GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. -- Dave Rue, a longtime and beloved hockey referee who lost his fight with cancer, was honored on the ice at his celebration of life ceremony Wednesday at the Patterson Ice Arena.
Friends and family packed the hockey rink sharing fond memories of a man remembered for his dedication to the sport, kind heart, and infectious personality both on and off the ice.
Rue, 'Rooster', died Saturday at 54, leaving behind three kids and an entire hockey family. His closest friends on the ice call themselves the Starting Lineup, walking with Rooster through his seven month fight against lung cancer.
"While we were the Starting Lineup to help him through, his condo was the penalty box, he just hated to be there and wanted to be on the ice," said his friend, Kevin Langseth.
Rooster was a division one hockey player, long-time coach and mentor, and a high school referee for 10 years. His body was cremated but friends and family found it fitting to give him one last day on the ice at his celebration of life ceremony.
After a number of heart-filled obituaries, his son Kegan laced up for one final skate for his father, carrying Rooster's prized referee of the year trophy.
"That's what we're going to miss the most is his smile, but we know he's smiling from above and that gives us comfort through it all," said his daughter Kelsey DeJonge.
Family members told FOX 17 News they're thankful for the stunning support on Rooster's GoFundMe page, which is helping pay for his medical bills. Now 'Team Rue' says they're looking toward the days ahead, saying that when they hit the ice, they'll think of Rooster.
"It’s pretty cool to see everyone come together," DeJonge said. "The hockey community is a brotherhood. We’re definitely at peace knowing dad’s at peace, it’s gonna be tough here in life without dad but we know he’s always in our hearts."