'Time to cry': Community honors prof who died defending friend

SHORELINE, Wash. - Troy Wolff, the Shoreline Community College professor who died defending his friend from a random knife attack in Seattle's Pioneer Square, was remembered at a memorial service Sunday.

And his friends and family expressed hope that this tragic loss could help make the community safer for others.

Professor Wolff's family asked that his memorial service be held on the Shoreline campus, where the high-energy, optimistic teacher inspired so many.

Colleagues and students, friends and relatives came to remember all the good things. But Wolff's murder has also ignited a discussion about what our community might do to protect others in the future.

"This is our time to cry, to grieve - but also to celebrate," said Interim College President Daryl Campbell.

English professor Troy Wolff couldn't help but lift those around him.

"Troy was very sunny, warm and had a beautiful, welcoming smile," history professor Amy Kinsel says.

So many of his students loved the man.

"I feel sad because he was a good teacher," says student Won Sung Hei Max.

The senseless and random circumstances by which they lost their beloved teacher makes coping that much more difficult.

Wolff died the night of Sept. 13 when a self-described mentally ill man attacked with a knife while Wolff and his partner, Kristin Ito, walked through Pioneer Square on their way home from a Seattle Sounders game.

"For somebody so full of life to die so tragically is really hard," says Kinsel.

The attack has raised serious questions about crime and mental illness - and whether our community is devoting adequate resources to treat those who need help, and whether the city of Seattle is doing enough about both.

On Sunday it was football fans who walked the sidewalks around the scene of the tragedy.

Seattle Seahawks fan Brandon Yu says, "Pioneer Square is just an area I'm not really comfortable going at nighttime, period. ... It's a shame, really, that we have to look twice sometimes - that we have to look behind our shoulder. It's a necessity, you know, but it's a shame."

Friends and colleagues at Troy Wolff's memorial service said this gathering is about memories and love, not a forum to discuss social problems. But Wolff's death could very well lead to changes that may help others.

"I think those are really important conversations for all of us to have as a community as a city, as a state," says Campbell.

Troy Wolff's family asked that news teams respect their privacy and remain outside the service - and they didn't want to be interviewed.

Wolff's mother did tell KOMO News that she feels compassion for the mentally ill - and hopes the loss of her son will inspire a renewed focus on dealing with this complex problem.