Family mourns a tragic loss
Cars were lined up coming in and out of the Lake of the Pines gatehouse on Wednesday morning as another school year began. I, too, was in the line of cars headed in the direction of Cottage Hill School. After months of anticipation, my youngest son was attending his first day of kindergarten. There were no tears for either one of us that morning, only the sobering realization for me that he would be grown too soon. His school years will pass quickly, and someday he will move out of our home and into his own. I hope I will not lose sight of how precious the days between now and then are.
Recently, a Lake of the Pines family’s days with their son came to an end tragically. The Welch family suffered the devastating loss of their son and brother, Dustin. He died as a result of a skateboarding accident. I am writing about Dustin today because his death seems to overshadow other events that have occurred here in recent days, and has touched so many people.
Nineteen-year old Dustin died on Aug. 5, 2004. He was a vibrant and daring young man with a bright future ahead of him. Dustin had been attending San Jose State University and was going to be returning this fall for his sophomore year. His parents Lee and Barbara described him as being “full of life,” and anyone who met him would agree.
Dustin was a 2003 Bear River High School graduate who had lived with his family in Lake of the Pines for the past 14 years. According to his family, he enjoyed life to the fullest and one of his hobbies was flying. His father, Lee, a pilot himself for American Airlines, said that Dustin had enlisted with the Air Force Reserves just one week before his death.
Many of us remember Dustin working at the Lake of the Pines swimming pool as a lifeguard. He was a member of the LOP Piranhas Swim Team, and has held many swimming records for the Sierra Foothill Swim League. He was also a member of the Bear River High School’s swim team. A few of his hobbies included snowboarding, wakeboarding, water skiing, and scuba diving, and he had many more.
On Sunday, Aug. 8, a memorial was held for Dustin at the LOP clubhouse. That evening, the clubhouse was filled to capacity with those whose lives Dustin had touched. Young and old filled the dining room, lobby, lounge area, and even lined the walls. Many of us know a little of the pain in burying one so young and full of life, and there was a huge outpouring of sympathy for Dustin’s parents, and his brother Lance.
I spoke with Lee and Barbara Welch a few days ago and they seem to be holding it together during this trying time fairly well, due in part to the tremendous support the LOP community has extended to them.
“This community is one-of-a-kind,” stated Barbara. She said she felt their family was supported and embraced by so many, and that is the reason they were able to get through the initial period after Dustin’s accident. Lee also said that the Sonrise Church in Auburn had been a huge source of comfort for their family.
People are still calling and stopping by to check in on the Welch family, and I am sure our prayers for them will be needed for years to come. I hope I will always keep in mind how precious the days that we have with our children are.
Laura Lavelle is a resident of Lake of the Pines, and her column is for Lake of the Pines area residents to share thoughts and information. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or leave a phone message with the readership editor at 477-4238.
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