MT. ASHLAND, Ore.– One week after the passing of a young ski patroller on Mt. Ashland friends and family came together to remember the life of Johnny Walker. While his passing has brought sadness to the Mt. Ashland Ski Area community and many in the Rogue Valley, on Saturday night it was about remembering a man who touched the lives of many.
Every story has a beginning and an end. Some may last longer than others but the journey in between is what matters most.
To his friends and loved ones, at just 23 years old, no other person had a journey full of life like Johnny.
“He was an old soul living in a young man’s body,” said Arden Prehn, who worked with Johnny at the ski area.
“The guy did more things than any of us will do in a lifetime,” said Quincy Briscoe, a close friend.
From being a wildland firefighter and ski patroller to a surfer hitting the waves of Hawaii, Johnny had a zeal for adventure.
“He did nothing but make people feel comfortable, loved and that he had such a love for life,” said Prehn. “Really that’s what it’s all about.”
One week after his tragic death – falling into a tree well on the backside of Mt. Ashland – those that knew Johnny returned to the mountain and celebrated the man with love and laughter – just the way he would have wanted them too.
“Big, loud, out here in the woods,” said Briscoe. “He doesn’t want to be in a building he wants to be where he’s at home.”
But for each smile and joyous laugh, there was a tear and a heartfelt memory of what could have been.
“He’s somebody that I wanted at my wedding someone whose wedding I would have been at,” said Sverre Oseberg-Finney, who met Johnny through wildland firefighting. “Somebody who I just expected to always have in my life, somebody who I always wanted in my life and he left too soon.”
On this cold winter night, as embers spark and pop, Johnny’s life reminds many about the importance of the time we have and how we should use it. Johnny surely understood and to his friends, he’s with them now and always will be – ready to take that next adventure.
“It’s what Johnny shared with all of us and I really feel that’s what Johnny would want us all to share,” said Prehn.
A celebration of life is planned for Johnny this Wednesday at the Historic Ashland Armory.
The family announced on Sunday they plan to set up a non-profit foundation under his name to support those who embody the work Johnny loved like wildland firefighting and being a first responder.
NBC5 News Reporter Miles Furuichi graduated from Chapman University with degrees in English and Journalism. He received post graduate experience in Los Angeles in photojournalism and commercial photography. He also spent time in Dublin, Ireland working in print journalism and advertising.
Miles is a Rogue Valley native, raised in Ashland. He enjoys hiking, mountain biking and photography.