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Nikki Delamotte

Obituary for Nikki Delamotte

February 18, 1988 - November 12, 2018
Cleveland Heights, Ohio | Age 30

Loving Daughter, Cleveland's Best Friend

Obituary

The leaves changed colors late this year in Northeast Ohio. When the trees did finally turn from verdant green to brilliant yellow, orange and red, it felt like the entire region went outside to document the change.

On November 4, Nikki Delamotte wrote a public Facebook status noting she had been busy liking everyone's social media posts about the fall foliage. This was nothing new, of course: Nikki had the uncanny ability to acknowledge everyone's tweets and Facebook posts—and, even more improbably, she was almost always the first person to click that heart or like button, day or night. But this missive in particular was one of her occasional contemplative musings, in which she spilled what was on her mind.

"Nothing else signifies seasons changing in quite the same way where I live," she wrote. "I was never really someone who noticed or slowed down to appreciate that before, but 2018 taught me the velocity the world keeps moving at even when it feels like your whole world is standing still at the hard parts. (I guess I've also reached 'wish I had a pause button' age.)
"It's mundane and sentimental and completely boring, but with every season change I find myself thinking more and more about what we're leaving behind, especially as I'm starting to watch my friends have kids and those kids grow up," she continued. "A lot of those friends are doing really good things to make things better and it makes me feel at least a little bit better about all the pictures of fall, too."
Nikki would be the last person to admit this, much less say it out loud or write it, but she herself made things better every day for everyone she encountered—friends, family, strangers, social media acquaintances. She might do so by sharing a photo of a cute animal, sending a random funny text or direct message—many times appended with an emoji (or five) or the phrase "Omg"—or tagging a friend on a Facebook post she knew they'd like. In other cases, she might brighten someone's day simply by checking in to say hello, or to see how someone's cat was doing. She was always generous—with compliments, with story ideas, with gifts—and so very, very thoughtful.
These gestures were always sincere: Curious and inquisitive, she was genuinely interested in what other people had going on, and delighted in hearing about (and cheering on) their victories and achievements. But she was also there for friends when they were having a tough time. Nikki was a true-blue friend, a sounding board and advice-giver who always had some words of encouragement. She thought of others before she thought of herself.

Earlier this week, a good pal of Nikki's dubbed her "Cleveland's best friend." Few descriptions were more apt: Although there are certainly many cheerleaders and boosters of the city, Nikki relished talking about and championing the people and places many might not know about. And because she was such a talented writer, she covered the city for a variety of publications and organizations, including Cellar Door Cleveland, Fresh Water Cleveland, Thrillist, Cleveland Magazine and the Cleveland International Film Festival. She later spent time as contributing dining editor at Cleveland Scene and, for the last two-and-half-years, worked as an arts and culture reporter at Cleveland.com. She was the perfect person to write a book about Cleveland's nooks and crannies, called 100 Things to Do in Cleveland Before You Die, but she labored over her choices all the same.
That her Twitter bio prefaced her email address by asking people to send her "Tips, news, untold stories" was also perfect. Sure, Nikki wanted to know about new restaurants and coffee shops opening, cool underground music and arts events, and the awesome things being done by small business owners and makers. But she also wanted to hear about the lives of the people behind those endeavors: what made them tick, why they wanted to open a business, what drove them to create. She cared deeply about the people she profiled, and considered it a big responsibility to be the one tasked with telling their stories. Although her official title was "arts and culture reporter," she chronicled people's stories more like a historian or an anthropologist, with rich details that gave readers insights into her subjects.
Look no further than her own curated list of her favorite 2017 stories, shared as a Twitter thread. She profiled a hip-hop mental health advocate, Archie Green; Jamal Collins, who teaches after-school classes in graphic design to empower local youths; and Bianca Breed, who curates art shows in local ice cream shops. There's a story about a tiny art gallery in a pay phone booth, one about an organization bringing healthy food to urban neighborhoods, and one about a long-running house music dance night.
In 2018, she was immensely proud of a story she did on mental health and addiction in the restaurant industry—and how much it resonated in the community—and, more recently, she spent weeks designing a new series on safety, diversity and inclusivity in the arts scene with a colleague, Anne Nickoloff. She was deeply passionate about diversity, and diverse voices, and wanted to make sure everyone had a place at the proverbial table. That's certainly one reason why she adored volunteering at Lake Erie Ink, a writing-geared nonprofit dedicated to lifting up youth voices.
Unsurprisingly, Nikki also cared deeply about the quality of her stories: how things were worded, whether she quoted people correctly and had all of her facts straight, and whether the language she used was sensitive. She never hesitated to reach out and clarify a story point or ask others for advice on interview questions. Nikki always liked to have a second pair of eyes to look at her work—just in case—but she usually didn't need them. And, especially after she started at cleveland.com, her confidence bloomed: Her writing became richer, as she herself became bolder and even more fearless.
In the last year, Nikki started getting more serious about photography. She talked often about practicing taking photos, and was immensely proud of the professional and personal snapshots she was taking. Naturally, Nikki had good instincts and a sharp eye: The photos she took in recent months, in particular ones of her late grandma, captured the spirit of her subjects. Nikki loved her family fiercely. Every Christmas, she commissioned artists to create a piece of owl artwork for her grandma and something Einstein-themed for her mom, Jo, who has a wall of of Einstein art on display. She also often spoke fondly of a beloved late uncle Ron, who was a photographer-turned-artisan-baker. And she loved her long-term boyfriend, Bob, a fellow kind and thoughtful soul who shared her love of cats and music, humble personality, and irreverent humor.

