Friends of the 34-year-old Bluffton Realtor who was killed by an alleged drunk driver on Friday said he had found his place in the world when he moved to Bluffton.
Cullen Mieczkowski, who had lived in the Lowcountry since 2013, was originally from Willowick, Ohio, a small city on Lake Erie that is a northern suburb of Cleveland, according to his Facebook page. He attend Cleveland State University, according to his profile page.
“He really found his stride in life down here,” Mieczkowski’s work partner Nanie Ingram said on Monday. The pair often started their mornings together for the past 2 1/2 years, selling new houses at Hampton Lake for K. Hovnanian Homes, she said.
“I could always rely on him to make the day better,” she said. On particularly tough days he’d always tell her, “Let’s hug it out,” she said.
Now that he’s gone, Ingram said his humility probably wouldn’t have allowed him to see how many lives he has touched.
“He was very unassuming,” Ingram said. “He wouldn’t believe all of the people who are mourning him.”
Mieczkowski loved Bluffton, Ingram said. He used to tell her “we live and work in paradise,” she said. He moved to the area shortly after his parents moved to Sun City, she said.
Other friends and colleagues remembered his smile and fun-loving nature.
“He was one of those guys who was always happy to see you and you were always happy to see him,” friend and former co-worker Bill Kelly said on Monday. Kelly met Mieczkowski when they worked together at Dunes Real Estate. The two remained close and Kelly said he would miss spending time with Mieczkowski and hearing him say “Hey, buddy!”
“He was very proud of his family,” Kelly said. They are close-knit clan who also recently suffered the loss of Mieczkowski’s maternal grandmother, he said. His mother, Kelly said, is “absolutely devastated.”
Mieczkowski was trained as a Realtor at Keller Williams Realty in the fall of 2013 and began working at Dunes Real Estate in early 2014, his friend Lori Bee said Monday. She specifically remembered her first conversation with him in October of 2013, when he was getting ready to move down to the Lowcountry. He was, she said, delighted to be relocating here.
“(He) excelled at everything he did, from golf to real estate,” Bee said on Monday. “I will treasure (his) last words and hug, which he never failed to give. I loved him like a little brother and was so proud of him. He loved his family and friends, and we all loved him and can’t believe he was taken so soon.”
She said he traveled back and forth between Cleveland and the Lowcountry for a short time, but became an official, full-time Bluffton resident when he joined the team at K. Hovnanian Homes in the fall of 2015, selling homes at Hampton Lake in Bluffton.
His loss is felt throughout the local real estate community, she wrote in a blog post on Sunday.
Tanner Sutphin of Hilton Head Island said Sunday he had been friends with Mieczkowski for three years, beginning when both were young Realtors in the area. Sutphin said Mieczkowski had a close relationship with his parents, who were his “best friends.”
Mieczkowski’s two brothers and various other family members are coming to the area to be together this week in the wake of his death, Kelly said.
Funeral arrangements have not yet been made, Kelly said.