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Students remember lost friends with end of year activities

The memorial pole for seniors Joe Rantz and Jude (Alex) Douden. Photo by Bella Batula

The Bear River community is finding creative ways to keep Joe and Jude in our hearts.

There are several tributes and memorials for seniors Joe Rantz and Jude (Alex) Douden as the year comes to an end. A group of seniors in Art decided to dedicate a pole to Joe and Jude, some workers at Albanese Welding built a memorial bench, Yearbook friends of the boys are hosting a yearbook signing, and there are many more events dedicated to Joe and Jude.

Principal Amy Besler explained the basics of the memorial pole.

“Two Advanced Art students came up with the idea of painting a pillar in memory of Joe and Jude,” she said. “We met several times to discuss their ideas as well as the selection of the pillar. They came up with the creative idea of an attached a ‘mailbox’ of sorts to the pillar that will allow people to drop off notes in Joe and Jude’s memory that can be shared with their families. This pillar will remain painted in tribute to the boys for years to come.”

Maddie Lewis, a senior student doing the pole, described the painting portion of it.

“We want to make them still relevant; we want to show that they are still a part of the school and a part of the community,” she said. “I was walking around with my friend and saw a the sticker on the locker and it gave us the idea to paint a pole they wouldn’t take off. We talked to Besler a bunch of times and talked to a lot of other people a bunch of times. It’s a really huge process. It’s hard to paint it sometimes and I have to mentally prepare because it brings back memories. I like doing it but sometimes I feel like it will be hard for people to walk past it. It makes me nervous that people aren’t going to want to see it because, instead of thinking of the good memories of them, they’re just gonna think about what happened. I feel like people start to forget and we want them to remember.”

Senior Devyn De’Ak explained how she contributed to the painting project.

“I had gotten involved because they drew a piece and they weren’t happy with it so I decided to help them out and draw it out for them,” she said. “They had an idea and they sketched it out and it didn’t look how they wanted it to. They just needed my help because I’ve done poles before and know how to draw things in a cylindrical angle. I tried to make it as big as possible. I am planning to do the other side and give my own piece to them. I plan to have both of them reaching up to birds, black birds. They wanted to do a memorial to Joe and Jude because they’re were both really important to the school.”

The students described how they incorporated the mailbox and what it’s meant for.

“The box is for putting in memories and notes about Joe and Jude,” said Jasmine Au, a senior. “At the top there is a key hole and the parents have the key so they can be able to take out the notes. Maddie and I had this idea to do something for them and their families. We got the box from the janitors; they went out and bought it for it us.”

“It’s memories,” said Lewis. “It’s a tribute memorial and put the box on it for letters and stuff to be put in and we gave the key to the parents. It’s for memories and closure for some.”

“The box is for people who wanted to put letters for Joe and Jude or their family,” said De’Ak. “It’s something that was very tragic that happened to our school and not a lot of those things happen. Those kids were also very well known and the girls decided to do it for them.”

Principal Besler explained the basics of the bench memorial.

“Justin Leonard, a 2016 Bear River graduate, created a metal bench with the help of his employer, Albanese Welding, which is a beautiful tribute to the boys,” she said. “It contains imagery that represents both Joe’s and Jude’s interests. The bench has recently been installed on top of the hill behind the theater, which is a beautiful spot where people can sit and think about the boys and look down on the campus.”

Kilani Albanese described what went into deciding to making the bench.

“The bench was made by my dad and Justin Leonard, who graduated last year,” she said. “My dad owns Albanese Welding and so they thought it would be a good tribute to them just to have it up on the hill. After it happened they thought it might be a good thing to put it next to the music area because the baseball field is too far away. It was an idea we all came up with but they designed it and built it all. I like where it is perched up on the hill overlooking the school. It was a really nice thing to do.”

Student Hannah Rothenberger expressed her positive feelings on the bench memorial.

“My friend Kilani showed me that when they were just making it,” she said. “I liked seeing it before it was out and everything. I just told her the main stuff that should put on there. I really like it. It was super cool they did that and took the time to do that.”

Yearbook’s Life Editor Rebecca Van Patten, a senior, described the yearbook signing she is overseeing.

“Students can sign it with any memories with Joe and Jude or any special events that happened or anything they want to say to the parents that’s encouraging,” said Van Patten. “We’re gonna set out a table when we’re handing out yearbooks and it’s gonna be me and Hannah, who dated Jude, running the stand. I will be sitting and watching Joe Rantz’ yearbook and we’ll have a picture set out showing his senior portrait that was taken and she’ll be sitting next to me with Jude’s yearbook with a picture of him in his senior portrait. We’ll let people come and sign anything on the pages and we’ll have extra pages for people too. It’s a memory thing for the parents to look back on. We’ll give it to the parents once Distribution Day is done so that they can read them.”

Van Patten described the tribute to Joe and Jude that had been incorporated into the yearbook itself.

“Our whole yearbook team decided to come up with something for incorporating the boys because they are still a part of the senior graduating class of 2017,” she said. “We have a memorial page that’s gonna be one page for Jude and one page for Joe and they’re together so they’ll be side by side and then we’ll have their senior portraits as well and it will say ‘in memory.’ We’re making sure to recognize them. They’re in the yearbook in a couple other areas, like Joe is in it for Baseball and Jude is in it for Band.”

Van Patten expressed how she feels this helps the parents of the boys.

“As a good family friend of Joe Rantz’ family, I feel like it’s really encouraging for the family to know that a lot of people are there to support them and knew their kids very well and loved their kids.”

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Students remember lost friends with end of year activities