HOLLAND, Mich. — Hundreds of people gathered Friday to remember a teen who died in a boating accident last weekend.
Riley Hoeksema, 16, a Holland Christian High School junior, died Sunday after he went missing in a tragic boating accident with his friend on Lake Michigan off of Holland State Park.
Riley's pastor, friends, swim coach, close friends, and family all spoke at his funeral Friday. Through tears and even laughter each spoke to the Riley's character, describing how he lived to experience the joy of those he loved.
"The thing you need to know about Riley," said Rev. John Burden, "he found the most joy by seeing other people experience joy, and he could be there with him."
Riley's best friend, Levi Winkle, was on the zodiac Sunday with him when they both fell into the lake after taking a sharp turn. Levi was rescued, but Riley never surfaced; his body was recovered Wednesday after extensive searches using sonar.
Levi shared how glad he was to have been able to spend Sunday with Riley, his best friend since seventh grade, talking about life.
“From the first day we met, Riley was the best friend I’ve ever had," said Winkle. "He’s the reason I became the person I am today.”
“You’re already experiencing your greatest adventure, and I’m sure you’ll have plenty to show me when I catch up. I’m sorry this happened Riley, I love you. And as always, I can’t wait to see you again.”
Rev. Burden spoke of how Lake Michigan is now a memorial for Riley. He encouraged Riley's loved ones to go back out on the lake and remember Riley, his joy, and then to share that with him.
Riley's family ended the service with expressing how much of a joy Riley was for their family; an unimaginable loss.
“He will leave a huge hole in our family, but we just want to fill that with memories, and remembering, remembering him," said Kelli Hoeksema, Riley's mother.
They shared how proud Riley was to suit up in his blue polo Fridays after school, to go to work at his Grandpa's Russ' Restaurants.
Riley's Father Matthew Hoeksema ended the memorial service by reading from a recently discovered blog of Riley's from a year ago. Riley had responded to an English assignment, answering what is utopia:
“I can’t wrap my mind around what heaven’s going to be but I’m excited any way," Matthew read of his son's writing. "Heaven is the only utopia, and it’s the one I want to go to.”
In lieu of flowers, the family asked that donations be made in Riley's name to the Holland Christian Tuition Grant Fund.