeFauw knew each other before their children died and became closer after their deaths.
"We all belong to a club we never wanted to join," he said.
Putz's son Nate died in June 2006 because of an undiagnosed congenital heart problem.
Nate Putz, of Crown Point, attended La Lumiere School in LaPorte, his father said, where he served as a positive role model for many of his peers.
He said after Nate Putz died, many parents approached him and said their children had considered dropping out of the school but decided not to because of Nate.
"I really couldn't be more proud of him," he said.
Bill Putz said he and his son enjoyed their time together, having long talks, playing cards and traveling.
"He loved being with his dad, and I loved being with him," Bill Putz said.
Dean Frigo, of Lowell, died in November 2006 after a car crash, said his mother, Nancy.
She said he was a scholar-athlete at Lowell High School and was on the football team that won the class 4A state championship in 2005.
"Dean always played his heart out," Nancy Frigo said.
He also always had a positive attitude, she said.
She said he even kept his positive attitude when Lowell lost to the Concord Minutemen in the 2006 regional championship, and he inspired his teammates to travel to Indianapolis to support the Minutemen in the state championship.
"He truly made a difference in so many lives," she said.
Devin DeFauw, of Chesterton, died in September 2006, also because of injuries he suffered in a car crash, said his mother, Lauren.
Lauren DeFauw said she also had a close relationship with her son.
"He and I just clicked," she said.
She said Devin DeFauw had a great sense of humor and always made the room brighter, no matter how bad her day was.
"The doom and gloom (was) replaced with humor and laughter," she said.
She said she often is asked if it is harder to cope with the loss of her son during the holidays, but it isn't any harder than any other day.
"Every day of the year was a holiday with Devin around," she said.
In addition to sharing the same birthday and having similar personalities, the three men also had a smile that gleamed with kindness, Nancy Frigo said.
She tells those who miss the three to be like the young men and "always keep smiling."