Walking into an Eau Claire coffee shop, it’s going to be strange not to see Alex Woodworth sitting on the end of the couch with a “3,000-page philosophy book and a cup of coffee in his hand,” said Samantha Kobs, a friend of the 24 year old.
“He was such a staple, and I can’t believe I’m never going to see him again,” said Kobs, who plans to head to Osceola today for Woodworth’s memorial service.
The body of the Eau Claire man was discovered March 23 in a car in the Dunn County town of Spring Brook. The suspect in his death, Ezra J. McCandless, 20, of Stanley, is in the Dunn County Jail on a $250,000 cash bail. She is expected to be formally charged next week.
The day his body was found, Kobs, who was in Las Vegas, received a call from police, asking if she knew where he was; she didn’t. She called his parents, John and Kimberly, two days later to let them know his friends were out looking for Woodworth and learned his body had been found.
Kobs met Woodworth sometime in 2014 when she was working at the coffee shop, where he was a regular, along with his philosophy books.
“He was kind of like this super intellectual, very sensitive person,” said Kobs, laughing as she admitted that she didn’t always know what he was talking about; although, she pretended to. “He just knew everything.”
When Kobs headed to South Africa in 2015 for an English teaching assistantship, Woodworth was hired as her replacement at the coffee shop, she said. They reconnected when she came back to Eau Claire later that year.
“If he wasn’t talking about philosophy, he was talking about bugs,” she said. “He really loved beetles and spiders and red pandas.”
Kort Fox, who called Woodworth his best friend, said Woodworth thought bugs were adorable, “but he was wrong about that. They are creepy.”
Woodworth helped Brianna Larson of Eau Claire get over her fear of spiders and centipedes, she said.
Woodworth was one of the first baristas Larson met at the coffee shop.
“He was one of the people who made me feel welcome,” she said. There, “he was known as the barista with the weird music.”
“He was always talking about philosophy, reading about philosophy or looking at memes on his tablet,” she recalled. “He taught me a lot of things. He was like a personal professor.”
Woodworth enjoyed helping people, reading and spending time at the coffee shop, according to his friends who still can’t believe he’s gone.
“The one person who would be the best at helping me get through this is gone,” Fox said quietly.
The friends met over philosophy.
“In him, I truly met the first person who loved to argue it,” Fox said. Those discussions “weren’t about being right or wrong. It was just fun to use our minds that way. He was so brilliant.”
The pair went out for coffee and then drinks, “and it was all down hill from there,” said Fox, chuckling. (The Joynt on Water Street was a regular hang out.)
Nick Walther, another friend who was determined to know who Woodworth was after noticing him in a philosophy class at UW-Eau Claire, called him “remarkable.”
“I have never come across someone who seemed to have all the information, which was almost always recallable,” said Walther, of Eau Claire. “It was astonishing to behold.”
Born in St. Croix Falls, Woodworth graduated from Osceola High School in 2012. He then furthered his education at UW-Eau Claire, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in philosophy in spring 2017, according to his obituary and UW-Eau Claire officials.
He planned to attend graduate school at the University of Oregon, where he hoped to one day become a professor, according to his obituary.
“Nothing was going to keep him from that,” said Fox, who learned Monday that Woodworth was gone. “He was so qualified.”
Woodworth also was a clever, funny guy who truly cared about people, according to his friends.
One of them, David Recine, who described himself as “a single parent pushing 40,” was always struck at how good Woodworth was with kids, especially his son.
“Normally, I roll my eyes when someone his age tries to give me parenting advice,” Recine said, laughing. “He actually gave really good advice.”
Woodworth, who came over to Recine’s Eau Claire home to play video games with father and son, also was a contributor to Recine’s Fanboy, a journal of comics and stories. Woodworth was the only person Recine shared “one of the best things” he had ever written with.
“He was really supportive, … and he felt it was good and could go somewhere,” Recine said. “That meant a lot to me. And, so did he. You sometimes don’t realize the degree to which you have a connection to someone until they die.”
Larson, like many of Woodworth’s friends, plans to travel to Osceola today for the service.
“It blows my mind that something like this could happen to him,” she said. “He was very loved.”
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