Shawn Jemtegaard’s family members, friends, colleagues, and youth football athletes gathered at Yelm High School on Sunday, May 21, to honor his life and memory during a memorial service.
Jemtegaard was shot and killed on April 22 near Hawks Prairie after an alleged “road rage” incident, according to reports.
The memorial service was highlighted by stories and words of encouragement, while roses were placed on the 50-yard line.
The former Thurston County Youth Football League (TCYFL) coach was memorialized at the high school’s field and stadium, where his sons and team played football. Several hundred people made their way into the stands prior to the start of the memorial.
Jason Ronquillo, Jemtegaard’s friend and coaching colleague, touched on the coach’s character during the memorial.
“I have the privilege and utmost honor to be able to speak on his behalf for the Jemtegaard family. There’s nothing I’d rather be doing today than honoring his presence he’s had in my life, and obviously, the lives of all of you guys,” Ronquillo said. “Bringing us together because of these kinds of circumstances is never a bright spot, but the great thing is today, because we’re all together, we get to honor him together. He was the bond that brought us here together and he was the bond that we all shared.”
Ronquillo said Jemtegaard was an ornery and stoic individual, who had a heart of gold.
“I loved him to death,” Ronquillo said. “I’m going to carry his memory on for the rest of my days here on Earth, and that’s why I was so privileged to be speaking on his behalf right now.”
Ronquillo encouraged everyone who has been impacted by Jemtegaard to turn the pain they feel into love, noting it was a big blessing to have the coach involved in their lives.
“As hard as that can be, that’s the challenge for us moving forward,” he said.
Ronquillo said Jemtegaard would have loved seeing everyone who gathered at the memorial at Yelm High School’s football field.
“That’s a fact. Friends, family, players, past players, coaches, workers and co-workers have gathered right here on this field. This is where he loved to be,” Ronquillo said. “We all have passions. Football was one of his passions. It wasn’t his only one, but it was one of his deep passions. Shawn would be loving us coming together like this. He’d want this to be nowhere else but here.”
Brian Foote read a passage written by Jemtegaard’s wife Chelsea.
In her message, Chelsea highlighted her journey with her late-husband, which began at the Puyallup Fair where they first met in September of 2000. They later married on Oct. 30, 2008, and created a family of six as the years went by.
“Our children are Shawn’s pride and joy. He always knew he wanted to be a loving father and friend to his children. He would’ve done anything for them,” Chelsea wrote in her passage. “He was always there to support them through practices, conferences, plays, games and school work.”
She described her husband as dedicated, loyal and extremely hardworking. Jemtegaard often worked long hours at his job and would then turn around to coach his sons’ football team.
“He had a passion that was hard to find and near impossible to duplicate,” she wrote. “Shawn wanted the best for everyone that he cared for.”
Chelsea said she is grateful for the time she spent with her husband, whom she spent the majority of her life with.
“I will never forget the love in his eyes that melts my heart,” she wrote. “Although he may be gone, his life still lives on through the people he touched.”
Dwayne McCarver, who worked with Jemtegaard at BR Roofing, described his co-worker as a passionate man.
“Shawn was a proud man and he always had a big smile. He’s still watching over his family and coaching in heaven. And of course, he knows the best spots for food. God bless him and his family,” McCarver said. “He told me his son played for Cal and I have friends who play football. ... He was so proud of that locker room, so proud to show me photos of Cal and so proud of his son.”
Jemtegaard spent hours working, whether it was driving to jobs, or discussing what needed to be done at the jobsite, according to McCarver. He added that Jemtegaard always respected others and learned from them.
“I’d like to offer my condolences to his wife, family and friends. From the time I got to know him, I got to know a great man, father, husband, coach, worker and leader,” McCarver said at the memorial. “Shawn was a dad to his children and a father figure to the many he coached. You can look in the stands to see that. He loved coaching and teaching skills to these kids.”
McCarver said Jemtegaard kept his word on what he promised and noted he had a way to always find the best places to eat.
“Shawn also knew the best spots to get food in town. He really liked his food,” McCarver said. “He knew where to get the best fish burritos, tacos, breakfast sandwiches.”
Following McCarver’s comments, Ronquillo touched on some of the lessons he learned from the time he spent with Jemtegaard.
“Three things that I learned from working with Shawn, particularly to you athletes up there, is number one, he taught me that if you want to compete against someone, compete against mom. She won’t let you win. Number two is act like you’ve been there, particularly in the end zone,” Ronquillo said. “And number three, which was the best if you knew him well, was whoever is standing next to the grill is king. I learned that from Shawn and thinking about those things brings me joy.”
Ronquillo encouraged people to continually talk about Jemtegaard and the impact he had on others.
“That’s how he’ll be remembered, that’s how the healing process works. You have to speak his name to remember his name,” Ronquillo said. “Continue reflecting on his memory and allow his name to ignite those memories.”
Prior to the start of the ceremony, each person received a single rose. At the conclusion of the memorial, those in attendance were asked to form a line to drop their rose off at the Y logo at midfield.
“Most of the time when you think of a rose, you think of love. Today’s rose isn’t just about love. We’re going to use it as a symbol of courage and perseverance and sacrifice in the context of love,” Ronquillo said. “The intense red, the boldness of that red, is going to signify the bravery that y’all are going to go through and the sacrifices you’re about to make in Shawn’s honor.”
The rose ceremony was symbolic in many ways, Ronquillo said.
“Those thorns represent the challenges and hurdles you have to overcome as a person, as a family, as a loved one. This rose symbolizes us taking the next step to get beyond those hurdles together,” Ronquillo said. “I want the red roses to capture the idea of the beautiful force that requires bravery as we move forward in memory of Shawn.”
Two separate GoFundMe campaigns for the Jemtegaard family have raised over $48,000.