More than 40 blue, gold and white balloons floated to the sky above Desert Vista High School’s football stadium Saturday as family, friends and loved ones gathered to remember the life of Matthew Swift-Kraemer.
Through painful sobs, teammates, past coaches, and school staff joined parents and other family, offering kind words about the late 2007 graduate who died in November after a single rollover crash in Pueblo, Colo.
“Matt was the very glue that bound the fabric of his family,” said Swift-Kraemer’s aunt, Kim.
He was 24.
More than 100 people from the school community sat and listened to each speaker and prayed together Saturday afternoon. The service was then taken down to the field where attendees circled around the Rev. Kevin Fryrear for a song and to release the balloons.
Known by most of his friends and family as “Swiftie,” among other nicknames, Swift-Kraemer was a longtime runner throughout middle and high school, eventually on the championship teams for track and cross-country.
Longtime friend and teammate Trey Wilson remembered Swift-Kraemer’s talent and compassion for his fellow runners.
“He had something special, and (track) was a way of life for him,” Wilson said.
Swift-Kraemer’s coach Chris Hanson said that Swift-Kraemer often taught him unexpected lessons in caring for others.
“Matt lived the way he raced and competed, with a big heart and a big smile,” Hanson said. “That’s something we can all learn from.”
Just before the crowd made its way down to the grass to release the balloons, Principal Dr. Anna Battle read from the Bible and talked about how Swift-Kraemer “ran a good race,” but there was one more he needed to finish. Battle then made a request that friends and family would clap and cheer for Swift-Kraemer, asking attendees to envision him finishing the final race.
As each person stood from their seats, the school’s football field echoed with cheers, claps, and positive shouts for Swift-Kraemer, just before a lone voice in the stands yelled: “God speed, Swiftie.”
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