(Tribune photo/Marie Havenga) Hundreds of people line up outside the Spring Lake Country Club on Thursday night to pay their respects to the family of 15-year-old Robby Jerovsek, who was killed Saturday night in a boating accident.
(BY MARIE HAVENGA, Grand Haven Tribune) - SPRING LAKE TOWNSHIP - Robby Jerovsek's ride abruptly ended Saturday, but there are many friends, family and community members still touched by his wake.
More than 1,500 people attended a service for the 15-year-old boy held Thursday evening at the Spring Lake Country Club. Friends and family spoke during the 75-minute memorial service; recalling Robby's kind heart, ambition, vibrant smile and sense of humor.
Jerovsek, who lived on Littlefield Lane in Spring Lake Township, was killed in a boating accident Saturday night on Spring Lake.
Ottawa County Sheriff's Department personnel directed pedestrian and vehicular traffic on Fruitport Road for more than three hours Thursday - as funeral-goers parked on every available side street, and hundreds of yards north and south on Fruitport Road, after the country club's parking lots filled.
Rhoda Street resident Rick Homan did not know Robby, but he allowed overflow parking on his front lawn. About 50 cars parked on his residential street.
"We were amazed at the turnout by 6 p.m.," Homan said of the 7 p.m. service. "I don't let just anyone park on my lawn, but this is such a tragedy. I feel for this community. Anyone can park on my grass tonight."
The standing-room-only crowd overflowed into banquet rooms, hallways and the parking lot. Large-screen televisions were in place so mourners could watch the service.
"We had several hundred people waiting outside just to sign the guest book," Spring Lake Country Club Event Coordinator Kelsey Timberlake said Thursday night. "They wanted Robby and his family to know they're with them every step of the way. We have people here from ages 2 to 92.
"Robby was very close to this country club and this community, and that certainly shows tonight," she continued. "It's amazing to see this community come together like this for a young man who did some pretty amazing things in just 15 years."
The memorial was followed by a video presentation of Robby's life, which officiating minister the Rev. Thomas Cook of First Presbyterian Church called "a great adventure." Cook said that Robby lived "on the edge" - with passion, adventure, and love of family and friends as his hallmarks.
Robby was a person full of hugs, with a unique ability to make friends of all ages, and touch the world in a way few humans can, Cook said. The boy's passions ranged from water sports to snowboarding and golf. He had hoped to someday play golf professionally after years of training at the Spring Lake Country Club.
Cook painted a poetic picture of Robby, at the moment of the accident, talking to God and saying he needed more time to accomplish all he wanted to. Cook verbally imagined the youngster bargaining for a continuation of his life, saying he had much more to do here on Earth - such as making more friends, getting his driver's license and spending more time practicing his golf swing.
Cook encouraged those in attendance to pick up where Robby left off - with friendliness, humor, a spirit of adventure and acceptance for difficult situations.
A female friend who spoke at the service, called "a life celebration," recalled Robby's intense smile from the personal watercraft pilot seat less than two minutes prior to the accident that ended his life. He was doing what he loved, and it showed, she said.
People were silent during the ceremony - except for the soft sounds of sniffling, weeping and tissues being torn from containers.
Speakers, often through tears, reminded Robby's friends to stay in touch with the Jerovsek family - the pool table is still there; the family is still there; and Robby's mom, Susan, reportedly makes some of the best "monster cookies" around.
"None of us wants to be here," Cook said early on in the ceremony - explaining that many may feel angry, full of disbelief and asking questions for which there are no answers.
Cook said it was "an accident" that took Robby's life, adding that the family wants to make it clear that no one is to blame for it.
The minister encouraged the bereaved to dig deep inside and remember Robby - not just for the way they knew him when he was alive, but for the way he can still provide hope, spirit and enthusiasm; if only they listen to Robby's whispers in their ears. Cook said he believes those whispers will encourage them to strive to be the very best they can be - with friendliness, love and community outreach.
After the service, several of Robby's friends said the service was beautiful.
"This is exactly the program Robby would have wanted it to be," said Spring Lake High School senior Lyndsay Haynes, 17. "He wouldn't want it to be sad. He would have wanted us to celebrate his life."