A friend remembered: Coaches, players, friends and family gather to honor Justin Butler
Co-head coach Scott Savoie didn’t mean to call out Justin Butler’s name during roll call in practice last week.
As he told a packed crowd for Friday night’s memorial service for the fallen Bear River Bruins player, he was trying to be strong for the team but that moment was when he couldn’t hold it in any longer. An assistant coach went over to console him and the team responded by saying Butler was there, Savoie said.
“He’s here,” Savoie said.
“Every day (since then) we call Justin’s name and the kids respond,” Savoie said. A few initially and now the entire team say he’s here, he added.
As Butler’s smiling face beamed over the mourning Bruin community from a large screen Friday, it was evident that the 16-year-old who died Sept. 20 was ever present. Several speakers from area churches consistently reminded everyone that there was evidence Butler was “here” and he had an impact on countless lives in the community.
“I see Justin as a vapor trail,” said the Rev. Rick Stedman of Adventure Christian Church who chaperoned youth camping trips. “There was always evidence that Justin was here, but he was always on to the next thing.”
“Never once did I think Justin was not here,” Stedman said. “His vapor trail is here.”
“Just because we can’t see him, doesn’t mean he’s not alive,” Stedman said. “He’s in heaven … I’m looking forward to meeting him there (again).”
Stedman and nearly all the speakers described Butler as someone who was difficult to keep up with.
Bruins’ junior varsity coach Chris Bean said he enjoyed keeping up with Butler every minute of last year’s undefeated Bruin football season so much that he wanted to relive every day all over again.
“I can still see (quarterback) Dallen Huetter throwing to the back of the end zone to Butler for a touchdown,” Bean said of a key moment in victory over undefeated Placer last season.
“I would like to thank Justin Butler for helping me be a better coach and a better dad,” Bean said as he struggled to get the words out.
From Butler’s death, Bean said he’s learned to listen to his own childrens’ stories more closely.
“Justin’s death has reminded me of how fragile life can be,” Bean said.
In addition to winning one of Bear River’s most emotional games ever against River Valley Sept. 24, Butler’s death also spurred something veteran co-head coach Terry Logue has never seen.
“Six of (Butler’s) buddies said they wanted to come out for football as a tribute,” Logue said. Logue and Savoie talked it over with the team and they agreed to let the kids join the team.
“They’re going to help us,” Logue said.
“It’s just amazing,” Logue said. “They’re giving up their cell phones for a chance to have me yell at them (in practice.)”
Butler and Huetter were such good friends that Spanish teacher Melody Homan’s efforts to keep them from communicating with each other in class were unsuccessful.
“He found a creative way to communicate with Dallen,” Homan said without elaborating.
Huetter, who with running back Sam Houston carried Butler’s jersey out onto the field at the River Valley game, said he’ll miss everything about Butler.
“I’ll miss playing ball with him,” Huetter said. “We hung out all the time. I’m just going to miss him as a person.”
Spanish teacher Homan concluded in reading a letter she read to the class the day Butler died: “You will never be forgotten. We love you.”
Community members and students exited the stadium to bagpipes playing “Amazing Grace.”
Contact Sports Writer Greg Moberly via e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at 477-4234.
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