To know Nikki is to know her love of cats—all kinds of cats, but especially black cats and tuxedo (in her parlance, "tuxie") cats. She and Bob had the good fortune to live with one tuxie, Phoebe Lee, as well as a gray-and-white kitty, Bailey. But Nikki adored all kinds of wildlife—otters and red pandas were other faves—and was a member of multiple Facebook groups geared toward cute animal photos and memes.

More than anything, Nikki made the world better simply by being herself. She had one of those inimitable laughs that was infectious and joyful, and for someone who sometimes claimed to be shy, she could talk about anything for hours. She thought deeply about everything, from the serious (e.g., politics, social issues, journalism) to the lighthearted (the meaning of Meat Loaf's "I'd Do Anything for Love (But I Won't Do That)" was one thing discussed on more than one occasion). And her interests were varied: She appreciated all kinds of music—although one of her favorite bands was R.E.M., whose song "Country Feedback" she adored—was very into Bob's Burgers, loved Calvin & Hobbes, appreciated all kinds of sweets and baked goods, and was thrilled to write about outer space and NASA on several occasions.

Nikki was also very funny, quick with puns and a witty turn of phrase, which is one reason why her social media presence was so charming. But her jokes were never mean or at anybody's expense. She was so kind, even and especially when nobody was looking, and went out of her way to make sure everybody in the community felt included. She would gently suggest messaging people privately to correct an error or address a slight, instead of calling people out in public. But Nikki was no pushover: She also had a strong moral compass, and every so often would write or say something that made it clear in no uncertain terms where she stood on a particular topic.

It's difficult to put into words what the world has lost now that Nikki's no longer here. She would sometimes joke about being short (#shortpeopleproblems, she might say), but her heart was so big and open—its capacity for generosity bottomless, really—and her voice so loud and strong, so much stronger and more influential than she even knew. At a candlelight vigil, her close friend Rachel Hunt called her a "spark." That description fit Nikki in so many ways—community catalyst, friend connector, culture booster—but also underscored that the amazing things she accomplished in her life will never be forgotten or fade away.

A Memorial Service will be held in celebration of Nikki's life on Saturday, November 24, at the Cleveland State University Student Center Grand Ballroom (3rd Floor), 2121 Euclid Ave., Cleveland, at 1PM. Friends may gather in the ballroom following the memorial
service. In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations be given in Nikki's name to Lake Erie Ink (lakeerieink.org) or Willowick Pet Food Pantry (facebook.com/WillowickPetFoodPantry).

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