Adam Herold, the youngest victim of the Humboldt Broncos bus crash, is being remembered by loved ones and community members as a helpful kid, who always had a smile on his face.
“Adam was a super kid. Never a bad thing to say about anyone. Very humble, genuine person,” said Robert Chittenden, mayor of Herold’s home community of Montmartre, Sask.
Herold was one of 16 people killed when the Humboldt Broncos team bus collided with a semi-trailer on their way to a playoff hockey game near Nipawin, Sask., last week.
“Everywhere you go in town this week it’s just been a sombre atmosphere. Everybody’s just touched with it,” the mayor said of the village 85 kilometres southeast of Regina.
Besides being the mayor of Montmartre, Sask., Robert Chittenden is also close with Adam Herold’s family. (Trent Peppler/CBC)
Like most people in small towns, Chittenden also had a close connection to Herold.
His wife and Herold’s mom are first cousins, so their families (with a total of five kids around the same age) spent a lot of time together.
“We both have cabins at the lake; they spent lots of time on the water,” Chittenden said.
Hundreds gathered in the village of 550 people for Herold’s funeral on Friday. The streets were so full that parking extended to the outskirts of town.
So many are gathering at this church today to remember Adam Herold. A Pats Canadians tour bus pulls up and its occupants come out wearing bright jerseys. Someone walks by and asks “Isn’t that Adam’s truck?” It has a reserved spot right out front. <a href=”https://t.co/LHjBGUJ1Jd”>pic.twitter.com/LHjBGUJ1Jd</a>
Inside the Sacred Heart Roman Catholic Church, hockey gloves, a snowmobiling helmet, a hunting cap and a toy tractor were among the items placed by the altar during Herold’s funeral.
Darrin McKechnie, who coached Herold with the Regina Pat Canadians Midget AAA team, said he was the obvious choice for captain, even though there were boys older than him on the team.
“He oozed leadership. The boys respected him. He respected everybody around him. He was our leader,” McKechnie said.
‘Adam was the type of boy you would want your son to be like and your daughter to bring home’ – Darrin McKechnie, Adam Herold’s former coach
McKechnie recounted how his teenage daughter and Adam tried — and failed — to keep their blossoming romance under wraps.
They went to movies, drove around together and were always sending messages to each other on social media.
“Adam was the type of boy you would want your son to be like and your daughter to bring home,” said McKechnie, choking back tears. “I can honestly say from experience that’s the truth.”
Signs of mourning
Driving down main street it seemed like a regular business day, but there were small signs of mourning to be found everywhere.
Most shops had a hockey stick outside their doors in tribute, with a candle. Signs let customers know that most stores would be closed for the afternoon while the funeral took place.
“Thank God we’re from a small town in tragedies like this, because we all do pull together and it makes it somewhat a little easier to get through, I guess,” Chittenden said.
The mayor set up a tribute to Adam at his home in Montmartre, Sask.(Trent Peppler/CBC)
Then there was Herold’s birthday celebration. He would have turned 17 on Thursday. Hundreds showed up from as far away as Indian Head and Wolseley for an afternoon of snowmobiling.
“Adam was an avid snowmobiler. When he wasn’t playing hockey, which was lots of the time, but a weekend off or whatever, he would come out and snowmobile with his dad. He loved it,” Chittenden said.
In tribute, about 80 snowmobiles did a circuit around the Herold family farm. Then they went to his favourite slough, had a wiener roast, and sang for him.
The Chittendens set up a makeshift memorial outside their homes with things that Adam Herold loved. (Trent Peppler/CBC)
Chittenden said Herold’s death has been especially tough on his daughter, Jayd.
The two were in the same class of 17 kids at the small local school.
Herold had left the school on and off for the past two years while he moved around playing hockey.
His classmates missed him so much they wrote him a song.
“Adam Herold, why’d you have to leave? Adam Herold, come back, please,” it says.
This coming Monday, he was supposed to return. Jayd had already bought his graduation sweater for him as they prepared to head into Grade 12.
Jayd said he was always there to help her out, and face her fears.
“I was always scared to go on the water by myself at the lake. I hated it. He jumped in right away and said he’d come with me, and ski behind, and he did just that,” she said.
The Chittenden family shows pictures of cousins Jayd and Adam Herold. Herold died in the Humboldt Broncos bus crash. (Trent Peppler/CBC)
During the funeral, the Herolds noted how Robert Munsch was Herold’s favourite author when he was a child and that many of Munsch’s books are still proudly displayed in his room.
A former coach read aloud from one of the family’s favourite passages: “I love you forever, I like you for always. As long as you’re living, my baby you’ll be.”
with files from Lauren Krugel, The Canadian Press